Pathology is the medical specialty that provides a
scientific foundation for medical practice
The pathologist is a physician who specializes in the diagnosis and management of
human disease by laboratory methods.
Pathologists function in three broad areas; as
diagnosticians, as teachers, and as investigators. Fundamental to the discipline of
pathology is the need to integrate clinical information with physiological, biochemical
and molecular laboratory studies, together with observations of tissue alterations.
Pathologists in hospital and clinical laboratories practice as consultant physicians,
developing and applying knowledge of tissue and laboratory analyses to assist in the
diagnosis and treatment of individual patients. As teachers, they impart this knowledge
of disease to their medical colleagues, to medical students, and to trainees at all levels.
As scientists, they use the tools of laboratory science in clinical studies, disease models,
and other experimental systems, to advance the understanding and treatment of disease.
Pathology has a special appeal to those who enjoy solving disease-related problems, using
technologies based upon fundamental sciences ranging from biophysics to molecular
genetics, as well as tools from the more traditional disciplines of anatomy, biochemistry,
pharmacology, physiology and microbiology.
The Pathologist in Patient Care
The pathologist uses diagnostic and screening tests to
identify and interpret the changes that characterize
different diseases in the cells, tissues, and fluids of
the body. Anatomic pathologists analyze the gross and
microscopic structural changes caused by disease in
tissues and cells removed during surgery or at
autopsy. Cytopathology, the examination of individual
cells to aid in disease detection, is an important
component of modern patient care. Clinical
pathology encompasses chemistry, microbiology,
immunology, hematology, coagulation, and blood
banking, among other types of laboratory testing.
Molecular pathology utilizes newly developed
strategies for DNA and RNA hybridization and
amplification to aid in many aspects of both clinical
and anatomic diagnoses. Collectively, all the
pathology specialties contribute to understanding
disease and treatment of the patient.
Pathologists participate in day-to-day care of patients
by providing and interpreting laboratory information
to help solve diagnostic problems and to monitor the
effects of therapy. New tools are used to increase the
precision of diagnoses, e.g., those utilizing
monoclonal antibodies, molecular biology, image
analysis, and flow cytometry. Because of the
expanding volume of new and highly complex tests,
clinicians rely on the pathologist for guidance and
direction in use of the clinical laboratory and
interpretation of test results. The new field of