What are the Different Pathologist Jobs?

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  • Written By: Karyn Maier
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 21 September 2018
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Pathology is a field of medicine that is focused on the diagnosis and cause of disease through the assessment of medical tests and tissue samples. Some pathologist jobs require a specialization in one diagnostic or investigative method or the other. For instance, tissue diagnosis is related to anatomic pathology, while clinical pathology involves medical testing analysis. However, many pathologists are board certified in both areas.

One particularly unique aspect to being a pathologist is that it is one of the few professions in medicine where there is little, if any, direct contact with patients. However, in contrast to popular belief, pathologists are not merely laboratory technicians. In fact, a pathologist is a physician, usually a Medical Doctor (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.). In addition, most people are not fully aware that the pathologist makes the final diagnosis of disease and not the attending physician. For this reason, the medical community makes a distinction between these two roles by generally referring to the former as a consulting physician and the latter as a clinician.


Another interesting element to this branch of medicine is that some pathologist jobs involve working with the deceased, while most clinicians are exclusively concerned with the living. However, despite the dramatization depicted on numerous television shows, a pathologist does not solve crimes. While he or she may determine that a cause of death is due unnatural circumstances, or “foul play,” the task of tracking down and prosecuting the culprit is left solely to the police and the courts.

Many pathologist jobs extend into a number of other medical specialties. For instance, some pathologists specialize in a particular area of oncology, such as bone cancer. Often, these kinds of positions are held in universities rather than a standard hospital setting. Those that do work in hospital or clinical environments often oversee entire laboratories or lab departments, making them instrumental in developing and maintaining quality assurance and information storage and retrieval systems.

Some pathologist jobs are primarily teaching roles. In this capacity, the pathologist instructs laboratory technicians, medical students, and clinicians in the use of diagnostic equipment. Of course, they also share their knowledge of disease and how it impacts tissue. The venue for instruction may be a lecture hall, classroom, or laboratory, as well as at the bedside of patients.

Additional pathologist jobs are related to molecular pathology, or the study of genetic mutations, and forensic pathology, where the living learn from the dead. Finally, investigative pathology may lead the pathologist to play a role in medical research. While they rarely conduct original research, the pathologist does apply experience and skill to help identify new diseases by isolating previously unknown pathogens. An example of the rewards of this type of work is the discovery of AIDS and gaining a further understanding of how to prevent and treat this disease.



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