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The Pathologist

Picture of a female pathologist in a laboratory

What is a pathologist?

A pathologist is a medical doctor who examines bodies and body tissues, and who is responsible for performing laboratory tests. A pathologist helps other physicians reach diagnoses and is an important member of the treatment team.

Pathologists have completed medical school and must have at least 3 years of advanced medical education in a residency training program to be eligible to take board certification examinations. Pathologists are board-certified through the American Board of Pathology.

Most pathologists receive training in both clinical and anatomical pathology. Pathologists practice in all areas of pathology, but the American Board of Pathology also provides subspecialty certifications in the following areas: 

  • Blood banking/transfusion. This field includes monitoring, processing, and compatibility of blood products.

  • Chemical pathology. The study of organic and inorganic substances in body fluids, including toxicology.

  • Clinical informatics. The study of informational systems, databases, and quality control and assurances.

  • Cytopathology. This field includes cellular alterations in disease. Cytopathology is often used to diagnose cancer.

  • Dermatopathology. A subspecialty of both pathology and dermatology; these specialists interpret skin biopsies. Dermatopathological results can help diagnose common skin diseases, as well as complex immunological diseases.

  • Forensic pathology. The study of tissue in people who died suddenly, unexpectedly, or violently.

  • Hematology. The study of disease, illness, and dysfunction of the blood.

  • Medical microbiology. The study of infectious organisms and antibiotic susceptibilities.

  • Molecular genetic pathology. The study of genetic markers and testing.

  • Neuropathology. The study of the nervous system. Neuropathology can help diagnose neurological diseases.

  • Pediatric pathology. The study of pathology in children.

Pathologists practice in community, university, and government hospitals and clinics, as well as in independent laboratories, private offices, and other medical facilities. Pathologists recertify every 10 years through the American Board of Pathology. 

 
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