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What is a Biomedical Scientist in Pathology and Laboratory Medicine?

A PhD biomedical scientist in Pathology and/or Laboratory Medicine is a person who is scientifically trained in the life sciences to investigate the pathogenesis of human disease.

Scientific training entails acquiring a doctoral degree in one of the basic sciences or in a department of pathology and laboratory medicine followed by postdoctoral training in a field of interest. Postdoctoral training can be acquired in any one of a number of departments, including Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. Once fundamental basic scientific knowledge on mechanisms of disease is obtained, the biomedical scientist can tailor a career in an academic research setting, a hospital research institute, or in industry to investigate the pathogenesis, prevention, diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of disease. Biomedical scientists form a broad group of individuals with various levels of scientific expertise who can drive academic laboratory medicine in various areas of healthcare. In addition, biomedical scientists are able to provide leadership to physicians and medical teams on the basic mechanisms of disease and facilitate translational research studies with clinical applications.

Pathology and laboratory medicine have led the way in the past several years to chart the new frontiers of academic medicine - in teaching, research, and clinical care. In the clinical sphere, advanced laboratory technologies are being developed and adapted to diagnose disease earlier, more accurately, and with a greater ability to predict outcomes. Furthermore, advancements in pharmacogenetics are leading to the implementation of personalized medicine, which is directly influencing the way physicians treat disease.

These new approaches and technologies provide biomedical scientists with many career opportunities geared toward understanding the mechanism of disease, so that improvements can be made to diagnose disease early and to direct therapy in ways that surpass anything that has been available until now. Working with pathologists and laboratory physicians also provides the biomedical scientist with unique access to clinical tissue specimens and human biologic materials, which can lead to an increased understanding of human disease and opportunities for applied clinical research.

By being trained at the crossroads of basic science and clinical medicine, biomedical scientists are in the enviable position of understanding how to develop clinically relevant studies. Furthermore, it also puts one in the position to collaborate and provide expertise to physicians to develop appropriate in vitro and in vivo models to investigate complex mechanisms of human disease. For example, the phenotypes arising from genetic manipulation are being thoroughly studied, including using imaging methods that effectively combine morphology and molecular biology, a powerful combination to understand genomic and proteomic function. Thus, biomedical scientists are in an excellent position to generate and effectively communicate new discoveries and state-of-the-art knowledge to the clinical arena. In fact, it is through high quality research carried out in the laboratories of biomedical scientists that health care costs will be controlled by reducing the burden of disease in the population.

The biomedical scientist fits very well into new paradigms. Health care is undergoing dramatic changes as biomedical research and technology allow us to critically explore prevailing concepts and discover new knowledge to advance new paradigms. As a result, there is a paradigm shift in which advancements in science and patient care are less likely to be made by 'silos' or independent labs. Instead, there is a greater need for the biomedical scientists to integrate into both the clinical and research aspects of healthcare and perform translational research that moves from the bench to the bedside.

Biomedical scientists have an opportunity to promote social responsibility and to interact with the lay public. Much more consideration is being given to the ethical and social implications of scientific discovery, such as stem cell research and genetic testing. As a result, there is a greater need for biomedical scientists, especially those in the healthcare community, to better educate the public regarding scientific advances and their impact on society.

The trained biomedical scientist may also consider training in additional fields such as business administration, science policy, editing and publishing, scientific writing, high school or college teaching and administration, or regulatory and information technology areas.

Some PhD biomedical scientists are drawn to the clinical area of laboratory medicine and do postgraduate training in clinical chemistry, clinical microbiology, clinical genetics and cytogenetics. These individuals will work in and/or direct clinical diagnostic laboratories and may also carry out investigator-initiated independent peer reviewed research.