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Pathology, or, in current nomenclature, Laboratory Medicine has been the backstage department in healthcare which gives silent support to clinicians. Lab Medicine has various specialisations, such as Pathology, Biochemistry, and Microbiology. In a Pathology Laboratory, there are doctors who have specialised in one of the Laboratory Medicine subjects, a technical team that perform the tests on the bench, and researchers who hold a Ph.D. in basic science subjects.
After completing your MBBS, you can specialise in Pathology, Microbiology or Biochemistry. In this era of specialisation, most Pathologists super specialise in Hemato-pathology, Histopathology, Cytopathology or Molecular Pathology. Some pathologists still continue to be general pathologists who work in haematology, clinical pathology and cytopathology, and manage the Department of Medicine in smaller healthcare setups. The Clinical Biochemists form the backbone of the laboratory and report all the biochemical tests which help in the diagnosis of thyroid, kidney, and liver diseases to name a few. The Clinical Microbiologists are at the helm of managing the diagnosis of all the infectious diseases such as HIV, hepatitis, urinary tract infection, typhoid, tuberculosis, SARS, and Cov2. They also formulate and manage the infection control practices of hospitals and play a crucial role in the management of outbreaks like the Covid-19 outbreak.
The Hemato-pathologist specializes after post-graduation in Pathology and helps diagnose all diseases related to blood-cancers such as Leukemia and Lymphoma, as well as other diseases including thalassemia, anemia, and many more. They do this by using sophisticated tools of flow cytometry and molecular biology. The Histopathologist looks at all the biopsy tissues after staining with simple and specialized stains and works closely with the clinician, specially the cancer surgeon, to form a diagnosis.
For a keen researcher, there is always the option to study new targets for various diseases – to understand the progress of the disease, treatment of the disease and diagnosis of the disease. With treatments being extremely targeted, the role of such researchers is wide.
Most of the investigations in Laboratory Medicine are performed by trained technicians, who are under-graduates or post-graduates in Laboratory Medicine. These are then analysed and interpreted by specialists in Laboratory Medicine. The technical team are the scaffolding of a laboratory.
During this Covid-19 period the Laboratory Medicine specialists have been silently working in the laboratory and supporting all emergency testing, in both Covid and non-Covid hospitals. The role of each specialty in Laboratory Medicine is crucial. Covid-19 infection leads to various inflammatory responses for the Biochemist to detect, hematological changes for the Hematologist to diagnose, and for the Microbiologist, the detection of the virus is most exciting. The Microbiologist, along with the Molecular Specialist, would work to detect the virus and also learn more about the response generated by our body. The role of Laboratory Medicine in the post Covid-19 era will be very interesting, especially for the Infectious Disease and Clinical Microbiology specialists.
- The article was originally published in Career Ahead July 2020 issue.
Dr. Suryasnata Das attained her MD, DNB Microbiology and proceeded to work in various capacities in Seth GS Medical College; Jaslok Hospital, Mumbai; Quest Diagnostics, Gurgaon; and Jaypee Hospital, Noida. She has over 15 years of experience in Laboratory Medicine, especially Microbiology. She is presently working as Lab Co-ordinator and Associate Director of Lab Medicine at Jaypee Hospital, Noida, and has been published many times in peer-reviewed journals.