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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 four 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. In addition, pathologists can further specialize in certain areas, such as:

  • 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.

  • Cellular pathology. This is the study of cellular alterations in disease (also called cytopathology). Cytopathology is often used to diagnose cancer.

  • Comparative pathology. Comparative pathology is the study of disease in animals and how it compares with, and affects, humans.

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

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

Pathologists practice in community, university, and government hospitals and clinics, as well as in independent laboratories, private offices, and other medical facilities.

Online Resources

American Society for Clinical Pathology  http://www.ascp.org/pdf/ThePathologist.aspx
American Society of Dermatopathology  http://www.asdp.org/what_is_a_dermatopathologist1/1317.htm
American Society for Investigative Pathology  http://www.asip.org/career/pathologycareers.pdf
National Institutes of Health  http://www.cc.nih.gov/training/gme/programs/anatomic_pathology.html
American Board or Medical Specialties  http://www.certificationmatters.org/abms-member-boards/pathology.aspx

© 2000-2011 Krames StayWell, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.