dochoov

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I'm currently a senior undergrad and I'm starting to wonder what I might be interested in/good at. I have several questions that might possibly help me on my way. I'm going to shadow a pathologist relatively soon to see what's up with the profession, but I think information coming from the perspective of medical students might very helpful to me at this time.

What kind of student were you as an undergrad? What drove you to chose pathology? What kind of personality characteristics are typical/will lead to success for pathologists? What kind of intellectual skills are useful/rewarded for a pathologist?

I don't care what sub-field of pathology people are going into. I want any (anything that may be important that I did not include in my questions) and all information that I can get.
 
W

Wizard of Oz

You'll get more answers here, but you'll get better answers on their specialty forum.

I wouldn't marry yourself to a specialty this early. You will change your mind. Typically, path is a specialty that people change their minds on both toward and away from after they start med school. That said...

People choose path for the lifestyle, relative liability, and nature of the work. A prelim year of medicine is not required unlike rads. A class of ~150 in my experience has fewer than 5 who go into it (usually 1 or 2). Salary is moderate, and matching is not hard. If you want to be a pathologist, chances are quite good that you will become one if you graduate. If you go to a US med school, chances are good that you will get to choose where you want to do your residency.

As far as the intellectual skills/abilities go, probably the same as every other kind of doctor. All med students take the same M1-M3 classes and boards.

I'm currently a senior undergrad and I'm starting to wonder what I might be interested in/good at. I have several questions that might possibly help me on my way. I'm going to shadow a pathologist relatively soon to see what's up with the profession...

Shadowing is a good idea, but it's not time for you to be thinking about a specific specialty yet, especially not this one. Path is the most scientific of the specialties, and if it's the only thing you're considering and you don't want to see patients, a Ph.D. will likely be more rewarding.

If you wanna be a doctor, I'd also shadow other types of docs.

:luck:
 

sirus_virus

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I'm currently a senior undergrad and I'm starting to wonder what I might be interested in/good at. I have several questions that might possibly help me on my way. I'm going to shadow a pathologist relatively soon to see what's up with the profession, but I think information coming from the perspective of medical students might very helpful to me at this time.

What kind of student were you as an undergrad? What drove you to chose pathology? What kind of personality characteristics are typical/will lead to success for pathologists? What kind of intellectual skills are useful/rewarded for a pathologist?

I don't care what sub-field of pathology people are going into. I want any (anything that may be important that I did not include in my questions) and all information that I can get.

Make sure to ask questions about the job market too. From what I have heard(unconfirmed) pathology jobs are few and far apart.
 
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dochoov

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Path is the most scientific of the specialties, and if it's the only thing you're considering and you don't want to see patients, a Ph.D. will likely be more rewarding.

If you wanna be a doctor, I'd also shadow other types of docs.

:luck:

It's not that I don't want to see patients. I have good people skills, and I do generally enjoy interacting with other people. It's just that the subject of pathology is interesting to me; this interest does only come from my biochemistry course. I'm very intrigued by the idea of actually studying/identifying the specific cause of an illness. I don't want a PhD because I want make a direct contribution to the health/well-being of other people. It's not that I think PhDs don't make these contributions, but I know my contribution as a physician would be constant/consistent. (Maybe this is just a pre-med delusion, but that's how I feel).

I haven't committed myself yet. Another one of the reasons that I'm heading to medical school is because of my uncertainty. Relatively speaking, I love chemistry, biology and physics and how those topics relate to the human body. If nothing else, I'm going to medical school, and am willing to pay for it, based on my interest in learning about the human body.

That said, I thank you for your info, and will try to find that pathologist forum. I didn't know one existed at first.
 

cbenedic

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I'm currently a senior undergrad and I'm starting to wonder what I might be interested in/good at. I have several questions that might possibly help me on my way. I'm going to shadow a pathologist relatively soon to see what's up with the profession, but I think information coming from the perspective of medical students might very helpful to me at this time.

What kind of student were you as an undergrad? What drove you to chose pathology? What kind of personality characteristics are typical/will lead to success for pathologists? What kind of intellectual skills are useful/rewarded for a pathologist?

I don't care what sub-field of pathology people are going into. I want any (anything that may be important that I did not include in my questions) and all information that I can get.

Hi!

I currently work full-time in the pathology department and can tell you in great detail what their day is like. Most pathologists have a 9-5 type work hours, they will be on call but it is very rare to be called in to the hospital in the middle of the night or late in the evening. Most of the day, their eyes are glued to the microscope looking at slides on patients diagnosing surgical biopsies, cytology specimens, etc. They also perform the occasional autopsy which takes several days to complete from the time they do the autopsy to the final report.

One of the most significant duties of a pathologist is to diagnose frozen section impressions. This is when a patient is in the middle of surgery (often still under anesthesia) and the surgeon wants to know if they have removed all of the tumor/cancerous tissue from the patient. It is up to the pathologist to diagnose and make sure the resection margins are free of tumor within about 15-20 min of receiving the specimen. The specimen is frozen into a block and then thinly sectioned to make prepared slides. The pathologist can then tell the surgeon whether they got it all or need to cut a little more tissue. Frozen sections are the reason a pathologist would be on call too (say if a patient needed immediate surgery at night, but usually surgeries are scheduled during the day). Every so often a surgeon calls one of our pathologists to come to the OR, scrub in, and look at the tissue in the patient before it is removed.

I think the pathologists i work with are hilarious.. they have a great sense of humor and are a blast to work with. Most pathologists do a fellowship these days to be better marketable for a job. There are unfortunately more pathologists than there are positions these days..but i think that is also relative to the geographical location.

Shadow a pathologist if you like, you will be looking at slides most of the time. I myself have hung out with the pathologists and looked at slides..you need well trained eyes to know what u are looking at. The neat thing about being a pathologist is that they can look at any specimen slide and tell you exactly where that tissue came from..pretty cool!

Anyways, i hope this helps you! good luck! :luck:
 

DarksideAllstar

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Make sure to ask questions about the job market too. From what I have heard(unconfirmed) pathology jobs are few and far apart.

Unconfirmed is right. Jobs are scarce for people that are douche bags, people who slack off in residency, and can't speak English. I watched three people graduate from a program last year, all of whom got nice offers (starting ~200K/yr) in large cities (San Jose, Denver, Atlanta).

To the OP, you should post this in the Path forums, you will probably get more answers (and a better sense of what the specialty is like), but I agree with most of what Wizard of Oz has said, with the caveat that it is still difficult to match to certain programs (BWH, MGH, Stanford, UCSF, etc). While it is almost for certain you will match somewhere if you are a US grad, these places can be difficult to land just like most other specialties. But that's neither here nor there.

Actually, can one of the MODs move this thread to Path??
 

dochoov

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Hi!

I currently work full-time in the pathology department and can tell you in great detail what their day is like. Most pathologists have a 9-5 type work hours, they will be on call but it is very rare to be called in to the hospital in the middle of the night or late in the evening. Most of the day, their eyes are glued to the microscope looking at slides on patients diagnosing surgical biopsies, cytology specimens, etc. They also perform the occasional autopsy which takes several days to complete from the time they do the autopsy to the final report.

One of the most significant duties of a pathologist is to diagnose frozen section impressions. This is when a patient is in the middle of surgery (often still under anesthesia) and the surgeon wants to know if they have removed all of the tumor/cancerous tissue from the patient. It is up to the pathologist to diagnose and make sure the resection margins are free of tumor within about 15-20 min of receiving the specimen. The specimen is frozen into a block and then thinly sectioned to make prepared slides. The pathologist can then tell the surgeon whether they got it all or need to cut a little more tissue. Frozen sections are the reason a pathologist would be on call too (say if a patient needed immediate surgery at night, but usually surgeries are scheduled during the day). Every so often a surgeon calls one of our pathologists to come to the OR, scrub in, and look at the tissue in the patient before it is removed.

I think the pathologists i work with are hilarious.. they have a great sense of humor and are a blast to work with. Most pathologists do a fellowship these days to be better marketable for a job. There are unfortunately more pathologists than there are positions these days..but i think that is also relative to the geographical location.

Shadow a pathologist if you like, you will be looking at slides most of the time. I myself have hung out with the pathologists and looked at slides..you need well trained eyes to know what u are looking at. The neat thing about being a pathologist is that they can look at any specimen slide and tell you exactly where that tissue came from..pretty cool!

Anyways, i hope this helps you! good luck! :luck:

Thanks for the info! That sounds pretty cool to me. Although the idea of having my eyes glued to a microscope all day everyday doesn't entirely thrill me, it doesn't quite turn me off, either.

I'm going to see how the shadowing goes and also see if I can watch some autopsies.
 

DarksideAllstar

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Although the idea of having my eyes glued to a microscope all day everyday doesn't entirely thrill me, it doesn't quite turn me off, either.

Depending on the job you take, you may have significant grossing or FNA/ bone marrow biopsy responsibilities. So, you may not be "glued" to your scope all day. You definitely will not be during residency.
 
W

Wizard of Oz

It's not that I don't want to see patients. I have good people skills, and I do generally enjoy interacting with other people. It's just that the subject of pathology is interesting to me; this interest does only come from my biochemistry course. I'm very intrigued by the idea of actually studying/identifying the specific cause of an illness. I don't want a PhD because I want make a direct contribution to the health/well-being of other people. It's not that I think PhDs don't make these contributions, but I know my contribution as a physician would be constant/consistent. (Maybe this is just a pre-med delusion, but that's how I feel).

I haven't committed myself yet. Another one of the reasons that I'm heading to medical school is because of my uncertainty. Relatively speaking, I love chemistry, biology and physics and how those topics relate to the human body. If nothing else, I'm going to medical school, and am willing to pay for it, based on my interest in learning about the human body.

That said, I thank you for your info, and will try to find that pathologist forum. I didn't know one existed at first.

Here is the forum:

http://forums.studentdoctor.net/forumdisplay.php?f=51

An interest in the human body isn't enough to want to be a physician. As a medical technologist (under the supervision of a pathologist), I make a small contribution to the welfare of people (much moreso than when I was a Ph.D. student), but (just like a pathologist), I rarely see them. Yeah path's can write scripts and take biopsies, etc., but your role as a diagnostician will not be based on a physical exam or interview which some would find unsatisfying.

Ditto on DA's comment regarding UCSF and so forth--they are well-populated by mudphuds.

Really the main draws are the lifestyle and compensation given the length of training. Most path residents I know say that it's the hidden secret of medicine.

As for jobs, path grads are not hurting for opportunities right now.

Keep in mind that you don't have to do a combined clinical/anatomical residency though most people do. Anatomical is more associated with academic medicine, clinical private (though this is a broad generalization).
 

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regarding jobs: several SDN path posters say that the job market sucks for pathologists. They have quite a number of discussions about it. Although I want to go into path, I'm afraid that I would have to go from fellowship to fellowship because the job market (at least in California) sucks.
 

sirus_virus

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regarding jobs: several SDN path posters say that the job market sucks for pathologists. They have quite a number of discussions about it. Although I want to go into path, I'm afraid that I would have to go from fellowship to fellowship because the job market (at least in California) sucks.

Yes, the job market did infact suck for some pathologists that I know. I dont mean grand sucking, but they had to go hunting real hard to find one, as opposed to their surgery/IM/etc peers who were actually recruited without searching.
 

cbenedic

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Yes, the job market did infact suck for some pathologists that I know. I dont mean grand sucking, but they had to go hunting real hard to find one, as opposed to their surgery/IM/etc peers who were actually recruited without searching.

i just wanted to add that the pathologist group at the hospital i work at has pathologists at 8 hospitals within the system all together. They wont' hire anyone unless some one leaves the group or is retiring because all the hospitals are fully staffed already. for example, our chairman is retiring and another pathologist from a sister hospital is taking his place and they hired a newly graduated resident to take a place at the sister hospital. So it seems to be all about timing, how they re-structure, and finding a physician group/hospital where there is a distinct need for pathologists :)
 

DarksideAllstar

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Yes, the job market did infact suck for some pathologists that I know. I dont mean grand sucking, but they had to go hunting real hard to find one, as opposed to their surgery/IM/etc peers who were actually recruited without searching.

A lot of path openings are filled through word of mouth alone since it is such a small field, and typically the best jobs are. For instance, several groups in the bay area would call the PD (or other faculty) at UCSF about residents/fellows who were finishing that year, and would help the new grads get their foot in the door. Unlike dermatology or plastics, it is harder to find a job in a saturated market (ie Los Angeles), but it is not impossible. Just because a job isn't advertised, doesn't mean its not there, and thats the beauty of going to one of the more established and respected residency programs--you make the kind of connections you need to find the job. I would hardly make my decision on whether to pursue a specialty based on what people on SDN say about the job market-- you can find naysayers pretty much anywhere and in any field regarding opportunities and decreases in salary. The real question you have to ask yourself is if you are willing to sacrifice something that you would like to do because of a perceived bad market at this point in time. No one can predict what the market will be like in 5 or 10 years, good or bad, -- its all speculation-- so base your decision according to what will offer you the greatest shot at being happy.

Wizard of Oz said:
Really the main draws are the lifestyle and compensation given the length of training. Most path residents I know say that it's the hidden secret of medicine.

It is the hidden gem. I'm glad that I found something within medicine that I find intellectually challenging and fun to do. I probably would have done radiology, or left medicine altogether had I not taken the time to explore the field. It also happens to have pretty humane hours post-residency to boot. :)
 

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It seems so sad to me that after 4 years of schooling and 4 more years of residency that graduating pathologists have to strategize carefully just to find a freaking job. That's nuts.
 

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Maybe this is true; however, I have heard this story before about other specialties. Not long ago Radiologists and Anesthesiologists were supposedly saturating the market and positions were either decreased, or not increased to match overall physician demand. Of course, this turned out to be in error and there is currently increased demand for both, causing salaries to be quite high at the moment.

Maybe it will go the other way for Pathologists, but I wouldn't be surprised if people shy away from the field and there turns out to be a huge demand down the road. I am highly considering Path at the moment, so I have mulled over this issue a little.

regarding jobs: several SDN path posters say that the job market sucks for pathologists. They have quite a number of discussions about it. Although I want to go into path, I'm afraid that I would have to go from fellowship to fellowship because the job market (at least in California) sucks.
 
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