Meet Jennifer Baccon, M.D., Ph.D., NEOMED’s chair of pathology, who recently was elected as chair of the Undergraduate Medical Education Committee for the Association of Pathology Chairs. In addition to her roles at NEOMED, Dr. Baccon serves as the chair of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Akron Children’s Hospital.
Give us a glimpse of what life was like before joining NEOMED.
I grew up in South Central Pennsylvania, then went to college at Cornell University, in Ithaca, New York. I spent my junior year of college abroad at Oxford University in England, then came back and finished up at Cornell. Afterward, I decided to enroll in the M.D./Ph.D. program at the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia. My Ph.D. is in cell and molecular biology. I studied a neurodegenerative disease called spinal muscular atrophy, a condition that affects parts of the nervous system that control muscle movement.
Following that training, I stayed on at Penn to do an anatomic pathology residency, coupled with a neuropathology fellowship. I also later completed a surgical pathology fellowship.
After that, I joined the faculty at Penn State University in Hershey, Pennsylvania. I was there for almost eight years before coming to Northeast Ohio to join NEOMED and Akron Children’s Hospital. There were great opportunities at both institutions, so it seemed like the right place at the right time.
What are some of your favorite things to do in Northeast Ohio?
My kids and I love the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad’s Polar Express train ride.
Another one of my favorite things, partly because it makes me feel like a part of the community, is being a part of the Fresh Fork Market, a farm buying club based in Cleveland. Every Friday, I get a wonderful bag of locally sourced fruits, veggies and meats. It’s pretty affordable and all the produce is grown within 70 miles of Cleveland.
Tell us about your different roles at NEOMED.
As a faculty member, I have students on the elective pathology rotation. I also direct the general pathology course and teach some labs throughout the curriculum. It has been an honor to serve on CMAC, the faculty committee that oversees the curriculum.
I continue to practice neuropathology and renal pathology. And I love being an active member of the medical staff at Akron Children’s Hospital, serving on committees and advocating for pathology.
What words of encouragement would you share with students interested in pathology?
First of all, I would say pathology is fantastic. If a student is interested in pathology, they should start thinking about and learning more about what the field entails. There are a variety of types of pathology. I recommend completing at least one month of pathology electives before applying for residency.
What careers are there in pathology?
There’s anatomic pathology, which entails things like autopsies, surgical pathology and psychopathology. Then there’s the realm of clinical pathology, which includes all the blood tests and other tests that we do to help our patients. Clinical pathologists oversee all the laboratory testing that takes place at hospitals and clinics. Getting a broad exposure to the spectrum of fields within pathology during their electives helps students understand the differences between the areas.