The Role of the Pathologist in Healthcare

When we visit a doctor or hospital we encounter many front-line staff, such as doctors, nurses and receptionists. We may also get referred to specialists who are not “primary care” practitioners – meaning we don’t see them on the front line of healthcare – but who carry out important tasks like X-rays or consulting on specialist areas.

There are also other important medical staff, who work behind the scenes to support the work of doctors and nurses in looking after patients. One such specialism is the pathologist. In this article, we’ll examine what a pathologist does, why they are so important, and the various places in the healthcare ecosystem they might work.


What is a Pathologist?

Pathologists are medical doctors who specialise in diagnosing disease through the examination of samples from the body. Within this comes a range of other specialisms, including:

Histopathology – the examination of tissues from the body, for example biopsies. Pathologists in this field will typically examine thin slices of bodily tissue using a microscope.

Cytopathology – the examination of bodily cells. Pathologists working in cytopathology will use various techniques to identify abnormal cells which may indicate the presence of disease.

Laboratory Pathology – lab pathologists work in a diagnostic lab providing pathology services. This means running tests on samples of blood, stool or urine to look for certain pathogens or measure the level and presence of various substances or hormones to give an idea of the overall health of the individual and note any early-warning signs that something might be wrong.

Where Do Pathologists Work?

Pathology is an important and versatile skill with a range of practical applications.


Many pathologists work in hospital pathology departments, processing samples and tests and advising clinicians on test results. The pathologist may be consulted by clinicians in complicated or borderline cases. 

Hospitals also provide career pathways for those working in pathology. A pathologist who begins simply processing samples may progress to a lab manager or to a consultant on pathology.

Independent Pathology Services 

Lab pathologists might also choose to work for an independent pathology services lab. These are private companies that offer a range of pathology tests either to individuals or to a diverse range of healthcare providers. Typically they will offer certain packages or options of biomarkers to be tested, such as the range of pathology services offered by Salient Bio, a London-based diagnostic lab.

Pathology services offered by companies such as Salient Bio allow many private health providers to access quality diagnostic data. They may be used by companies as diverse as wellness practitioners and coaches, private doctors, HR departments, or screening for students before beginning medical or nursing training.

Pharmaceutical Companies

Pathologists are also employed by pharmaceutical companies to help develop drugs and treatments for various conditions. They are able to test and measure the efficacy of a drug by examining the pathology of given samples and advise back to the drug development team. This may be done during the preclinical development phase, and again during clinical trials. The pathologist also plays a crucial role in ensuring the safety of the drug being developed, and of subjects during clinical trials.


Pathology services are crucial to healthcare, and pathologists play a vital role in the diagnosis of disease, as well as in developing drugs and treatments. It is an exciting and varied role with a wide range of possible applications and career paths.

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