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Path to healing

A branch of medical science, pathology (lab medicine) deals with causes, development and effects of a particular disease. A pathologist examines the organs, tissues and body fluids of the patient to deliver a diagnosis.

education Updated: Jun 25, 2013 18:57 IST
Hindustan Times

The lowdown

A branch of medical science, pathology (lab medicine) deals with causes, development and effects of a particular disease. A pathologist examines the organs, tissues and body fluids of the patient to deliver a diagnosis. There are two main branches of pathology — anatomical pathology and clinical pathology, and sub-specialties such as molecular pathology, surgical pathology, hematopathology, etc. Those wanting to work in this field can become specialists in one of these branches. Pathologists also need to regularly upgrade their learning to keep up with the developments in medicine. They must also remember that quick test results and accurate diagnoses can save precious lives. Each case presents a challenge to the pathologist, who has to don the hats of both a physician and a scientist. “With technological advances, it is now possible to make an accurate diagnosis on a small sample of tissue like core biopsy/blood/or cytology smears. An accurate and prompt pathology report is vital for making treatment decisions. Pathology has witnessed dramatic changes with the addition of sophisticated instrumentation and development of ancillary techniques. The role of pathologist has assumed significant importance in patient care in recent years,” says C Sundaram, president, Indian Association of Pathologists and Microbiologists.

6am: Wake up
10am: Reach hospital or clinic
10:30am: Check yesterday’s samples and sort them out. New samples start coming in
11am: After sorting out, make a report and sign it
1:30pm: Lunch
3pm: Back to work
6pm: Leave for home

The ­payoff
A senior resident (for three years) may get around Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 60,000 per month. An assistant professor can get upwards of Rs. 70,000 per month. An associate professor (takes around eight years), gets Rs. 75,000 per month. In hospitals or labs, an assistant consultant may get around Rs. 65,000 per month. A consultant, with an experience of seven to eight years can expect a package upwards of Rs. 1 lakh per month. A senior consultant with 10 to 11 years’ experience can make around Rs. 1.5 lakh per month

* Have sound knowlege of human anatomy and physiology
* You should enjoy work in a lab behind a microscope instead of interfacing with patients all day
* Have a detective’s instinct when it comes to finding reasons for a patient’s ailments
* You should be drawn to the scientific, analytical and technical aspects of medicine

Getting there
A number of medical colleges and universities offer courses in pathology in India. To be eligible to take admission in these courses, you must have physics, chemistry and biology in Class 12. After completing Class 12, you need to take and clear an entrance test for an MBBS course. After MBBS, to become a pathologist, you can do MD in pathology or DNB in pathology — both MD and DNB are of three years’ duration

Institutes and URLs
* St John’s Medical College, Bengaluru
* Christian Medical College, Vellore, Tamil Nadu
* Sarojini Naidu Medical College, Agra
* Institute of Pathology, New Delhi

Pros and cons
* It is a very well-paying profession
* Even freshers are paid well
* Wrong diagnosis can get you into trouble
* If you own a laboratory, then you have to be aware of the market, too
* A system of referrals could make you insecure about your job because you will have to depend on other doctors to send you patients
* It takes time to establish a good reputation in the market
* Pathology is not limited to any one branch of lab medicine

A pathologist’s contribution is not only in diagnosis but also in research and teaching. Development of new techniques helps in working on targeted therapies --- C Sundaram, president, Indian Association of Pathologists & Microbiologists