The Pathologist as a Teacher
Pathologists teach at the bedside, in the laboratory, over the microscope, in the lecture hall, in the classroom, in workshops and in seminars. They instruct medical students, residents in pathology and other clinical training programs, graduate students in basic science departments, and students in related medical disciplines. They are also important in the continuing medical education of practicing physicians in both academic and community settings. The community-based pathologist has a unique perspective on patients from the viewpoint of each individual's cumulative laboratory data. This perspective is necessary for consultation on individual patients as well as for guidance on the applicability, interpretation, and usefulness of both standard and specialized, often newly available tests. In the academic setting, the pathologist may be the developer of new testing approaches, responding to perceived patient diagnostic or therapeutic problems. In all these environments, pathologists contribute substantially to teaching on the clinical services.
Pathology is a required basic science course in medical school, and is often the first introduction to human disease processes. Additional training electives, tutorials, and guided research programs are available to the talented medical student in many schools. Exceptional students may be recognized by the Pathology Honor Society, sponsored by the Association of Pathology Chairs.
To teach well, one must continue to learn. Pathologists are committed to their own educational growth and regularly attend and contribute to programs at local, regional, national, and international meetings, where new basic science findings, diagnostic applications, and technology are presented.
One of the great appeals of a career in pathology is that it offers the opportunity to teach at many levels. No other medical specialty offers as many different opportunities in education.
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, and including tools from the more traditional disciplines of anatomy, biochemistry, physiology and microbiology.
Teaching in pathology is often conducted one-on-one with an experienced pathologist serving as mentor to a younger colleague. Here, a neuropathologist provides instruction on the gross anatomy of the brain and how to process the sample to diagnose the cause of death.