A pathologist is a medical professional with specialized training to diagnose medical conditions using laboratory tests and techniques. They work closely with other healthcare providers to help diagnose conditions, offer treatment recommendations and monitor ongoing conditions.
A pathologist is a medical doctor with specialized training to study medical conditions using human tissue, blood, pee and other body fluids. They provide essential insight and information to help diagnose and treat conditions, monitor them and provide prognoses. Through research, they can better diagnose diseases of all types.
Pathologists gather information by looking at tissue samples, cells and body fluids under a microscope. They also perform tests on the samples with machines, such as analyzers for blood tests.
Pathology is the study of the cause of diseases and how diseases affect your body’s tissues on a cellular level.
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Pathologists can sub-specialize in several different areas. For example, they can be a:
The main role of a pathologist is to use laboratory tests and techniques to determine the presence and type of disease in tissue and fluid samples from your body. They can do this in several different ways and in virtually all areas of medicine, such as oncology, immunology and genetics — to name a few.
Compared to other providers, pathologists don’t usually directly interact with patients. While they play a significant role in making a diagnosis, they’re not the ones who tell you about your diagnosis. The medical specialist who ordered the test, such as your gastroenterologist or gynecologist, tells you about the diagnosis based on the pathologist’s findings in their report.
However, a few subspecialties see patients daily, such as pathologists who work in blood banking and transfusion medicine.
Pathologists also have an essential role in medical research. They work to develop new treatments to fight or prevent viruses, infections and diseases. This can include medical advancements, such as new vaccines and targeted therapies.
Yes, a pathologist is a medical doctor. They attend medical school and earn a Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree.
Pathologists can work in several different environments, including:
To become a board-certified pathologist, you must:
Most pathologists receive training in both clinical and anatomical pathology. Most pathologists also specialize in a certain area of pathology, such as hematopathology or chemical pathology.
It usually takes at least 11 years to become a pathologist. This includes pre-medical education, medical school and at least three years of residency.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Pathologists are essential medical professionals who work behind the scenes to diagnose medical conditions. While you may never meet your pathologist, know that they have specialized knowledge and skills to diagnose conditions accurately and recommend treatment plans. Your pathologist and medical team will work together to provide the best care for you.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/17/2023.
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