Christopher Grove peers out his office window nestled in Carroll Hospital Center's basement and sees reminders of his youth. He points in one direction, and it's near his old house. He points the other way, and it's toward a water tower that entrapped a young Grove's kite.
Since October, Grove has served as chief of pathology in the hospital that sparked his interest in the profession and taught him what pathology was all about.
After serving as a pathology assistant in Carroll Hospital Center in 1994, he matriculated in George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. Enrolled in the military, Grove did his service at Walter Reed Army Medical Center from 2002 until he left to take the chief of pathology position in Westminster.
The Times spoke to him about how Carroll Hospital Center shaped his career path, the changes the hospital has undergone, his duties as chief and what it's like to be working in his hometown.
Q: What hooked you specifically onto pathology?
A: I think the biggest draw for me in pathology was the mystery of the diagnosis. I like making diagnoses. Once I got into medical school, and I had the chance to be on the other side of things where you're ordering the testing, you're diagnosing the patient, but then you're also following that patient out years and years after the diagnosis. For me, the fun was in the diagnosis, not the continuity of care.
Q: What are your duties as chief?
A: As chief, I'm responsible for the entire laboratory and all the testing that's done here. And there are two general divisions in a pathological laboratory: there's the anatomical laboratory that deals with the tissue diagnosis, and then there's the clinical pathology lab that includes things like clinical chemistry, microbiology, hematology, transfusion medicine, immunology, urinalysis. So as the chief, you're in charge of literally every test that leaves the hospital. If a patient comes in for a complete blood count, the chief's name is on the top.
Q: How's Carroll Hospital Center changed in general from when you were here previously?
A: It was 1994 when I started here. And it was called Carroll County General Hospital then and now it's Carroll Hospital Center. And they've added buildings and floors to the hospital and parking. Carroll has come a long way in a relatively short span of time when I was here the first time. It's an outstanding place to get medical care, and I really feel fortunate to be able to come back to this community and work in such a high-caliber organization, providing care for the patients of Westminster and Carroll County. These are my family members, my neighbors, my friends; I can't think of any more rewarding place to really practice than in the community that sort of gave you every opportunity to do what you're doing. I felt very fortunate to be in the military and to take care of soldiers and their families and this is on par with that.
Q: Because you hadn't been to medical school, what were you doing here [in 1994]?
A: I was a pathology assistant. Pathology assistants work in the anatomic pathology laboratory, and they are responsible for grossing in specimens, describing the tissue when it comes down from the operating room, taking the appropriate sections to submit for microscopic analysis. So I did that. I learned on the job. Dr. [Richard] Jones, [then-chief of pathology], I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for him. He was the one who gave me my shot. When I showed up in 1994, he said 'what do you know about pathology?' I said, 'well, I don't know a damn thing about pathology.' He said, 'if you're interested, I will teach it to you.' And he did.
Q: Do you have any thoughts on what a health challenge for the Carroll County people would be?
A: The challenges that we see in Carroll County are the same that we see in a lot of different areas. Things like diabetes and smoking. Those are some of the challenges that are very difficult to combat because you're trying to change people's behaviors in a lot of respects. I don't think there are a lot of unique challenges to Carroll.
Q: Is there anything else you'd like to add?
A: One thing I'd like to get across is just how amazing the people in the laboratory are. We sort of get forgotten occasionally down here, you know, we're usually down next to the cafeteria and the morgue. You don't see us out on the floor; patients don't. They see their physician who's taking care of them every morning when they make rounds, but I think a lot of people don't realize what a huge value the lab provides to the hospital. Both in-patients and out-patients because we process blood samples from doctors offices around the community, nursing homes, things like that. So we play a key role in maintaining the health of the community.