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Authors > Robert D. Odze, MD

“My goal as an educator is to try to make it simple for the masses, because ultimately when you understand something, it’s easy to teach. When you don’t understand it, it’s not easy to teach.” – Robert Odze, MD

Dr. Odze’s Path to Pathology

I think my first foray into medicine was when, as a 10-year-old child, I developed fulminant hepatitis, and nearly died. That’s when I really started getting interested in biological sciences. My father was an engineer and an inventor, and also a pilot, so I had a natural inclination towards physical sciences and a little bit of the biological sciences. Going through college and university, I really focused on the physical sciences — physics, physical chemistry, stuff like that — with the idea that I would use that physical knowledge in the medical arena — biomedical engineering, something like that. As I went through college and started thinking about what I wanted to do for my future, I realized that I needed a degree in medicine to do that. So I applied to medical school with the purpose of focusing on biomedical engineering. Then everything changed because I got interested in surgery.

I liked physical diseases (things that you can touch and see), and I really had a strong desire to do surgery and so I started a surgical residency. Part of the surgical residency that I was doing involved research: it was obligatory in my medical school. The research I was doing was carcinogenesis experiments in rats and I was working with a gastrointestinal pathologist and that’s where I developed a love for tissue and pathology and I switched into pathology and never looked back. I like the academic part of pathology, I like the thinking part, I like the being able to put a vision, a scenery, to a disease, and that’s more satisfying to me than actually touching it as a surgeon.

Putting Vision to a Disease

We’re beginning to see a movement away from morphology diagnostics and into more molecular diagnostics. We’re in a phase now of the study of disease where we’re trying to translate what we see in DNA into tissue and trying to appreciate what those molecular aberrations are that make diseases. We’re trying to see how they correlate into a phenotypic picture, or what disease looks like in tissue. I think we’re going to lead into an area of medicine where diagnostics from a molecular point of view may even supersede what we’re seeing in tissue. So, clearly the molecular world is where we’re going — clearly in tumor research and in cancer biology and in cancer therapeutics, that’s where it’s going. But I think we’re starting to see that in inflammatory diseases as well: trying to translate the molecular makeup of a person into diseases states.

Surgical Pathology of the GI Tract, Liver, Biliary Tract and Pancreas

Back in the early 2000s, John Goldblum and I decided that there was a huge need for a comprehensive, analytical, easy-to-read book of gastrointestinal liver and pancreatic pathology. Up until then, gastrointestinal diseases were somewhat of an enigma. We wanted to make a book that was utilitarian, easy-to-read, understandable, and made the complicated very simple. Very pictorial, very driven towards how you make a diagnosis, not too wordy, direct, to-the-point.

Four years of planning that went into this book prior to even writing a word, and I think we achieved that our goal of a simple, readable book that covers an expansive topic.


Robert D. Odze, MD, FRCP(C), is Associate Professor of Pathology at Harvard Medical School and Chief of Gastrointestinal Pathology Service at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He is an internationally recognized authority, lectures extensively, and works at one of the world’s leading institutions for pathology. He is author of Surgical Pathology of the GI Tract, Liver, Biliary Tract and Pancreas.

Dr. Odze holds his MD from McGill University, Montreal, where he was awarded the Pathology, Anatomy and Surgery Prize. He has served as associate editor of the American Journal of Gastroenterology and associate editor of IBD. He has published more than 300 peer reviewed research articles, reviews, editorials, and book chapters.

Related Author: John R. Goldblum, MD, FCAP, FASCP, FACG