Health Care and Pathology

- August 19, 2014
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The component of the causal study of disease and a major field in modern medical practice and diagnosis is referred to in the medical community as Pathology. The term pathology itself may be used broadly to refer to the study of disease in general, incorporating a wide range of bioscience research fields and medical practices, or more narrowly to describe work within the contemporary medical field of "general pathology," which includes a number of distinct but inter-related medical specialties which diagnose disease mostly through the analysis of tissue, cell, and body fluid samples, as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary.

According to the American Society of Clinical Pathology, there are several types of medical professionals that study in the field of pathology:

A general pathologist is a physician who examines tissues, checks the accuracy of lab tests, and interprets the results in order to facilitate the patient’s diagnosis and treatment. He or she works closely with the patient’s other doctors and is a vital member of the patient’s primary health care team. Pathologists work in many areas of the medical laboratory and often serve as the Lab Director. Contrary to popular depictions of this career, the task of performing autopsies constitutes just a small part of the typical pathologist’s practice.

A clinical pathologist oversees lab tests conducted on body fluids. For instance, together with clinical lab technologists, pathologists work to ensure that blood and blood products are safe. In microbiology, pathologists identify microorganisms that can cause infections – bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites – so that the most effective treatment can be selected for each particular case.

An anatomic pathologist assists surgeons during operations by providing immediate diagnoses on biopsies (specially treated tissues removed in surgery and rushed to the lab).

A forensic pathologist uses lab science to answer questions about evidence collected for criminal and civil cases. Other pathologists conduct research in pathology, developing new tests and new instruments to better diagnose diseases.

Some pathologists devote their careers to research in pathology, developing new tests and new instruments to better diagnose diseases. Pathologists often teach their specialty to medical students and those preparing for other laboratory professions, including clinical lab technology and cytotechnology, among others.

Pathologists are problem-solvers, fascinated by the process of disease and eager to unlock medical mysteries, such as AIDS and diabetes, using the sophisticated tools and methods of modern laboratory science. With today’s rapid advances in biomedical science, over 2,000 laboratory tests on blood and body fluids are available – many of which require a pathologist’s expert interpretation.

There are approximately 14,000 board certified pathologists in the United States who practice their specialty in community, university, and government hospitals and clinics, in independent laboratories, or in private offices, clinics, and other health care facilities. More info about this profession is available at this site:

Pathology provides those who practice it several opportunities, according to the Intersociety Council for Pathology Information, (ICPI). Pathologists function in three broad areas; as diagnosticians, as teachers, and as investigators. Fundamental to the discipline of pathology is the need to integrate clinical information with physiological, biochemical and molecular laboratory studies, together with observations of tissue alterations.

Pathologists in hospital and clinical laboratories practice as consultant physicians, developing and applying knowledge of tissue and laboratory analyses to assist in the diagnosis and treatment of individual patients. As teachers, they impart this knowledge of disease to their medical colleagues, to medical students, and to trainees at all levels. As scientists, they use the tools of laboratory science in clinical studies, disease models, and other experimental systems, to advance the understanding and treatment of disease.

Pathology has a special appeal to those who enjoy solving disease-related problems, using technologies based upon fundamental sciences ranging from biophysics to molecular genetics, as well as tools from the more traditional disciplines of anatomy, biochemistry, pharmacology, physiology, and microbiology. More material about this topic is available at this website:

An additional type of pathology deals with speech and language therapy. Speech-language pathologists (sometimes called speech therapists) assess, diagnose, treat, and help to prevent communication and swallowing disorders in patients. Speech, language, and swallowing disorders result from a variety of causes, such as a stroke, brain injury, hearing loss, developmental delay, a cleft palate, cerebral palsy, or emotional problems, according to the US Department of Labor. When diagnosing patients, speech-language pathologists typically do the following:

·         Communicate with patients to evaluate their levels of speech or language difficulty.
·         Determine the extent of communication problems by having a patient complete basic reading and vocalizing tasks or by giving standardized tests.
·         Identify treatment options.
·         Create and carry out an individualized treatment plan.

When treating patients, speech-language pathologists typically do the following:

·         Teach patients how to make sounds and improve their voices.
·         Teach alternative communication methods, such as sign language, to patients with little or no speech capability.
·         Work with patients to improve their ability to read and write correctly.
·         Work with patients to develop and strengthen the muscles used to swallow.
·         Counsel patients and families on how to cope with communication disorders.

Speech-language pathologists work with patients who have problems with speech. Their patients may be unable to speak at all or they may speak with difficulty or have rhythm and fluency problems, such as stuttering. They may work with those who are unable to understand language or with people who have voice disorders, such as inappropriate pitch or a harsh voice.

Speech-language pathologists must also complete administrative tasks, including keeping accurate records. They record their initial patient evaluations and diagnoses, treatment progress, any changes in a patient’s condition or treatment plan, and, eventually, they complete a final evaluation when the patient finishes the therapy. Some speech-language pathologists specialize in working with specific age groups, such as children or the elderly. Others focus on treatment programs for specific communication or swallowing problems, such as those resulting from strokes or cleft palate.

In medical facilities, speech-language pathologists work with physicians and surgeons, social workers, psychologists, and other healthcare workers. In schools, they work with teachers, other school personnel, and parents to develop and carry out individual or group programs, provide counseling, and support classroom activities. More information can also be found at this website:

Pathology is a highly specialized and unique field of practice in health care. The medical community has been enhanced significantly due to the discoveries in pathology and related practices, whether the scope is in medicine or speech. Learning what causes disease or symptoms in humans is integral in helping to diagnose and treat individuals who become ill. As well, pathology helps in developing ways to improve methods of preventive medicine. 

Until next time.
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