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!
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