• Do you KNOW you want to go into Pathology?


  • Congratulations! You know you want to go into pathology.

    This is an excellent choice as pathology is a dynamic, ever-changing medical specialty with many subspecialty options.
    There's a niche for everyone!

    Are you:

     

     

     


  • Lucky you!

    Build a CV and get research experience

    You have plenty of time to build a great curriculum vitae (CV) to get into the pathology residency of your choice! Most pathology programs want residency candidates to have research experience. While pathology-related research is preferred, any research experience is preferable to none because it shows that you are familiar with the scientific method, formulation of hypotheses, and more. If your undergraduate studies do not include research opportunities, don't worry! There is plenty of time for research during medical school, and many residency programs appreciate diversity in your background, such as liberal arts exposure and extracurricular activities.

    Shadow a pathologist

    This is also a great time to get exposure to the practice of pathology by shadowing a pathologist in your area. Ask at your local medical institution or a Resident who can get you in contact with a pathologist. 

    Get a strong understanding of the basic sciences

    Finally, your undergraduate years are a good time to develop or consolidate a strong understanding of the basic sciences. Pathology is far more basic science-oriented than most medical specialties, so try to take as many basic science courses as you can, regardless of your major.

    Your next step

    Visit the ASCP website or contact us to speak with a Resident/Pathologist.

  • Congratulations on getting into medical school!

    Things to focus on during pre-clinical years include normal structure (anatomy), function (physiology), and morphology (histology). The more concretely you learn the basic (normal), the more the abnormal (pathology) is going to make sense!

    Here are some other ways to make the most of your pre-clinical years...

    Apply for ASCP scholarship awards

    Apply for the ASCP Medical Student Academic Achievement and Excellence in Pathology Award. This competitive award is given to ten medical students across the country that shows the most promise in pathology. Awardees receive a Certificate of Achievement, a feature on our website, and a pathology reference book. Furthermore, the Gold Award Recipient receives a complimentary trip to the ASCP Annual Meeting where she/he is honored during a prestigious award ceremony. Past top winners have also received iPads and other coveted gifts!

    Invest in a basic pathology textbook

    Invest in a basic pathology textbook (e.g., Robbins and Cotran Pathologic Basis of Disease) and start reading it. It may seem like a hefty price now, but this tome is relied upon even by practicing pathologists for basic pathology.

    Become a familiar face

    Become a familiar face to the pathology faculty at your medical school. Introduce yourself and let them know that you are interested in pathology. The sooner you can start cultivating a mentor-mentee relationship, the stronger your letters of recommendation will be. Mentors can also be monumentally helpful in providing personalized advice on how to make the most of your time.

    Get involved with research projects

    Contact your pathology department about the possibility of getting involved with research projects. While this may seem daunting at first, academic pathologists often have small parts of projects that are perfect for medical students. Most pathology residency programs want their future residents to have research experience.

    Consider a post-sophomore fellowship

    Want more experience in pathology? Consider a post-sophomore fellowship. These funded positions are usually open to students who have completed their 2nd or 3rd year of medical school. It will delay your medical school graduation by a year but these are funded positions and provide an excellent opportunity for getting into the nitty-gritty of pathology, including research opportunities.

  • Congratulations on making it through the first half
    of medical school!

    Maybe you started out thinking about specializing in internal medicine, primary care, or surgery... but now that you've begun your clinical training, you realize that pathology really is where it's at.

    Recommendations for strengthening your pathology base include:

    Develop a good clinical foundation

    Despite common misconceptions, pathologists are not just solitary researchers sequestered in the basement, performing autopsies, or generating lab results in a vacuum. What we do is vital to almost every aspect of patient care: from diagnosis to treatment planning to prognostication and follow up, the pathologist works with the primary care team to improve patient outcomes. Reading biopsies, staging tumors, interpreting blood work, and identifying disease-causing microorganisms are some of the behind-the-scenes action happening in every pathology department and clinical lab - all day, every day, worldwide!

    Take advantage of opportunities to follow up on patient results

    As you rotate through the wards, take advantage of opportunities to follow up on patient results. Your patient had a colonoscopy? Contact the surgical pathologist (or resident) to see if you can get a preliminary read of the results or actually SEE what the results are instead of just reading it off the computer screen or printout. Does your patient have abnormal blood work? Then, contact the clinical pathologist (or resident) to discuss what it means. This will not only enhance your pathology experience but also please and impress your attending physicians.

    Apply for ASCP scholarship awards

    Apply for the ASCP Medical Student Academic Achievement and Excellence in Pathology Award. This competitive award is given to ten medical students across the country that shows the most promise in pathology. Awardees receive a Certificate of Achievement, a feature on our website, and a pathology reference book. Furthermore, the Gold Award Recipient receives a complimentary trip to the ASCP Annual Meeting where she/he is honored during a prestigious award ceremony. Past top winners have also received iPads and other coveted gifts!

    Invest in a basic pathology textbook

    Invest in a basic pathology textbook (e.g., Robbins and Cotran Pathologic Basis of Disease) and start reading it. It may seem like a hefty price now, but this tome is relied upon even by practicing pathologists for basic pathology.

    Become a familiar face

    Become a familiar face to the pathology faculty at your medical school. Introduce yourself and let them know that you are interested in pathology. The sooner you can start cultivating a mentor-mentee relationship, the stronger your letters of recommendation will be. Mentors can also be monumentally helpful in providing personalized advice on how to make the most of your time.

    Get involved with research projects

    Contact your pathology department about the possibility of getting involved with research projects. While this may seem daunting at first, academic pathologists often have small parts of projects that are perfect for medical students. Most pathology residency programs want their future residents to have research experience.

    Think about where to do your residency

    Start thinking about WHERE you might want to do your residency and look into away rotation opportunities at your preferred institution or region.  Also, contact an ASCP Resident Representative in your preferred region for helpful information and contacts.

    Get involved with your school's Pathology Interest Group

    If your school doesn’t have a Pathology Interest Group, ASCP can help! The ASCP offers start-up resources and incentives for medical schools that lack Pathology Interest Groups, as well as funding for additional supplies and event organization. Betty Sanders is available for more information. The Intersociety Council for Pathology Information also provides matching funds for medical student Pathology Interest Groups -- up to $1000 each!

    Reach out to national medical organizations

    Reach out to or get involved with national medical organizations.  For example, ASCP offers complimentary membership for medical students.  Membership provides access to web-based study materials, discounted products (including books, live education courses, self-study, and assessment modules, and webcasts), and networking opportunities.

  • Congratulations, you've made it to your final year
    of medical school!

    If you act quickly, you still have enough time to prepare yourself for the Match. Due to the restructuring of many medical school curricula, pathology is often not presented as a stand-alone medical specialty. Unfortunately, many medical students don't stumble onto pathology as a viable career choice until after an elective in 3rd or 4th year... by which time, they've often already committed to another specialty. But it's never entirely too late! There is still time to build your application for a pathology residency position.

    Here are some suggestions:

    Contact your Pathology Department Chair

    Contact your Pathology Department Chair as soon as possible. A strong letter of recommendation from him/her will often go a long way during the residency application process.

    Get involved with your school's Pathology Interest Group

    If your school doesn't have a Pathology Interest Group, ASCP can help! The ASCP offers start-up resources and incentives for medical schools that lack Pathology Interest Groups, as well as funding for additional supplies and event organization. Betty Sanders is available for more information. The Intersociety Council for Pathology Information also provides matching funds for medical student Pathology Interest Groups -- up to $1000 each!

    Apply for ASCP scholarship awards

    Apply for the ASCP Medical Student Academic Achievement and Excellence in Pathology Award. This competitive award is given to ten medical students across the country that shows the most promise in pathology. Awardees receive a Certificate of Achievement, a feature on our website, and a pathology reference book. Furthermore, the Gold Award Recipient receives a complimentary trip to the ASCP Annual Meeting where she/he is honored during a prestigious award ceremony. Past top winners have also received iPads and other coveted gifts!

    Invest in a basic pathology textbook

    Invest in a basic pathology textbook (e.g., Robbins and Cotran Pathologic Basis of Disease) and start reading it. It may seem like a hefty price now, but this tome is relied upon even by practicing pathologists for basic pathology.

    Become a familiar face

    Become a familiar face to the pathology faculty at your medical school. Introduce yourself and let them know that you are interested in pathology. The sooner you can start cultivating a mentor-mentee relationship, the stronger your letters of recommendation will be. Mentors can also be monumentally helpful in providing personalized advice on how to make the most of your time.

    Get involved with research projects

    Contact your pathology department about the possibility of getting involved with research projects. While this may seem daunting at first, academic pathologists often have small parts of projects that are perfect for medical students. Most pathology residency programs want their future residents to have research experience.

    Take advantage of opportunities to follow up on patient results

    As you rotate through the wards, take advantage of opportunities to follow up on patient results. Your patient had a colonoscopy? Contact the surgical pathologist (or resident) to see if you can get a preliminary read of the results or actually SEE what the results are instead of just reading it off the computer screen or printout. Does your patient have abnormal blood work? Then, contact the clinical pathologist (or resident) to discuss what it means. This will not only enhance your pathology experience but also please and impress your attending physicians.

    Reach out to national medical organizations

    Reach out to or get involved with national medical organizations.  For example, ASCP offers complimentary membership for medical students.  Membership provides access to web-based study materials, discounted products (including books, live education courses, self-study, and assessment modules, and webcasts), and networking opportunities.

  • Congratulations, you've made it to your final year
    of medical school!

    After September, it may be a little challenging to match at the pathology residency program of your choice.  But don’t despair! It is common for medical students (sometimes even residents or fellows!) to realize, belatedly, that pathology is the specialty for them.

    Utilize the Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program

    Utilize the Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (formerly known as the Scramble) to try for a vacant pathology residency spot.

    Take a year off

    Take a year off for research or to pursue another postgraduate degree instead of proceeding directly to Residency.

    Complete a basic intern (prelim) year

    Complete a basic intern (prelim) year, and then apply for pathology in the following year's Match. Increasing your clinical knowledge and experience will serve you well in your pathology residency and practice too, so try to learn as much as you can on clinical services!

    Your next step

    Contact your Pathology Department Chair as soon as possible to discuss your options.

  • It took experience in another medical specialty for you to realize you belong in pathology?
    You are not alone!

    At some point, residents from almost all other medical or surgical specialties have realized that they'd rather be pathologists than anything else. So what can you do to increase your chances of being accepted into a pathology residency program (and simultaneously confirming that pathology is indeed for you)?

    Make contact

    Get in touch with your Pathology Department Chair.

    Schedule some elective time

    Try to schedule some elective time in the Pathology Department.

    Reach out to pathology specialty societies

    Reach out to specialty societies on the pathology field, such as the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP), College of American Pathologists (CAP), United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology (USCAP), for more information. These organizations are great for networking and putting you in contact with a potential mentor, possibly even at your home institution or nearby.

    Follow up on patient results

    Take advantage of opportunities to follow up on patient results. Your patient had a colonoscopy? Contact the surgical pathologist (or resident) to see if you can get a preliminary of the results or actually SEE what the results are instead of just reading it off the computer screen/printout. Your patient has abnormal blood work? Contact the clinical pathologist (or resident) to discuss what it means.

    Your next step

    Be able to demonstrate your experience in pathology in research or clinical areas.

  • Still exploring? Not really sure about pathology?
    Well, you're not alone!

    Pathology is a notoriously underrepresented and misrepresented medical specialty. Checking out the ASCP website is a great start, and we commend you on your initiative!

    Let us tell you a little bit about what, exactly, we do:

    General pathology

    Contrary to popular belief, pathology is NOT just autopsies. In fact, most pathologists spend very little (if any!) time performing autopsies. (If you are interested in autopsies, there are certain subspecialties, like autopsy or forensic pathology, that focus almost exclusively on deceased patients. These subspecialties are exciting in their own right - which is why they feature so heavily in sensational TV dramas!)

    General pathology training is divided into anatomic pathology (AP) and clinical pathology (CP): anatomic pathology involves diagnosing disease based on examination of patient samples (organs, tissues, resections, biopsies, etc); clinical pathology enables diagnosis and assessment of disease processes through laboratory analysis of body fluids (e.g. blood, serum) and tissues. Both anatomic and clinical pathology encompass numerous subspecialties. 

    Surgical pathology

    The “bread and butter” of anatomic pathology is surgical pathology. The surgical pathologist examines every piece of tissue that is taken out of/from a patient. After processing and thoroughly examining it, both macroscopically and microscopically, the surgical pathologist renders a diagnosis, which usually guides treatment and contributes to accurate prognostication and follow-up. Surgical pathology specimens range from small biopsies of large organs (e.g., skin, stomach) to small resections of local tumors to massive resections of large portions of the body (e.g., hemi-pelvectomies!!).  The entire multidisciplinary healthcare team, including the primary care physician, surgeon, and oncologist, relies on the surgical pathologist’s input at almost every stage of good patient care.  

    Cytopathology

    Cytopathology, while closely related to surgical pathology, focuses more on the appearance of individual cells, rather than overall architecture, and usually involves less patient material and less invasive procedures.  For example, a patient with a clinically or radiographically suspicious thyroid nodule will undergo a fine needle aspiration (FNA) of the nodule.  Many times, it is the pathologist who performs the procedure, whereby a very small needle is stuck into the nodule and cells are aspirated, put on a slide, and stained.  A preliminary diagnosis of benign versus malignant can often be rendered on the spot, saving the patient from the anguish of waiting.  This is extended to any nodule or mass that is accessible via a needle, be it superficial (e.g., thyroid, salivary gland, superficial lymph nodes, etc.) or deeper in the body (e.g., pancreas, stomach, etc.).   Thus, a good cytopathologist can spare the patient from more invasive, painful surgical procedures.

    Clinical pathology

    Clinical pathology tends to be more laboratory-based and includes, but is not limited to, microbiology, clinical chemistry, toxicology, coagulations studies, cytogenetics and transfusion medicine.  The basic chemistry panel you ordered on your patient—how are those numbers generated? How are they measured? How do we ensure that the results are meaningful?  These are the issues with which a clinical chemist is concerned.  Does your patient have a positive blood culture? How do we identify the organism? How do we know that it is not a contaminant? How do we test for antibiotic susceptibility? The microbiologist comes to the rescue!  Your patient needs blood products? It's the Pathologist in the blood bank who helps to coordinate the safe and appropriate administration of blood products.  The clinical pathologists are the doctors who are behind the actual laboratory results.

    Hematopathology

    Hematopathology is a fairly unique subspecialty in that it bridges both anatomic and clinical pathology.  It relies on tissue diagnosis by looking at things like lymph node and bone marrow morphology; yet it also heavily utilizes laboratory tests such as flow cytometry, cytogenetics, and molecular results. Hematopathologists, like the cytopathologist, will often perform the actual procedure (bone marrow biopsy) him- or herself.  

    Molecular pathology

    Molecular pathology is also unique and, arguably, one of the most exciting fields within pathology.  As the molecular and cytogenetic underpinnings of diseases become better understood (which is happening at a stunningly rapid pace), molecular pathology emerges as the critical determinant of treatment modality and prognosis.

    Your next step

    Find your nearest Pathology Department and get to know us a little better.

    This is but a brief taste of what pathologists do. We are everywhere in most medical centers. We play important roles in multidisciplinary tumor conferences, medical and clinical education, laboratory administration, and blood product administration. This is only a general overview and we do a whole lot more!

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