A Pathologists’ Assistant (PathA) is a highly trained, allied health professional who provides various services under the direction and supervision of a pathologist. Pathologists’ Assistants interact with pathologists in a manner similar to physician’s assistants in surgical and medical practice, carrying out their duties under the direction of their physicians. PathAs are academically and practically trained to provide accurate and timely processing of a variety of laboratory specimens, including the majority of pathological specimens. They must pass a national certifying examination (American Society for Clinical Pathology, or ASCP) which is open only to graduates of accredited PathA programs.
The PathA degree is a Masters-level degree based on a curriculum involving both classroom instruction and clinical rotations, usually requiring 20-24 months for degree completion. Therefore, students entering a PathA program have already completed a baccalaureate degree, usually in the sciences. The average entrant has competitive scores on the GRE, and has a minimum grade point average of 3.00/4.00. In addition to a competitive GRE score and GPA, some PathA programs require observation hours in anatomic pathology in various settings including surgical, forensic and laboratory settings. Attributes such as demonstrated caring attitude toward others, communication skills, emotional stability under stress and problem solving ability are important selection factors.
There are currently 10 NAACLS accredited PathA programs in America. It is very important when you begin your program to identify which programs you plan to apply and plot out their requirements accordingly.