The discipline of pathology forms the basis of every physician's thinking about the patient. Modern pathology applies the latest advances in the biological sciences to traditional morphological methods of studying disease. A consulting specialist, the pathologist is truly the doctor's doctor, with expertise in one or more fields of anatomic pathology and laboratory medicine. A pathologist deals with the causes and nature of disease and contributes to diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment through knowledge gained by the laboratory application of the biologic, chemical, and physical sciences. A pathologist uses information gathered from the microscopic examination of tissue specimens, cells, and body fluids as well as from clinical laboratory tests on body fluids and secretions for the diagnosis, exclusion, and monitoring of disease.
Anatomic pathologists usually work in hospitals, investigating the effects of disease on the human body via autopsies and microscopic examination of tissues, cells, and other specimens. Medical laboratory directors are responsible for the sophisticated laboratory tests on samples of tissues or fluids and the quality and accuracy of the tests. The practice of pathology is most often conducted in community hospitals or in academic medical centers, where patient care, diagnostic services, and research go hand in hand. Creation of new knowledge is the lifeblood of pathology and many academic pathologists devote significant time in their career to research.