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What is a Pathologist?

Medicine is made up of many specialties. Most of us know you see a cardiologist for a heart problem, a dermatologist for skin problems and a gynecologist for women’s health issues. When then, do you see a pathologist? Maybe never, but they see you.

Pathologists are physicians who diagnose and treat patients through laboratory medicine. When your cardiologist orders blood tests, a pathologist reviews the results for abnormalities; when your dermatologist removes a skin lesion for biopsy, a pathologist decides if it is cancerous; and when your gynecologist does a Pap test, a pathologist determines the result of the slide.

Sometimes called the “doctor’s doctor,” pathologists work on your medical team along with your general physician and any other necessary specialists.

By analyzing routine tests, pathologists alert your physician to any changes in your health early, when successful treatment is most likely. Pathologists use lab tests to either identify a disease or to rule out other diseases that could impact a patient’s health or the public’s well-being. Pathologists manage the blood supply at hospitals, making sure it is safe for patients. Pathologists investigate unknown deaths – potentially revealing a hereditary disease to a patient’s family.

Whether it’s cholesterol or cancer screening, blood donation or SARS, pathologists diagnose and treat patients every day. For more information about pathology, visit the College of American Pathologists at www.cap.org.