I already answered about UMass program - here is the link.
More about the CP: The CP director is making lots of changes and the CP program is becoming quite good. Formerly, there was a lot of independent study but now there is more structure and direction to teaching. The labs are fairly centralized and new, and you get a good experience I believe from the residents I have talked to (I have only directly experienced AP there). The molecular component is also expanding quite a bit. I would still say that the AP component is stronger in the program, but that is true just about everywhere. CP call is not too strenuous but is busy enough to get the needed experience.
You asked about reputation which I had not answered in the prior post - but UMass is pretty well regarded - in my interview travels most people I have met have knowledge of the program and have good things to say about it. The former chairman, Dr Majno, is one of the great scholars in the history of medicine. The attendings in AP are about 1/2 veteran, well-rounded and experienced people and about 1/2 newer, smart, well trained up-and-comers. The teaching is pretty good, there is a good emphasis on it.
I am pretty sure I have posted other stuff about the program too in the path forums - look through the archives.
but what does it take to get into top level, or good programs.
Strong application (scores, grades, LOR, personal statement, all that jazz), some real experience with pathology (having done at least one elective), enthusiasm for pathology, good communication skills during the interview, etc.
I've asked program directors what applicants they've interviewed who were NOT a good fit for their program (or something to that nature), and here's some things they told me:
- Applicant didn't have any experience with pathology
- Applicant accidentally submitted LOR from another specialty so it was obvious that path was their backup
- Applicant did not interview well (if you stare off into space and act awkward, that's not good)
A letter of rec from another specialty means Pathology is their backup? I think I had a letter from a different specialty and that didnt give me any problems. I agree though most of your letters should be from Pathology.