'Visibility among underrepresented professionals in pathology is paramount,' says student Samantha Matthews

Samantha Matthews

By Samantha Matthews, Pathologists' Assistant Class of 2023

When it comes to diversity, pathology is a highly underrepresented field. As a woman who is queer, colored and educated, I fit into multiple minority groups, some of which are the most marginalized. For this reason, creating and empowering visibility among underrepresented professionals in pathology is paramount to me.

As the first woman of color vice president and president-elect of the Diversity Initiative within the WSU Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences Pathologists' Assistant program, I place great weight on my potential to create lasting change for diverse individuals such as myself.

PAA Class of 2023 with Dr. Lou Kramer
Matthews (far right) with classmates and Program Director Lou Kramer (left) at the recent Advances in Forensic Medicine and Pathology Conference.

Thus far, I have been involved with coordinating college-wide guest lectures for WSU Applebaum, covering topics on disability awareness, gender affirming surgeries and microaggressions. I am also involved in the PAA Diversity Initiative's project of creating gender-neutral restrooms in our college's buildings.

Eventually, I intend to influence initiatives geared toward increasing representation of races and skin tones that are not traditionally seen in scientific learning materials. Being a biracial person who does not necessarily appear as such, I feel diversity is more than just physical.

When I took my position with the PAA Diversity Initiative, it was important to me to expand awareness on diversity topics beyond outward presentation: experience, intellect, ability and identity. When considering diversity, equity and inclusion, these aspects are not always allotted space.

Pathologists' Assistant Class of 2023 helped prepare, cook, and serve food at Cherry Street Mission Ministries Life Revitalization Center
Last month, Matthews (third from right) and her classmates volunteered for a group aiming to reverse the cycle of poverty.

I have recently been on a personal journey of self-discovery of identity, which has led me to embrace my own diversity more than ever. Through the process, I've also learned that there is power in my presence in settings that lack such diversity. With this power comes a trail of open doors, through which others can follow to occupy the spaces that I'm confident I will create.

My goal is to help as many people as I can. Being that many different people can identify with me, I'm in a position to do just that. Anywhere I go within pathology and beyond, a diverse group of others will see themselves represented as well.

In May 2022, Matthews was awarded the WSU Applebaum Diversity Advisory Board Endowed Scholarship during the annual Donors & Scholars Luncheon. Learn more about the event and see photos, videos and slides featuring Matthews.

PAA Diversity Initiative

The PAA Diversity Initiative was founded in the wake of the George Floyd protests of 2020, as a small group of PAA students sought a safe space during that difficult time to discuss issues of diversity, race, equity and inclusion. Along with open-floor discussions, the officers began to host guest speakers to provide awareness, education and exposure to topics that are not often encountered in program courses or standard medical education. Speakers have presented on topics such as disability awareness, intersectionality, diversity in the funeral profession and transgender missing persons research.

About us

Established in 1989, the WSU Applebaum Master of Science in Pathologists' Assistant program is one of only 13 in the United States and Canada accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS) to train students in the highly specialized field of anatomic pathology. Information meetings for prospective students take place at 6 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month.

The Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences is built on more than 100 years of tradition and innovation in the heart of Detroit. We have grown deep roots in our city, harnessing its powerhouse hospital systems and community service organizations as vibrant, real-world training grounds for students, with an ongoing focus on social justice in health care. And our research at all levels - from undergraduates to veteran faculty members - translates into creative solutions for healthier communities.

Wayne State University is a premier urban research institution offering approximately 350 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to more than 25,000 students.

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