Are you a curious one who loves to learn about the human body, what can affect it and how these problems can be traced? The job of a pathologist delves into the kind of problems a human body can face and how it can be discovered!
Pathologists are trained Specialist Physicians in India. A pathologist is known as a “doctor’s doctor”. While pathologists treat patients too, they generally assist other Physicians, Specialist Physicians and Surgeons in diagnosing the pathological causes of diseases.
Why become a Pathologist?
Pathology is the study of cells, tissues and body fluids such as blood and urine, to diagnose specific diseases and assist medical practitioners in identifying the cause and extremity of the disease and monitor treatment. Pathologists are trained Specialist Physicians in India. A pathologist is known as a “doctor’s doctor”. While pathologists treat patients too, they generally assist other Physicians, Specialist Physicians, and Surgeons in diagnosing the pathological causes of diseases.
As a pathologist, you must provide accurate and reliable diagnoses as promptly as possible in response to your colleagues’ requests. You will be working in hospitals and various diagnostic centers. They mostly corroborate medical laboratory tests carried out by medical laboratory technologists and certify the pathological reports.
General pathology is mostly concerned with analyzing abnormalities that are markers for infectious and non-infectious disease and is conducted by experts in specialties such as:
Anatomical pathology (the diagnosis of disease based on the macro and microscopic, immunologic and molecular examination of organs and tissues).
Clinical pathology: (diagnosis of disease based on the laboratory analysis of bodily fluids, such as blood and urine or extracts using tools such as chemistry and molecular pathology).
Popular Specialization in Pathologist Career
- Cytopathology studies and diagnoses diseases related to cells, and is generally used on samples of free cells or tissue fragments. A typical application of cytopathology is the Pap smear, a screening tool used to detect cervical cancer. Cytopathologists use techniques to examine all body organs and tissues such as Gynecologic cytology, Urinary tract cytology, Breast cytology and Respiratory cytology.
- Dermatopathology deals with the study of skin pathology, and is known to be a subspecialty of dermatology and pathology. It involves studying potential causes of skin, nail or hair disorders at the cellular level. In other to become a dermatopathologist, you first have to become an anatomical pathologist.
- Histopathology: This refers to the microscopic examination of tissue in order to study the manifestations of diseases. The examination of tissues starts with surgery, biopsy, or autopsy. The tissue is removed from the body placed in a fixative such as Formalin which stabilizes the tissues to prevent decay. The tissue is viewed under a microscope while a diagnosis is developed as a pathology report mentioning the histological findings and the opinion of the pathologist.
- Forensic pathology focuses on investigating the cause of death by examining a corpse. A forensic pathologist conducts the examination, but the pathologist has to be a medical doctor who has completed training in anatomical pathology and has specialized in forensic pathology, whose requirement varies with countries. The pathologist creates an autopsy report that the injury or disease that lead to the person’s death, as well as if the death was natural, suicide or accidental. Forensic pathologists are also required to regularly appear in the courts as expert witnesses for the cases/corpses they examine.
- Neuropathology is the study of diseases of nervous system tissue such as the tissue from the brain and spinal cord to aid in the diagnosis of diseases. The biopsy is usually done after a mass is detected by radiologic imaging, which presents the signs and symptoms of a patient. For autopsies, the primary work of the neuropathologist is to help in the post-mortem diagnosis of various conditions that affect the nervous system.
- Hematopathology is the study of diseases affecting blood cells, their production, and any organs and tissues involved in hematopoiesis(formation of blood cellular components), such as bone marrow, the spleen, and the thymus. The diagnosis and handling of diseases such as leukaemia and lymphoma often deal with hematopathology.
- Immunopathology deals with immune responses associated with diseases. It is the study of the pathology of an organism, organ system, or infection concerning the immune system, immunity, and immune responses. When a foreign substance enters the body, there is a response to it. This is the immune system fighting off the foreign substances, whether they are a threat to the body or not. Immunopathology could refer to how the foreign antigens cause the immune system to have a response or problems that can arise from an organism’s own immune response on itself. Diseases that can cause immune deficiency include HIV, AIDS and leukaemia.
- Molecular pathology is sometimes considered a “crossover” discipline as it shares some aspects of practice with both anatomic pathology and clinical pathology. As a molecular pathology practitioner, you will be trained to perform research by conducting tests for many types of medical diagnoses and analyses, including cancer, infectious diseases, identity testing, genetic disorders and pharmacogenetics.
- Oral pathology deals with diseases related to the diseases of the mouth, the jaws and other structures such as salivary glands, facial muscles and perioral skin (the skin around the mouth). It may sometimes be considered as a specialty of dentistry and pathology. A great many diseases involve the mouth, jaws and orofacial skin such as cleft lip and palate, and Macroglossia (enlarged tongue). Diseases can be caused due to hereditary reasons (such as Down syndrome) as well as acquired causes(such as bacterial and fungal infection).
What does a Pathologist do?
As a pathologist, you will be dealing with different types of physicians and patients. Following are your key roles and responsibilities:
- Examining and talking to a range of patients, studying their medical history. Some pathologists may work as a part of a team of physicians and surgeons and help with the diagnosing the disease. In case the pathologist works in a diagnostic centre, their duty will only be to test the samples of the patient and notify the physician/surgeon when the results arrive.
- Reviewing cells, tissues or body fluid samples to identify diseases or other abnormalities.
- Reviewing cases by analyzing autopsies, laboratory findings, or case investigation reports. This is only done by Forensic Pathologists who are Forensic Medicine specialists.
- Analyzing and interpreting results from tests such as microbial or parasite tests, urine analyses, hormonal assays, fine needle aspirations (FNAs), and polymerase chain reactions (PCRs).
- Diagnosing diseases or studying medical conditions using techniques such as gross pathology, histology, cytology, cytopathology, clinical chemistry, immunology, flow cytometry, and molecular biology.
- Informing the Physician of the diagnosis and recommending further steps for treating his/her patient.
- Writing pathology reports summarizing analyses, results, and conclusions.
- Reading current literature, talking with colleagues, and participating in professional conferences to keep up-to-date with the latest developments in pathology.
How to become a Pathologist – Educational Requirement
To be a Pathologist, you will first have to do an MBBS after your senior/higher secondary with Physics, Chemistry, Biology. Then you can do an MD or a Diploma in Pathology.
Alternatively, you can do a BDS and then an MDS in Oral Pathology.
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- You can work as a Junior Resident while doing the MD course.
- You can work as a Medical Officer (Pathology) or Consultant Physician (Pathologist) or Clinical Pathologist after MD in Pathology.
- You can work as an Assistant Professor in colleges offering MBBS programs.
- You can even join medical research institutions and pharmaceutical companies as Medical Scientists.
Salary of a Pathologist
- As an M.D. graduate who has just started working, salaries can range from Rs. 65,000 – Rs, 90,000 per month in a private hospital.
- In a Government hospital, you can earn a starting salary of Rs. 75,000 – 85,000. Senior Pathologists with 6-8 years of experience post their MD, can earn about Rs. 1,20,000 – Rs. 2,00,000 or even more per month. With 12-15 years of experience, the earning could be about Rs. 2,40,000 – 3,50,000 per month or even more.
- As an Assistant Professor in a Medical College, you can earn Rs. 70,000 – 80,000 per month. Associate Professors earn about Rs. 1,40,000 – 1,80,000 per month. Professions make about Rs. 2,10,000 – 2,40,000 per month.
Career Growth in Pathology Profession
As a pathologist, you can work as a diagnostician in hospitals, researchers in medical laboratories and as teachers in universities and colleges.
- After being a Medical Officer/Consultant Physician, you can get promoted as a Senior Medical Officer/Consultant Physician. After that, you can also get promoted as a Superintendent, Deputy Director and finally a Director.
- If you choose to work in research, you can rise through various ranks in medical science research.
- If you start working as a professor, you will first start as an Assistant Professor. You can then get promoted to an Associate Professor, and then as a Professor in colleges offering MBBS programs. For teaching in MD programs, more qualifications are required.
What does industry trends say – Future prospects
As per IBEF, healthcare has become one of India’s largest sectors – both in terms of revenue and employment. The Indian healthcare sector is growing at a brisk pace due to its strengthening coverage, services and increasing expenditure by public as well as private players.
The healthcare market can increase threefold to Rs 8.6 trillion (US$ 133.44 billion) by 2022, and the hospital industry in India is forecasted to increase to Rs 8.6 trillion (US$ 132.84 billion) by FY22 from Rs 4 trillion (US$ 61.79 billion) in FY17 at a CAGR of 16-17 per cent.
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