Sunday, 16 May 2010

Pathology and Stereotypes

“So we’re going to take the object with the biggest negative entropy in the entire universe and cut it into bits.” These were the words of one pathologist as he started to cut up the brain whilst doing a PM. If you really want to study the brain of someone who has died the best thing to do is to stick it in formaldehyde for a while, but this isn’t usually practically or necessary. This means the pathologist usually cuts it up into slices and quickly looks for any major abnormalities.

“Are there many female pathologists?” More than you would expect, said our chap - apparently it has relatively friendly hours. This appeal’s to the FM, who loves dealing with patients but dreads the idea of spending the best years of life stuck doing continuous night shifts, working days where you start at four in the morning and then finish at six/severn/eight/nine at night.
However pathologists, according to one respiratory consultant have the highest rates of suicide within the medical profession.

The FM does not know if this is true- the reasoning behind this consultants statement is that pathologist spend a lot of time isolated in basement offices, surrounded by bits of bodies. Maybe this is an unfair stereotype. One pathologist sarcastically said that people impression of them is “that of a guy with a beard who sits staring at stuff under a microscope all day, with a rotting heart and lung sitting next to them, who perhaps gets up to have shave after three weeks.”

Anyway the other reason supposedly is that they get very worked up when they can’t decide what’s going on when they see a slide under a microscope. Is it really dysplastic tissue that is being seen? Or perhaps it’s just inflammation making them look dysplastic?

Most medical students and doctors think the FM is mad when she says she is interested in pathology, why is this the case? Have the stereotypes presented above gone too far? Is it ok to pick on pathologists? Are they really “proper” doctors is a common question. Is it acceptable for medical students to say there interested in it and are considering it as a career?

1 comment:

  1. According to my pathologists buddies, one of the attractions of pathology is that pathologists get to deal with all the body systems, i.e. they are not super-specialists like many modern hospital physicians.

    They also get to do a lot of "hunt the weird curiosity".

    Several of the ones I know are also extremely funny. Don't know if a surreal sense of humour is compulsory in pathology, but it seems to be common.