Get to Know Amy Deeken, M.D. (‘01)

NEOMED graduate Amy Deeken, M.D. is a pathologist at Summa Health and serves as clinical faculty for NEOMED. She has been in practice for 10 years.

Why pathology? It all started with gutting fish, turtles and deer with her dad (a farmer and hunter) to prepare them for cooking and being fascinated by the organs inside. The Doylestown, Ohio native’s interest in medicine started at age six and kept on going strong through the BS/MD program at Youngstown State University, NEOMED and residencies. (“Every rotation I did, I really liked,’’ she says.)

Dr. Deeken uses photography to make art out of the tissue she examines. She posts her art on Twitter and Instagram under @amyhdeekenmd.

Q. How did you get started making medical art?

A. I’ve always drawn and painted and knitted and done cross-stitch. I got interested in this when I saw work by someone who uses the screen name IheartHisto—which is short for histology, the study of tissue. I saw these funny, cute, artistic photos and I thought, ‘I can do that!’

Q. What’s your technique?

A. I started taking photos of tissue with my iphone to use for teaching, and then I started using apps like Enlight and Fused for editing.

Q. Tell me about this photo (pictured above), which looks like an elegant curving pathway of stones.

A. It’s a colon biopsy.

Q. Are we looking at a photo of the tissue? What are the dots?

A. This is two photos, one layered on top of the other. The dots are actually fecal debris.

Q. Oh. OK, then. Next question: What kind of work do you do, day to day?

A. I teach residents how to do an autopsy and I proctor them. It’s serious work. Making art is kind of an outlet. And I like to use it to encourage residents to choose pathology.

Q. Why?

A. All medical students need to know pathology because it’s the basis of all medicine. You need to start with the right diagnosis. A lot of people think that the antisocial people go into pathology, because you don’t have much patient contact, but you have to be a really good communicator. You have to talk with the doctors and prioritize patients, so the ones with malignant diagnoses are seen right away.

I like cytology and I enjoy working with patients. Sometimes a surgeon will call us midway through a patient’s surgery. We have a cart to carry the microscope and we go to the bedside to test the tissue to decide the next step. What we say makes a difference: We want the patient to have the least amount of procedures that it takes to have a diagnosis. And we want our residents to have these experiences of making decisions under pressure.

Medical students make their choice about what to specialize in during their third year. By that time, you’ve been doing a lot of other exciting rotations and you might forget about pathology, which you learned about earlier. If people see my posts every day on their Instagram or Twitter accounts, maybe they’ll think of choosing pathology.

Q. Which of your posts has gotten the biggest response?

A. It’s a Valentine’s Day piece—placenta that I colored and arranged in the shape of a heart. I sent it to my mom.

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