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Pathologists' Assistant (PathA) Meet Steven Vanko

Steven Vanko, MS in Pathologists' Assistant Alum

Can you tell me a little about yourself before you came to Drexel?

Before I came to Drexel, I worked in a private pathology laboratory as a grossing technician. I handled biopsies and small surgical cases.

Why did you decide to apply to Drexel's Pathologists' Assistant (PathA) program?

Drexel is a renowned university, located in one of the biggest cities in the country – my favorite city now! – and the clinical experiences that are offered through the program are incredible.

What was your experience in the program like?

I had a positive experience all around. It was very challenging, as I expected it to be, but I never felt that I lacked the resources and guidance to succeed.

What did you like most about the program?

My favorite thing about the program was the opportunity to rotate through several different hospitals and learn from so many people. I met some of the most incredible physicians, PAs and technicians, and made a lot of friends. I had the opportunity to see and do so much! The two years I spent in Philadelphia and at Drexel was time I will always remember fondly.

What was your relationship like with the PathA faculty?

The relationships were professional, but friendly. I never felt unimportant. The small class size allows you to really get to know your professors and instructors, and for them to get to know you. All faculty truly made me feel that my success was a priority.

How was your relationship with your classmates?

My classmates were fantastic! I certainly made lifelong friends. It was wonderful how fast strangers became friends when we were all brought together over our shared passions for science and pathology.

The PathA program offers a year of practical work in the field. Where did you work during that time, and what was that experience like?

I rotated through Nemours/A.I. duPont Hospital for Children, Abington Hospital, the Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s Office, University of Pennsylvania, Paoli Hospital, and Albert Einstein Medical Center. As stated above, I met some truly remarkable people, people that I will always remember. I also got to experience things that one could never forget. The time at each place was absolutely invaluable. In my opinion, the practical year offered by Drexel and the affiliates is unmatched by other programs. The ability to learn from so many different people, who each have different styles and skills, is a gift.

What are you doing for work now?

I am a PA at Washington University in St. Louis. WashU provides the pathology service for Barnes Jewish Hospital, St. Louis Children’s Hospital, and more. In addition to my regular PA duties, I also get to teach residents to gross.

Would you recommend the PathA program to others who are interested in this field?

Definitely. I don’t think this field is as widely known or appreciated as it should be. I look forward to doing what I can to change that.

Do you have any advice for future PathA students?

Enjoy the time you have, learn as much as you can. Make sure that you understand why you’re doing what you’re doing – it makes it easier. Ask for help, and ask questions! Be patient.