Count Rostov was Right. The Lab is Everything That Has Gone on in the Lab

Count Rostov was Right. The Lab is Everything That Has Gone on in the Lab

I have spent my commute for the last month listening to A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. It is a long novel recommended by Barb, detailing the life of Count Rostov, a Russian nobleman, sentenced to house arrest in Moscow’s Metropole Hotel after the Russian Revolution. So far, I’ve covered about 40 years of his life, and I still have 4 more CDs to go. As I said, it is a loooong novel, but a fascinating and very quotable piece of literature.

At one point, the Count reflects on the Piazza, one of the hotel’s restaurants. In a discussion with a young artist sketching the scene, the Count proposes that while the room itself may be nothing special to look at, what is special about the room is “all the things that have gone on in it.”

So it is with the lab. Yes, it’s a hodgepodge result of multiple expansions and remodels, with wandering hallways and blind intersections. But for the last 17 years, it has been filled with people, experiences, joys, and sorrows.

The lab has been filled with the sound of some 50 employees (who thankfully didn’t work at the same time,) five different pathologists (who thankfully agreed with each other most of the time,) and at least one visiting cat.

The lab has been filled with the exuberance and fun of Lab Week–I still have flashbacks to being hit in the face with a pie as part of a fund-raiser, and the silence of Covid–as we went about our business masked and distanced from each other.

The lab has been the site of committee meetings, board meetings, and a national uropathologist session. The lab has been inspected, specimens have been dissected, and unlabeled cups of urine have been rejected. We have been doused in formalin perfume and withered at the petri dish of odors emanating from our microbiology lab.

The lab has been our setting as pathology has changed in the last 17 years. In our journals, photomicrographs of interesting tumors have been supplanted by details of their genetic sequence. The value of PSA screening has been challenged (I say keep on screening) and recently the idea of reclassifying some prostate cancers as benign has been floated (I say sink the idea.)

Sadly, the lab has seen us mourn, not once but twice — firstly over the loss of a tech who was taken from us by leukemia in the short span of a month, and secondly for a cytologist who valiantly fought an unremitting high-grade brain tumor over the course of over a year.

Returning to Count Rostov–as my career is racing towards its end I see how right he was! It’s not the floors or walls or instruments that make our lab memorable. It isn’t the technology. As the count said, our lab is made of all the things that have gone on within it.

And there are just a few more months for me to take it all in.

The views are those of the author and not Uropartners LLC.

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Hi! I am Les, a practicing pathologist living in the North Suburbs and commuting every day to the Western ones. I have lived my entire life in the Chicago area, and have a pretty good feel for the place, its attractions, culture, restaurants, and teams. My wife and I are empty-nesters with two adult children and four grandchildren.

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