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"The practice of pathology involves the detection, analysis, and understanding of disease process. As the only branch of medicine considered both a basic science and a clinical specialty, pathology is somewhat unique. By studying tissues, cells, and fluid samples, pathologists unravel the mysteries of how a particular disease arises and develops. To do so, they draw on a variety of methods, ranging from microbiology to molecular biology …The practice of pathology is divided into two primary areas - anatomic and clinical. Anatomic pathologists examine organs, tissues, and cells to diagnose or further characterize a disease process. They make exact diagnoses on specimen from sources including biopsy, fine-needle aspiration, body-fluid analysis, exfoliation, autopsy, and surgery--and the information they provide in the pathology report is used for patient prognostication and management. . ….Clinical pathologists analyze blood, body fluids, or other patient specimens. They are experts in the scientific principles and techniques of laboratory medicine as well as administrative aspects of overseeing a laboratory."

— Freeman, B. (2013). The Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Medical Specialty. 3rd Ed. Lange Medical Books/McGraw-Hill: New York. pp. 354-355.

M1 and M2 Students

 What advice would you offer first- and second-year students who are interested in pursuing your specialty?

Most students don’t have much contact with pathology during the formal aspects of the curriculum, so it’s important to seek out some informal experiences to get a feel for what the specialty is about.

 How important is a research experience in your specialty. If important, does it need to be in the specialty itself?

Pathology is the specialty that affords the most opportunity to do research. Pathologists have traditionally served as the bridge between the bench and bedside (i.e., translational research). Research experience is not a requirement but is looked upon favorably at the top programs.

M3 and M4 Students

 What M4 electives would you recommend to a student who is interested in pursuing your specialty?

Radiology, infectious disease and dermatology are a few that would be very helpful to a pathologist.

 Does your specialty recommend doing away rotations?

I always think that it is important to do a rotation at the program that you are most interested in. It gives you a leg up on other applicants that will not be as well known to the program as you will be.

 If your specialty recommends doing away rotations, how many "aways" do you recommend?

One away rotation is sufficient.

 If away rotations are necessary, when should they be completed?

As early as you can to impact the resident selection process.

 Which month do you recommend taking off to interview?

Most interviews are conducted in November, with December having the next numerous.

 Does your specialty recommend that all letters of recommendation be written by members of your specialty?


 If letters can come from other disciplines, do you have a recommendation as to which disciplines are more highly valued?

The discipline does not matter, just someone who knows you well.

 Does the academic rank of the letter writer matter?

Yes, but the writer should know you well.

 Does your specialty require a letter from the chairman?

It's helpful.

For More Information

Department of Pathology
Northwestern University
303 E. Chicago Ave.
Ward 6-223 W 127
Chicago, IL 60611-3008
Fax: 312-502-8249