Clerkship Update: Pathology

I just completed my 2-week rotation in Pathology and I really enjoyed it. My days consisted of a variety of activities such as grossing specimens in the lab (that is, examining and cutting them in preparation for creating microscopy slides), looking at slides under the light microscope and electron microscope, plenty of studying as well as attending autopsies, tumor boards and rounds. I also had the opportunity to observe intraoperative consultations which is when a surgeon excises a sample during a surgery and asks the pathologist to make a quick slide (better know as a “frozen” section) in order to have a preliminary diagnosis, usually in the context of cancer.

What I enjoyed most: 

First of all, I think microscopes are just so cool! Secondly, I had a fantastic team to work with! I also liked the flexibility and variability of the day with a lot of autonomy and self-directed learning.  For example, my main interests for this rotation were renal and gynecology pathology so I was able to tag along with the residents and staff physicians specializing in these areas.  I particularly enjoyed “sign-outs” when the staff, resident and I would sit at the teaching scopes (several microscopes connected to a main one so that you are all viewing the same slide) as this is where you get a lot of useful teaching on how to identify various structures. I also really appreciated that I got to brush up on my anatomy! The schedule was fairly light and I got to see my kids more often than in other rotations which was great!

What I struggled with most:

I missed patient contact and also sometimes felt helpless in cases where we diagnosed cancer since the clinical management is not done by the pathologist.

My take home message: 

I think Pathology is a great rotation for  medical students to consider regardless of your interests because it exposes you to a different side of medicine and will increase your understanding of various disease processes which is very useful to know in the clinical world. For example, I now have a much better understanding of glomerulonephritis, nephrotic syndromes and gynecology-related cancers. I also have a much better idea of how to interpret pathology reports and the amount of work that goes into creating one! I would currently rank Pathology as a “medium” as a future potential specialty for me because I still have to reconcile the fact that there is not much in the way of patient contact. However, it really resonated with me in terms of the intellectual aspects and I loved the detective work behind it.

My next rotation is an elective in Medical Genetics which sounds fascinating! Stay tuned!


My assigned desk…reading up on some renal!


My little monkeys climbing trees in the backyard. Love them to bits!

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6 thoughts on “Clerkship Update: Pathology

    • Thanks Catherine! It was vivid indeed. I was fine at the autopsies, although it was my least favorite part. On the other hand, it really gives you an appreciation for the complexity and magnificence of the human body and how precious life is. Have a nice Sunday! 😊


  1. Great insight into pathology.
    I feel they are the smartest doctors as they understand all diseases processes. And how cool to tell what’s going on with a patient just from looking at a piece of them.
    Lack of patient contact is definitely a negative

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much! Completely agree with you that Pathologists are extremely smart. I feel they do not get enough recognition for their contribution to medicine. And many patients are not aware that it is a specialty. Hopefully this will all change in the future. Have a wonderful Sunday!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I remember my 8 weeks in Pathology. It was fun. The thing I struggled with the most was the sense of dread that if you some how messed up, you triggered an entire domino effect down the food chain, At my medical school, they left the diagnoses up to you. The consultants and house officers rechecked everything before signing off on the report. Still the dread loomed that if somehow you screwed up, you essentially may have killed someone. I do agree with the fact that Pathologists don’t get enough recognition. It just may have to do with the fact that there are such few numbers of them. This is not a speciality that a lot of us will consider for one reason or another.

    Liked by 1 person

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