From the Xi'an to Ann Arbor

By Lynn McCain | May 1

Xiaobing Xin headshot 2024 sq 500.jpgXi’an, China is the capital of the Shaanxi Province and the root of Chinese civilization, having served as the capital city for the Zhou, Qin, Han, and Tang dynasties. It is famous for their terra cotta soldiers, ancient architecture and museums, and for anchoring the eastern-most end of the Silk Road. It is also home to the Fourth Military Medical University where Dr. Xiaobing Jin, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pathology, completed his medical training and orthopedic specialty training. He then relocated to Beijing, to pursue a PhD at Peking University focusing on cartilage regeneration using stem cells and tissue engineering. Jin’s next stop was at the University of Michigan Dental School where he continued his research. After a few years, he decided he wanted to return to clinical medicine and met Dr. Jonathan McHugh, A. James French Professor of Surgical Pathology, a surgical pathologist specializing bone and soft tissue, head and neck, oral and maxillofacial, and endocrine pathology. He shadowed McHugh as he signed out cases in Room 1 and frozen sections. “He is an excellent pathologist. He makes his diagnoses quickly and I watched how he interacted with the surgeons and how his diagnoses impacted the surgical procedures. That experience really impressed me,” recalled Jin. Jin applied for pathology residency and was matched with the University at Buffalo. When his residency was completed, he returned to Michigan as a fellow where he trained in cytopathology and surgical pathology.

Terracotta Army in Xi'an. Photo from: completed his fellowship training in 2023 and was hired as a clinical assistant professor in anatomic pathology to serve as a cytopathologist and hospitalist for the department. He also supports Room 1 service. “I really like it here. The people are very nice, the pathologists are very smart and talented, and the environment is great. As a junior pathologist, I can knock on anyone’s door for assistance, and they are happy to help. No one complains about me asking too many questions. This is a very supportive environment and I want to stay here.”

As a cytopathologist, Jin often interacts with patients, which he enjoys. As an orthopedic surgeon in China, he had frequent patient contact, and it is part of the reason why he chose cytopathology as a subspecialty. He looks forward to working with patients as he performs ultrasound guided fine needle aspirations (FNAs) to determine the diagnosis. He then communicates this to their clinician to help guide their treatment plans. “This is the only area of anatomic pathology where you work directly with the patient. That’s the most rewarding part for me.”

In his role as a hospitalist, Jin works alongside surgical teams taking frozen sections and evaluating them with a 20-minute turn-around-time expectation. These intraoperative consultations enable surgeons to know whether they have excised the complete tumor or if they need to remove additional tissue to be sure they have clear margins. He is also called upon to give initial diagnoses as to the tissue appearing malignant or benign, or if additional testing is required. “This, too, is a very interesting job as I interact with the surgical team. It is challenging and high pressure, but I enjoy it.”

Room 1 is the colloquial term for general surgical pathology specimen review. This includes specimens such as thyroid and other endocrine tissues, lung and other pulmonary-related tissues, head and neck, specimens, among others. When he first started, the variety and complexity of the cases combined with the high case volumes were almost overwhelming. “I was not comfortable signing out some challenging cases yet and I often had to stay late to get through all of them. I feel more comfortable now and am beginning to enjoy the diversity of this service,” said Jin.

In addition to these three busy clinical services, Jin also finds time for clinical research focusing on thyroid cytopathology. “Thyroid nodule is one of the most overtreated diseases. Fine needle aspiration can indicate if the nodule is malignant or benign in many instances, but sometimes the disease is indeterminate. My research focuses on cytopathology coupled with molecular studies to diagnose currently indeterminate cases. We recently published a paper in Cancer Cytopathology investigating how patterns of atypia in Bethesda category III thyroid nodules relate to molecular testing results and the risk of malignancy . On March 19th, this paper received the distinction of being one of the most widely read papers published in this journal.” Jin is looking forward to continuing his research and finding ways to better care for patients.

On a personal note, Jin is an avid sports fan. He played soccer in China and enjoys watching soccer. He is also learning to appreciate American Football. He enjoys playing basketball with friends and his son, and the family is game for watching just about any type of sport on tv. He also loves to travel to amusement parks where his son revels in riding every rollercoaster, but the older Jin gets, the less enthusiastic he becomes about riding these himself. Finally, he enjoys cooking traditional Chinese foods and enjoying them with his family.



Xiaobing Jin MDMadelyn Lew MDLiron Pantanowitz MD, MHABrian Smola BSXin Jing MD. Performance of Afirma genomic sequencing classifier and histopathological outcome are associated with patterns of atypia in Bethesda category III thyroid nodules. Cancer Cytopathology 2022 (130)11:833-912.