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Pathologists may do some or all of the following

  • study diseases and conditions of the body
  • diagnose a wide range of diseases such as cancer, infectious diseases and diabetes
  • take samples of body tissue and fluids
  • receive samples from other medical practitioners
  • test samples to find out the nature, development and source of illnesses and conditions
  • make detailed descriptions of samples
  • write detailed reports on the findings of tests
  • provide advice to other medical practitioners
  • identify infectious agents that cause disease; for example, bacteria, viruses (such as HIV) and parasites
  • treat patients directly in some cases
  • investigate deaths and complete autopsies
  • look after a blood bank in a laboratory and facilitate blood collection programmes
  • provide advice on blood transfusion reactions
  • test blood, body fluids and tissue for the presence or levels of drugs
  • manage a medical laboratory
  • direct the activities of a pathology department in a medical school, hospital, clinic or research institute.

Pathologists need to have

  • knowledge of how the human body works
  • knowledge of different diseases and illnesses
  • knowledge of medicines and treatments, and the effect these have on the body
  • knowledge of the chemistry of the body
  • knowledge of anatomy and medical surgical procedures
  • up-to-date understanding of new practices and discoveries in their field
  • analytical and problem-solving skills including the ability to diagnose diseases
  • data analysis skills
  • excellent communication skills
  • report writing skills.

Pathologists need to be

  • enquiring
  • persistent
  • thorough
  • accurate
  • able to focus for long periods
  • able to work well under pressure.