Pathology is a medical discipline dedicated to understanding the nature of disease. Unlike epidemiologists, pathologists diagnose and manage disease in laboratories rather than undergoing statistical analysis or surveys for public health departments. Postgraduate study gives students the means to combine laboratory results with real-world knowledge of human physiology to gain meaningful results in the treatment and reduction of disease.
The field finds its routes in the Islamic Golden Age when the scientific method was first applied to medicine. Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates offers even earlier insight into the foundations of medicine, but it wasn’t until this period that the field began taking shape. Evidence of muslim physicians understanding contagion reaches between 980 - 1030 AD, with later years revealing autopsies being conducted on the afflicted. The field continued growing over the next several hundred years until Rudolf Virchow pioneered the use of microscopes in the analysis of disease, beginning pathology as we know it today.
Modern professionals continue Virchow’s work with the aid of highly advanced lab equipment and science. They simultaneously further the field and protect people from contagions all over the world.
Pathology is for people with exceptional attention to detail and problem solving capabilities, requiring professionals to accurately interpret evidence. The two broad fields of anatomical and clinical pathology offer great variety, with the former concerned with tissue diagnosis and the latter with analysis of bodily fluids. Whether you’re interested in disease prevention or analysing organic material to solve crimes, pathology could be for you.
Pathology is generally taken up to master level, with graduate certificates and diplomas being offered for shorter periods of study.
Graduate certificates or diplomas equip students with basic knowledge in several functions of pathology. The Graduate Diploma in Diagnostic Pathology from the University of Canberra is an example of this, providing units in clinical chemistry, haematology, medical microbiology and more over a one year full time study period. Graduate certificates offer even shorter study times, taking six months to complete if taken full time. Both these programs require students to hold a bachelor degree in medicine having either achieved a credit GPA (65%) or gained two years of work experience.
Master degrees offer extensive knowledge of pathology, taking two years of full time study to complete. Institutions like Western Sydney University offer these courses to students wishing to specialise in anatomical pathology, although other courses can accommodate for other specialisations. This particular program offers multiple units in surgical pathology, cytopathology and small biopsy pathology. Applicants must have a degree in medicine and be employed in a relevant supervised training program to gain entry.
These pathologists focus on tissue diagnosis, mostly working on living patients to treat a variety of conditions. The Australian Medical Association asserts the most common disease these professionals focus on is cancer, as a tissue diagnosis is a crucial preliminary step before administering drugs or other treatments. The RCPA offers training and employment to anatomical pathologists around the country.
These pathologists focus on bodily fluids, performing duties like taking toxicology tests to determine the presence of drugs and poisons. They’ll also test patients for allergies, test is a patient would be compatible with a transplant organ and more. Companies like Clinical Labs are always in need of clinical pathologists, making them ideal employers.
Within the two main categories exist a great variety of specialisations. The following are examples of these: