A pathologist is a physician (MD or DO) who examines tissues and is responsible for the accuracy of laboratory tests. Pathologists interpret the results of these examinations and tests—information that is important for the patient’s diagnosis and recovery. The pathologist and the patient’s other doctors consult on which tests to order, interpretation of test results, and appropriate treatments. Pathologists play a vital role on the patient’s primary health care team. Pathologists are problem-solvers, fascinated by the process of disease and eager to unlock medical mysteries, like AIDS and diabetes, using the tools of laboratory science and its sophisticated instruments and methods. Today, with advances in biomedical science, more than 2,000 laboratory tests on blood and body fluids are available. Many require specialized professional interpretation by an expert, usually a pathologist. Pathologists work in many areas of the medical laboratory, and a pathologist usually serves as Director of the Laboratory. In the blood bank, pathologists and medical technologists ensure that the blood or blood products you receive are safe. In microbiology, microorganisms that can cause infections – bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites – are identified so the most effective drugs to treat an infection can be selected. Autopsy, while an important tool in medicine, represents only a small part of the typical pathologist’s practice.
A clinical pathologist oversees laboratory tests conducted on body fluids such as blood and urine.
An anatomic pathologist assists surgeons during operations by providing immediate diagnoses on biopsies—specially treated tissues removed in surgery and rushed to the lab. A forensic pathologist uses the science of the laboratory to answer questions about evidence collected for criminal and civil cases. Other pathologists conduct research in pathology, developing new tests and new instruments to better diagnose diseases.
The above statement was copied directly from the American Society of Clinical Pathologists, http://www.ascp.org/pdf/ThePathologist.aspx
Blog Note: The above description pretty much covers the specialty of pathology. It is a very broad based medical practice and you can see from the above details, pathologists can busy themselves in many practice areas, in academia, in private practice, in the military, in legal matters and finally in many aspects of research.
What we discuss in future blogs are the breast pathologists and how their practice affects your diagnosis and treatment.