Road to Pathology

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I am so smart. S-M-R-T :)
10+ Year Member
15+ Year Member
May 17, 2002
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Hello everyone - seems like most people on this board are residents or soon to be - but I wanted to know what is the path like to path? (ha ha.. )

I always thought I would be a Primary care type person, but recently I've just been realizing how much I love path and that I'm pretty good at it - well judging by second year I guess. I loved histology and I feel like I'm playing "where's waldo" every time I'm looking at slides - which I don't mind doing. I also loved anatomy and think grossing specimens would be really cool. I know there are different fields such as pediatric pathology, forensic pathology, etc. but I don't know the entire list.

I'd also like to know how competitive a field it is? What type of Step 1 scores are they looking for, what type of research? etc.? Is the field underrepresented or overrepresented?

I understand the lifestyle is pretty fair (call from home, working normal human hours, etc.) and I also understand the salaries are pretty decent considering the hours put in.

My other question is, do you care that you don't specifically have your own patients? Since you're a pathologist, do you deal with insurance companies as much?

Anyway, a little mentorship would probably help me out a great deal to see if I want to pursue this. I'll be shadowing my pathology teacher during her surgical rotations sometime next month - so looking forward to that.



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15+ Year Member
Aug 15, 2003
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I would suggest going through old posts here - there are many threads which directly or indirectly relate to your questions, specifically the competitiveness, the lifestyle, lack of seeing patients (as tons of people who go into pathology were told they should be primary care because of their attitude, etc). Path is a reasonably competitive field, at least for the upper half of programs, but not at the level of radiology. Probably akin to anesthesia or EM in terms of overall competitiveness in that anyone who wants to get into a program probably will, you just might not get the one you want. Lifestyle, whatever. I probably work longer hours than a lot of clinical people but i have less call obviously. It's a lot of work, but it's a different kind of work than clinical stuff.

You certainly don't have to do research. I didn't and matched at my first choice. Researchers are drawn to path, and your chances will be less at certain programs if you haven't done any, but that isn't necessarily bad, as many of the programs that researchers want to go to are attractive BECAUSE of that. If you don't do research, then you probably don't want to go there anyway.

I don't know much about the insurance stuff. I think, like most other programs, this one teaches us diddly poo about many of the actual aspects of day to day practice when it comes to management, billing, etc. We get some lectures and training but how relevant it is I don't know.

Pediatric pathology is pretty unique. I think some people misunderstand and think pediatric pathology is an extension of pathology just like pediatrics is an extension of general medicine. Nuh uh. It's its own little world where there are even more separate rules and procedures and protocols and you can go absolutely nuts trying to figure them all out.

You're doing the right thing by shadowing a pathologist. Not sure what you mean by her surgical rotations but the best way to learn about it is to see it in action, sit in on signouts, etc.