What is a Pathologist?

A Pathologist is a specialized type of Doctor. Also known as: Immunopathologist, Genetic Pathologist, Chemical Pathologist, Molecular Pathologist, Neuropathologist, Cytopathologist, Forensic Pathologist, Clinical Pathologist, Anatomical Pathologist.

A pathologist is a physician in the medical field who studies the causes, nature, and effects of disease. The field of pathology is broad with concentrations on changes in cells, tissues, and organs that are the result of a disease.

Types of Pathologists:

  • Anatomical Pathologist
  • Clinical Pathologist
  • Forensic Pathologist
  • Cytopathologist
  • Neuropathologist
  • Molecular Pathologist
  • Chemical Pathologist
  • Genetic Pathologist
  • Immunopathologist

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What does a Pathologist do?

Pathologists typically work in one of three main areas of discipline: as teachers, investigators, or diagnosticians. The ability to integrate clinical data with biochemical, molecular, and physiological laboratory studies is fundamental to the work performed on a daily basis.

Individuals who work in the academic field impart their knowledge to medical students, medical colleagues, and other trainees at various levels. Investigators in the field of pathology use laboratory science for disease models, clinical studies, and other experimental programs to further advance the field knowledge, understanding, and treatment options for various diseases. This information is used to both treat and diagnose patients more aggressively in the future. Professionals who work in clinical laboratories or medical settings practice as consulting physicians who develop and apply their knowledge of laboratory and tissue analysis in order to diagnose and treat disease in patients.

It's important to note that professionals who work in the medical industry may also work with patients in the postmortem phase. Research with these patients is used to study disease, or determine if a death was a homicide or from natural causes.

A Pathologist could:

  • Examine kidney tissues of a patient under a microscope to determine if the patient is in need of a transplant.
  • Perform an autopsy to decide if the person died of homicide or natural causes. This information could be used to help solve a crime.
  • Look over the blood test of a pregnant woman to determine if the child she is carrying will be born in good health

How to become a Pathologist

Advanced training is necessary to become a professional in this field. During the undergraduate years, it's important to major in a biological field such as chemistry, science, or pre-medical studies. Individuals who only obtain an undergraduate level degree may be able to find employment as laboratory technologists, but the opportunities for growth are limited. Individuals who have earned a masters level degree in animal or plant pathology, biochemistry, microbiology, or another related field may qualify for an applied research or teaching position within the pathology field.

For individuals who want to work with plant disease a doctoral degree in plant pathology or another field of botany is required. For individuals who wish to work in the area of animal science, a doctoral degree in pathology or zoology, or a degree in veterinary medicine (D.V.M.) is essential. Students should expect to complete a four-year undergraduate degree along with an additional four years of advance level training to obtain these qualifications.

Medical professionals in the field will attend medical school for four years after completing their undergraduate degree program to obtain a doctor of medicine (M.D.). In some situations the person will spend six years in medical school and complete a doctoral degree in pathology along with their medical degree. Once the medical school program is complete, the student will spend roughly four more years working as a resident in a hospital pathology department for further training. A medical pathologist should expect to spend approximately 12 years meeting the educational requirements before they are considered fully qualified in the field. However, training is ongoing to stay abreast with advancements in the field.



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Further Reading

  • Paediatric Pathology

    Coping with sudden infant deaths, postmortem examinations, and grieving parents takes a certain type of person, but it's a highly rewarding and friendly specialty, says Irene Scheimberg.

  • Choosing Pathology

    Hearing the reasons why a particular physician chose his or her field can shed light on different aspects of the decision as well as validate the thoughts of the medical student on the specialty in question. With this in mind, I offer some information about pathology followed by my testimony as to why I chose pathology with the hopes that it will help medical students considering pathology in their decisions.

  • Who Is The Pathologist?

    In contrast to the popular image of the television show Quincy, we usually do not run around the city, solving murder mysteries, although it would be interesting! Most pathologists work in hospital laboratories or in outpatient reference laboratories.

  • What Do Pathologists Do?

    Pathology, my chosen profession, is not what people think it is - you know, autopsies, riding around on motorcycles solving crimes, glamour...

  • Pathology - What Is Pathology?

    The main branches of pathology are clinical pathology, anatomical pathology or a combination of the two, referred to as general pathology.

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