Purpose and Mission
Pathologists specialise in diagnosing diseases by examining bodily fluids, tissues and blood cells. They play a critical role in determining the nature and causes of diseases by interpreting lab test results so that important decisions can be made regarding the best course of treatment for patients.
Pathologist are known to be problem solvers who thrive on bringing clarity where there is mystery. They solve difficult cases by testing tissue samples, blood and body secretions to determine the cause of death or illnesses. They research how diseases develop, what happens to our bodies when we are sick and the resulting effects of diseases such as symptoms and complications. Over 70% of clinical diagnoses such as pregnancy, anaemia, diabetes and cancer are determined via the use of pathology tests.
Pathology is a broad field with a variety of career paths for those who are interested. With the growing sophistication of medical knowledge and practice, further specialisations exist for those who develop a more specific interest in the field. There are nine disciplines within the field including:
Pathologists typically find employment in public or private hospitals, laboratories and government agencies. There is also opportunity for those who wish to work in an academic setting, training others in the field. They usually enjoy a good work/life balance with the option to work flexible hours or part-time hours.
It can take over 14 years to fully qualify as a Pathologist. They must first obtain a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS). Upon completing their medical degree, they will receive provisional registration and will need to complete a 12 month internship at a public hospital which entitles them to full medical registration.
This is followed by a postgraduate medical training program to achieve a fellowship at a specialist medical college. Most doctors spend another year working in the public hospital system as a Resident Medical Officer (RMO) where they receive further on-the-job training.
They must then get a job in a training position at an accredited laboratory. Following this, these doctors can apply to the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia to undertake further training and receive Fellowship.
Steps for Becoming a Pathologist in Australia
Refer to the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia for further details.
All doctors that are trained in Australia or overseas must be registered with the Medical Board of Australia (MBA) to practice in Australia and with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), which provides administrative and policy support to the National Health Practitioners Boards. This applies to those that are trained in Australia as well as overseas.
Trained pathologists become members of The Royal College of Pathologists of Australia (RCPA), which is the leading body representing pathologists and senior scientists. They provide training, professional development, avenues for publication and networking events. They also provide case studies for professional reference and practical application.
In comparison to many other areas of medicine, Pathologists enjoy working in solitude, as they examine and make their diagnoses. In addition to being an independent worker, they are also comfortable working in team settings as the nature of the problems they solve often requires extensive collaboration with scientists, laboratory technicians and other medical specialists.
Given the nature and sensitivity of the information they are discovering, it’s important that they develop communication skills that excel in clarity and precision. Pathologists must be extremely detail oriented, thorough and accurate as the diagnoses of patients and the resulting treatment options are based on the reports they provide. They must be critical thinkers who are able to analyse and interpret medical issues clearly and effectively.
Pathologists must thrive on solving difficult cases and have an inherent passion for research – they need to continuously push the boundaries in medical research and discovery to advance diagnoses and treatment options for patients for years to come.