Pathologists work with doctors, nurses and other medical specialists to diagnose, prevent and treat illness. As a pathologist you will study disease by examining cells and tissue samples to see if disease is present. A small part of your role will involve performing autopsies on dead bodies to discover the cause of death.
To do this job you need an interest in medical research and the study of disease. If you’ve got strong academic abilities and excellent communication skills, then this career could be for you.
To become a pathologist, you will first need a medical degree. With a degree, you can then begin your pathology training. There is a two-year foundation programme of general training, followed by specialist training, which lasts between five and six years.
Your daily tasks would depend on which area of pathology you specialise in but, in general, you will:
• study the results of patient samples, such as blood tests, smear tests and tissue removal to see if disease is present
• explain test results to other health professionals and give advice on further medical assessments
• treat diseases and make sure blood transfusions are safe
• develop vaccines against infectious diseases and inherited conditions
• research and develop new tests and treatments
• organise work in laboratories and supervise other laboratory staff
• attend meetings with other health professionals to discuss the treatment of individual patients.
Forensic pathologists specialise in performing autopsies for medical and legal purposes and may attend court to give evidence in criminal cases. Forensic pathologists distinguish between accidental death, suicide and murder.
The majority of pathologists work for the NHS in wards on hospitals, and in research laboratories. Competition for promotion through your training can be strong, as there is only a limited number of places available on specialist training programmes.
Once you have qualified, you may need to relocate to take up a more senior position.
As a consultant, there are often opportunities available in the private sector and overseas.
You could also move into a teaching role, training students, trainee doctors and other healthcare professionals. With experience, you may go on to lead a team, or manage a unit or department.
To become a pathologist you need to have science background with physics, chemistry and biology combination. Being a specialized field in medical sciences, only candidates who have completed MBBS, are eligible to pursue M.D. in Pathology. MD is of 3 years.
There is also post graduate diploma programmes which is of 2 years duration.
Main skill required for a Pathologist is his/her ability to make clear and precise observations. Other requisites include attention to detail, ability to express ideas both orally and in writing, critical thinking ability, a genuine desire to serve patients, compassion towards others, emotional stability, ability to take timely decisions and so on. Besides, one should have patience, commitment to excel in their respective field, and self-confidence. Above all he/she must be good at research.
As the role of pathologists in medical care is diverse, job positions for pathologists is spread over a wide area. Pathologists generally function in three broad areas- as diagnosticians in hospitals; investigators or researchers in medical laboratories and as teachers in colleges and universities. Pathologists as diagnosticians uses diagnostic and screening tests to identify and interpret the changes that characterize different diseases in the cells, tissues, and fluids of the body. As teachers, pathologists impart their knowledge of disease to their medical colleagues via consultations and formal seminars, and to house-staff and medical and undergraduate students. They also play a major role in the conferences held by the clinical services in hospitals. The pathologist-investigator seeks new understanding of the basic nature of disease as a first step toward devising better ways to identify, control and prevent it. Their research can lead to novel disease treatments.
Pathologists also find employment with agriculture, public health, law enforcement, and many entities in other fields. Positions for pathologists are available in prestigious government hospitals such as AIIMS (All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi), where the posts are filled up as and when the vacancy arises; in military and government agencies such as the National Institute of Health, Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, and Food and Drug Administration. Drug manufacturing, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies also employ pathologists. Another option for Pathologists is to start their own diagnostic laboratories or become consultants to private industry.
Pathologists can appear for Combined Medical Services examination conducted by the Union Public Service Commission, Government of India as well as provincial civil service examination conducted by respective provincial service commissions. In Defence services like army and naval forces, they can get jobs by passing respective competitive exams.
Specialisation in the field of pathology
Two main branches of Pathology are Anatomical or Anatomic pathology and Clinical pathology. Most pathologists practice both the branches together.
Anatomical pathology- Anatomical Pathology is the branch of pathology that deals with the diagnosis of disease through surgical specimens- i.e Diagnosis of disease based on the microscopic, chemical, immunologic and molecular examination of organs, tissues, and even whole bodies (autopsy). An anatomic pathologist assists surgeons during operations by providing immediate diagnoses.
Clinical Pathology-The diagnosis of disease through the laboratory analysis of bodily fluids and tissues such as blood and urine routine analysis, blood cell count, glucose level etc. Clinical pathologists work in close collaboration with medical technologists, hospital administrations and referring physicians to ensure the accuracy and optimal utilization of laboratory testing.
The average annual salary for pathologists is dependent upon geographic location, experience and the type of facility where they are employed. If you are getting into a private company as a pathologist, there are chances of getting higher salary but it will mean more responsibility as well as more work. Pathologists can expect a starting salary anywhere between Rs.15,000 to Rs.25,000 depending upon the competence of the individual pathologist. Within a few years of experience, they can earn up to Rs 60,000 per month in the private sector including other perks. Senior pathologists having experience up to ten years in the field, earn higher salaries and can even enter into administrative field in universities and as head of pathology departments.