A Career in Histopathology
Histopathology is a challenging and rewarding career. Attention to detail, problem solving and the ability to integrate diverse sources of information are all required along with a solid understanding of pathological processes and how they manifest as disease. In this section you can read about the experiences of current consultants, their reasons for choosing the speciality, what they like and dislike about the day to day work and where histopathology is headed in the future.
To learn about the history and development of histopathology, and some of the important issues affecting the speciality visit ‘Conversations With Pathologists’. This is a series of interviews with prominent pathologists by Sue Armstrong and hosted by The Pathological Society.
Also take a look at ‘The journey of a biopsy’ and ‘Discussing histopathology: past, present and future’ from The Royal College of Pathologists.
There is also this excellent guide from the British Division of the International Academy of Pathologists.
The best way to find out if a career in histopathology is for you is to GET EXPERIENCE!
Why be a Cellular Pathologist?
Here are some reflective notes from two trainees in the London dearnery.
Dr Almas Dawood, ST1 Histopathology, Imperial College Healthcare
Pathology, my dear Watson!
If you have an enquiring mind, an attention to detail, and a zest for the science behind disease, then you should definitely look into a career in cellular pathology!
Three months into ST1, my day consists of a combination of cut-up and reporting cases. All tissue specimens that come through to the cellular pathology lab have to be transferred into small plastic cassettes – either whole, serially sliced, or representative sections taken, hence “cut-up”. This is the first major step from sample to slide. We examine the end product slides under the microscope and formulate draft histology reports. We then examine the slides with the consultant who edits and finalises the reports. At present, I am rotating through different subspecialties in cellular pathology, such as skin, gynaecology and gastrointestinal. I am also learning how to perform post-mortems.
Regular teaching is a large component, with departmental teaching during the week, regional block teaching weeks, and daily whilst going through cases with the consultant. At this stage, I rely heavily on textbook and internet pathology resources. There’s a lot to learn, but it’s a privilege to be able to do so much of it during the working day. It’s very early days, there’s a long road with challenges ahead, but I feel my career satnav is taking me in the right direction and I’m glad to be here. Maybe you should join me for the ride.
Dr Jasmin Lee, ST6 Histopathology, Imperial College Healthcare
No two days are ever the same! If you are intellectually minded and would like the responsibility and privilege of making a dazzling array of routine, quirky and unexpected diagnoses, then this is the career for you!
Pathologists are passionate about detail and are good communicators. The day begins with a rich visual feast down the microscope, interpreting pretty innumerable colours of histological stains, trying to uncover what the cells are saying to us, and producing coherent and decipherable reports.
Post mortem pathologists are investigators and have to unveil causes of death in a variety of cases, working with the coroners and attending inquests on occasion. Forensic pathology is a separate specialty training pathway and is immensely rewarding if you enjoy exploring the nitty-gritty in a niche area.
Pathologists have to be confident and humble; our contribution can radically alter the management of the patient and we always work closely with the multi-disciplinary team.
We are valued members of the profession, and contrary to popular belief some of us are social animals and do love interacting with others above the basement.
Come join us today!
To learn more about a career in histopathology, follow the links below:
Real-life story – Life as a trainee – Dr Ayesha Azam writing at healthcareers.nhs.uk
Real-life story – Life as a consultant – Dr Nabeel Andrew Salmons writing at healthcareers.nhs.uk
‘So you want to be a histopathologist?’ – Joe Houghton, Consultant Histopathologist writing in the Ulster Medical Journal
NextGen pathology training – Jacqueline James and Manuel Salto-Tellez