By Pooja Parameshwar, UCLA Center for World Health Student Volunteer
Dr. Scott Binder, senior vice chair of pathology and laboratory medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, and director of pathology laboratory services for UCLA Health, sits down with the UCLA Center for World Health to describe his journey, both personal and professional, towards UCLA’s most recent landmark partnership with China: the creation of a new lab in Shanghai.
In an office decorated with artwork from the Orient and equipped with its very own microscope bench, two areas of keen interest to Binder become immediately apparent: cultural awareness and scientific research. Framed photos on the shelves feature a charismatic Binder alongside smiling colleagues and students from the fellowship program, giving the office a personal touch.
With beginnings at the University of Chicago for his Bachelor of Science degree, and then Chicago Medical School as a student interested in oncology, Binder would eventually transition to the study of pathology. It makes sense that this student, not only interested in medicine, but the philosophy behind it, would excel in pathology and spend a great deal of his life working to develop modalities to increase the efficiency and accuracy of diagnostic procedures.
As Binder progressed throughout his career, his role as a teacher and mentor would emerge as Founder and Director of the Dermopathology Fellowship Program at UCLA. This internationally renowned fellowship includes students from Korea, Japan, China, Greece, Mexico, Kuwait, and Israel, each of whom shared a unique passion for pathology. These students, with their desire to learn and ability to share knowledge, marked the beginning of a path for Binder in which education would play a key role.
Binder speaks of his students with joy, and it is immediately clear how significant an impact they have made on his life. He chuckles as he admits how often his fellows were also his teachers, as he would learn about their varied perspectives, values, and beliefs. These non-Western students brought with them vastly different ways of looking at health, instilling in Binder a desire to explore the countries, the cultural contexts, the philosophies, from which they came.
In 2003, Binder would go to China, opening up a new vista. As a result, he decided to help with China’s development of pathology practices. Binder realized that the resources required were at hand, starting with the very students that had brought him there. He began educating fellows and trainees in telepathology and developing networks, thus the trip would mark the debut of a journey that has encompassed the better part of the last decade.
As of January 22, 2015, the building of a new lab in Shanghai by the joint CTI-Pathology/UCLA Health venture has been approved. The development of the clinical laboratory, a 32,000 sq ft state-of-the-art facility will revolutionize the state of clinical procedures and diagnoses in China. Binder simply speaks fondly of his work as a humbling experience, one coupled with successes and frustrations. Assistance at crucial moments, Binder recognizes, came from Dr. Jonathan Braun, Pathology Chair; Dr. Jianyu Rao, Director of Cytology; Dr. Serge Alexanian, UCLA-trained medical director in Shanghai; and Dr. J. Thomas Rosenthal, Co-Director of the UCLA Center for World Health and Associate Vice Chancellor of David Geffen School of Medicine, who all provided extensive support for collaborations between UCLA and China.
Building a pathology network is creating a ripple effect at its finest; sharing UCLA’s model with fellows has allowed for an increasing number of physicians and hospitals overseas to learn and expand upon existing practices of pathology. This new laboratory will not only deliver fast, accurate, and comprehensive test results for specialized and complex conditions, but it will also provide the opportunity for an increasing number of students to study pathology and work in diagnostic medicine.
In Binder’s own words, education – the direct link to elevating healthcare around the world – enables him to reach many more people through his very own mixture of patience, realism, curiosity, and sense of humor.