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Physician, Clinical Pathologist
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Job Description

Job CategoryLife, Physical, & Social Science

Job DescriptionAccording to information given by the ASCP "pathologists are problem-solvers, fascinated by the process of disease and eager to unlock medical mysteries. They make it possible to apply scientific advances to improve the accuracy and efficiency of medical diagnosis and treatment and play a particularly important role in preventive medicine by ruling out diseases or detecting them early."

According to the ASIP "In clinical hematology, for example, pathologists review all abnormal blood smears. They may also obtain bone marrow samples from patients. In examining the smears and microscopic sections from these sources, the pathologist may encounter problems as diverse as identification of malarial parasites, investigation of causes of anemia, detection of blood-borne infections, or definitive diagnosis of malignant diseases such as leukemia.

In most hospital settings the pathologist in charge of the blood bank functions as an immunohematologist, who is in charge of procurement and processing of blood and blood products. In clinical chemistry, the pathologist supervises the technical staff in performance of tests to determine the concentration of organic and inorganic substances in body fluids. Toxicology is often part of the clinical chemistry service, involving the pathologist in therapeutic drug monitoring and detection of illicit drugs and poisons. Testing for immune reactions and allergies is a growing area of laboratory activity.

Other areas of concern to the clinical pathologist are the development of comprehensive information systems and the maintenance of quality control and quality assurance procedures."

Working ConditionsAccording to the ASCP, "Pathologists work in many areas of the medical laboratory. A pathologist usually serves as Director of the Laboratory. In the blood bank, pathologists and medical technologists ensure that the blood or blood products people receive are safe. In microbiology, microorganisms bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites that can cause infections are identified and the most effective drugs to use to treat a particular infection are determined.

In clinical chemistry, many hundreds of tests are available that measure the amounts of materials such as glucose and cholesterol in the blood, urine, spinal fluid, or other body fluids. In immunology, tests that measure the body's response to infection or disease are performed. Many infections, including hepatitis and AIDS, are diagnosed by detecting the antibodies that the patient's immune system makes to fight the infection. In diseases such as arthritis and multiple sclerosis, the body actually makes antibodies against itself.

A popular perception is that the pathologist's major responsibility is performing autopsies. Although an autopsy is an important part of the diagnosis and treatment of deadly diseases and provides valuable information to the patient's doctor and family, it is only a small part of the typical pathologist's practice. Pathologists who specialize in performing autopsies to investigate unexpected or suspicious deaths and determine the causes are known as forensic pathologists or medical examiners."

Salary RangeAccording to the American Society for Clinical Pathology 2006 Resident Council Fellowship & Job Market Survey "Of the 278 respondents offered at least one job, 12% were offered less than $100,000 per year, 39% were offered a salary from $100,000-$150,000 (down from 52% in 2005) 44% were offered a starting salary from $150,000-$250,000, and 5% were offered a starting salary greater than $250,000 per year. In 2005, 28% of respondents reported being offered greater than $150,000 per year."