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Pathology: A Career in Medicine Brochure

Available in Print, PDF, and Web Formats.
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Request your copy from:
Administrator/Managing Editor
Donna Stivers
Phone: (301) 634-7200
Fax: (301) 634-7990


"This is the place where the dead shall teach the living." The autopsy provides unique insights into the natural history of disease and the influence of therapy on disease processes. Although autopsy information is important for general medical purposes, occasionally the patient's family is benefited directly. For example, when an unsuspected genetic disorder is found or evidence of a contagious infection or an environmental toxin is uncovered, the diagnosis and intervention can help living members of that family. The autopsy provides feedback to the physicians involved in patient care about the accuracy of their evaluations and the effectiveness of their treatments. Together, the clinicians and pathologists assess the findings in each case so that future patients can benefit from this information. The importance of autopsy data as a measure of quality-control should not be undervalued. Some recent studies have shown up to 30 percent discrepancy rates between clinical diagnoses and actual findings at autopsy.

The autopsy's value is often dramatically demonstrated to the public when a pathologist is called to determine the exact cause and manner of death in medical legal cases, and to present the findings as an officer of the court. Special training and certification in Forensic Pathology is needed for a pathologist to serve as Medical Examiner for a city or state agency, and to conduct laboratory or postmortem studies of suspected criminal activities on suspicious deaths or those of concern to the public health and safety.


Forensic pathologist examines a kidney during an autopsy.