Reflections of our Chief Resident

By Lynn McCain | November 15 2022

Holding the title of Chief Resident at Michigan Medicine Department of Pathology, one of the top academic pathology residency programs in the country, is a challenging yet exciting task and responsibility. For the 2022-2023 academic year, this honor and responsibility belong to Dr. Batoul Aoun.

Chief Resident Batoul Aoun, DO at her office in the NCRCBatoul was born on the west coast in sunny Sacramento, California, and soon after relocated to Lebanon where she grew up five minutes from the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. When she was twelve years old, war broke out in Lebanon forcing her and her family to return to the United States as refugees of war, and since then, she has called Dearborn, Michigan her home. Her wartime experiences cemented in her mind that she was going to enter the field of medicine, a decision from which she never wavered.

Batoul attended Wayne State University, majoring in biology and minoring in English Literature, followed by medical school at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM), where she received her Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree (D.O.). While in medical school, she found pathology as a career option almost by accident. Her third-year rotation in family medicine fell through at the last minute, so she approached Dr. Lisa Stevens, a community pathologist who taught pathology at LECOM, to see if she could do a four-week pathology elective. She agreed and Batoul was able to work directly with Dr. Stevens for the entire rotation. “One thing that she did was give me 2-3 trays of unknown slides, tell me the age and gender of the patient, then say let’s meet in the afternoon to go over the cases,” explained Aoun. “I would look at these slides and write a bunch of notes. Then we would get together at the end of the day to go over the cases. I remember being so excited whenever I got a diagnosis right.” Following her rotation in pathology, Batoul completed several other rotations, but they didn’t measure up. “I kept thinking about all the positive experiences I had during those four weeks of pathology, and I knew that this is truly what I want to do.”

Batoul went on to complete another four-week pathology elective in her fourth year of medical school, this time at our very own program. “I had a wonderful experience. I attended sign-out with the attendings. I met a lot of the residents. I helped with grossing and did a week on the autopsy service. The environment here was very nurturing.” Beyond that experience, Batoul was impressed by the NCRC building. “It’s a beautiful department. I’ve been on my fair share of interviews and went to different pathology programs and nothing comes close to the work environment and education space here at NCRC.”

Batoul Aoun presenting at North American Medical Examiners conference 2022As chief resident, Batoul views her role primarily as a facilitator between the residents and leadership, serving as a channel of communication, while keeping the residents’ voices in mind as to what changes they would like to see happen. She also handles many of the more mundane duties, such as preparing schedules and attending departmental meetings. Finding the perfect balance between service work, rotations, and resident life can be challenging. “The best advice I received was from Dr. Andy Sciallis. He told me that before I get caught up with chief work, I need to remember that I am a resident entitled to my own education and experiences.”

As for her main inspiration and mentors throughout her life, Batoul named her parents. “I am the first person in my extended family to go into medicine. My parents instilled in me the importance of hard work and being the best if you want the best for yourself. They supported me along the way emotionally, physically, mentally, and financially. I could never pay them back for all they have done for me,” she added.

Batoul has some advice of her own to give to anyone considering a career in pathology. “If you are applying for a pathology residency, gaining experience in the field is key, whether it is shadowing in a lab, doing an elective rotation, research, or working at your local medical examiner’s office; it is important to understand the scope of this specialty. We are not limited to autopsies and sitting behind a microscope. Pathologists are the ones who determine diagnoses that ultimately influence treatment plans.”

What’s next? Apart from taking boards and graduating residency, Batoul is getting married this summer. After that, she will be heading to Washington, DC to complete a forensic pathology fellowship at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME).