Health Care Providers: Pathologists
What Is Pathology?
Pathology (peh-THAHL-uh-jee) is the medical specialty that does laboratory studies of surgically removed organs, tissues (from biopsies), and body fluids.
What Is a Pathologist?
A pathologist (peh-THAHL-uh-jist) is a doctor who examines and interprets laboratory samples to diagnose medical conditions such as cancer or an infection. They also do laboratory studies after someone has died to help find the cause of death.
Why Would Someone Need One?
Pathologists diagnose conditions such as:
- bone, joint, and metabolic diseases
- endocrine and rheumatic conditions
- gastrointestinal tract and liver diseases
- kidney diseases
- leukemia and lymphoma
- solid tissue tumors
They also do:
- autopsies (to find the cause of death)
- tests on blood, urine, and other body fluids
- cultures (tests that look for the growth of bacteria or viruses)
- genetic testing
- sweat testing for cystic fibrosis
What Is Their Training?
Pathologist training typically includes:
- 4 years of pre-medical education at a college or university
- 4 years of medical school — a medical degree (MD) or doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO) degree
- 3 years of training in an anatomical or clinical pathology residency
They also might have:
- expertise in a subspecialty area (for example, pediatric pathology, surgical pathology, forensic pathology, or neuropathology) after 1–2 years in a fellowship program. A “fellow” is a doctor who had more specialty training after completing medical school and a residency.
Good to Know
Pathologists work closely with other doctors such as oncologists, surgeons, and radiologists to help them diagnose medical conditions and guide treatment. Although most pathologists don’t work directly with patients, some do have patient contact for certain treatments (such as blood transfusions) and procedures (such as bone marrow aspirations).