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Miguel Reyes-Múgica

Miguel Reyes-MúgicaChief of Pathology and Head of Laboratories, Children’s Hospital, Pittsburgh; Professor of Pathology, and Marjory J Harmer Chair in Pediatric Pathology, University of Pittsburgh, USA*

* At the time of this interview, Miguel Reyes-Múgica was Director of the Program in Pediatric and Developmental Pathology at the Yale School of Medicine

Interview location: Paediatric hospital in New Haven, Connecticut
Interview date: 24th November, 2007

Key themes: Autopsy, Children, History of Pathology, International Perspective, Legislation and Regulation, Life, death and the hereafter, Mentors and Influences, Motivation



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I never forget that behind everything that we do there is a patient, or group of patients.  So I am a doctor.  I consider myself a physician with a particular sub-speciality.Miguel Reyes-Múgica grew up in relative privilege in a small town in Mexico, where both his parents were doctors.  As a child he would accompany his father on visits to patients in homes rich and poor, and his experiences kindled in him a strong social conscience and a desire to follow in his parents' footsteps.  At medical school in Mexico City he encountered Dr Pérez-Tamayo, one of Latin America's leading intellectuals.  "He was professor of pathology, and when I took that course in my second year I immediately knew I was going to be a pathologist.  I wanted to be just like him in many respects."

The earthquake of 1985 that leveled much of Mexico City and killed many of his colleagues changed the course of his career.  The general hospital where he was about to start work was largely destroyed so he went instead to the National Institute of Paediatrics, “one of the largest and busiest” paediatric hospitals in Latin America.  It was a time when paediatric pathology was gaining recognition as a vital specialisation in its own right.  Autopsies, he believes, play a key role in paediatric pathology.  They are “the most exhaustive, and final, medical exam that a doctor can provide for a patient”.

In 1990 Reyes-Múgica went to the United States for a year's research, but for personal reasons never returned to work in Mexico.  He went to Yale in 1994 where, as director of the programme in paediatric and developmental pathology, his personal focus was neural crest disorders, especially melanocytic lesions (giant pigmented birthmarks with a potential to turn malignant) in children, the latter sparked by an extraordinary case he had seen in a baby in Mexico.

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