Pathologists are doctors who study the tissue and fluids of the body to help diagnose disease. Pathologists are not doctors who work closely with patients. Instead, they provide the lab results to many types of doctors.
Pathologists are required to complete medical school and earn a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree. Pathology is a specialty medicine, so doctors who want to become pathologists are required to complete a 3 to 4 year residency program in pathology that prepares doctors to diagnose a variety of diseases.
After completing a residency program, doctors who want to become pathologists must complete a 1 to 2 year fellowship in pathology. During this time doctors can focus on pathology subspecialties such as:
- Chemical pathology
- Blood banking and transfusion
- Medical microbiology
- Molecular genetic pathology
- Pediatric pathology
- Forensic pathology
Pathologists must have a medical license to practice medicine. Medical licenses are controlled by individual states, so the requirements will vary in each state. A medical license allows doctors to practice any type of medicine in a state, but does not show any specific qualifications in a field of medicine.
Pathologists gain board certification through the American Board of Pathology. Doctors must pass lengthy written and oral tests to receive certification, along with showing completion of qualifications like medical school, a residency program, and a fellowship. Pathologists maintain board certification through continued education classes and eventually through re-taking the certification exams.
Where Pathologists Work
Pathologists usually work out of laboratories either through private or group practices or directly for health care organizations. Pathologists can also work in clinical or research settings, or in law enforcement where they provide analyses of samples from crime scenes.
Some pathologists will work in government agencies or in educational settings.
How They Help People
According to the American Society for Clinical Pathology, there are more than 2,000 diagnostic tests that are used on blood and bodily fluid samples. Pathologists examine blood, organs, tissue samples, urine, bone marrow, and body cells from diagnostic tests and interpret the results for other doctors to facilitate the diagnosis and treatment of a patient. These doctors often study the microorganisms that cause infections including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites.
Pathology is the study of four main issues of diseases: the cause, development, cellular change, and manifestation of symptoms.
Pathologists are not primary care physicians and do not usually interact with patients. Instead, they work in the background providing important test analyses for all other doctors to help determine the condition of a patient. Pathologists may sometimes be a part of a surgical team to provide on-site test results to the surgeon.
Pathologists can also perform autopsies to determine a cause of death.
Other job duties of a pathologist include:
- Managing clinical laboratories
- Overseeing the integrity of specimen collection and testing
- Providing complete interpretation of test results
- Providing biopsy results
- Advising doctors about test results and making recommendations
- Overseeing the collection of blood and plasma at blood banks
- Working in law enforcement settings to testify about lab results in court (forensic pathologist)
- Performing toxicology tests to test for the use of illegal drugs and poisons
The average salary of a pathologist is $174,544.
Medical Negligence and Pathologists
Since pathology is the most important step to correctly determining the existence of a disease in a patient, the field is often the focus of many malpractice suits. A 2011 study found that pathology malpractice cases are the least likely to be dismissed and are the most likely to go to trial and result in a verdict.
Pathologists provide the fundamental information to other doctors about if a disease exists or not, what stage that disease is in, and where it is located in the body. When lab tests and results are mismanaged, misinterpreted, or miscommunicated by pathologists, then the patient's doctors do not have the necessary tools to provide timely and correct diagnoses and begin treatment plans. Some of the most common malpractice cases in pathology involve the misdiagnosis of cancer.
Pathologists must maintain very clear records of the tests they performed, the results, their interpretation of the results, and any recommendations that were waylaid to the doctors.
Experienced Maryland Medical Malpractice Attorneys
Pathologists are often a hidden presence in medical treatment; many patients do not even know that a pathologist is working with their medical team. But these doctors provide some of the most important information that patients need to receive a diagnosis and begin treatment. When pathologists make negligent mistakes, patients can remain unaware of serious medical conditions or can start down an incorrect treatment path.
If you or a loved one has suffered an injury while under the care of a pathologist, you may be eligible for compensation. You need an experienced medical malpractice attorney to sort through your case and determine possible instances of malpractice.
Call Gilman & Bedigian today at (800) 529-6162. We will not charge any attorney fees until you get the compensation you deserve.