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Pathologist's Assistant

Job Description:

Qualifications: Pathologist’s Assistants (PA) in surgical pathology must be graduates of a NAACLS accredited PA program and have ASCP Board of Registry certification; AAPA membership status as Fellow is preferred.  Recent graduates of an accredited program may be considered provided they obtain certification within the first year of employment and meet all requirements to sit for the exam at the time of hire.
Pathologist’s Assistants (PAs) are highly trained physician extenders in anatomic pathology and perform duties that would otherwise be done by physicians (pathologists).  The certified Pathologist’s Assistant is qualified to perform gross analysis on any type of surgical specimen ranging from small biopsies to large resections, including the following:  assisting in the preparation and performance of surgical specimen dissection by assuring appropriate specimen accessioning, obtaining pertinent clinical information including scans, x-rays, laboratory data, etc., recognizing and describing gross anatomic features of normal and diseased tissues and organs, dissecting and describing surgical specimens, preparing and submitting tissue for histologic processing and subsequent diagnosis, obtaining and submitting specimens for additional analytic procedures (immunostaining, flow cytometry, image analysis, molecular studies, cytogenetics, bacterial and viral cultures, toxicology, etc.) and photographing gross specimens. The high degree of responsibility assumed by the pathologists' assistant requires skills and abilities necessary to provide those services appropriate for an anatomic pathology setting.
The PA’s responsibilities and duties are defined by the attending Pathologists and may include but are not limited to the following:

  • Preparation of teaching specimens
  • Teaching dissection and description techniques
  • Quality assurance
  • Provide leadership and management in the laboratory
  • Collection of fresh and fixed tissues for biomedical research, without compromising specimen integrity
  • Assisting in frozen section tasks and performing specimen triage
  • Specimen photography

The specific duties of the PA in the Surgical Pathology frozen section laboratory are dependent on the needs of the laboratory at the discretion of the attending pathologist. All PA services are provided under the supervision of a licensed and board-certified pathologist.

  • Role with pathology interns: The PA participates in the training of junior housestaff, providing instruction and supervision in gross dissection and description techniques for all types of surgical specimens.
  • Role with senior house officers: The PA acts as a resource for the senior house staff, answering questions, providing consistency and continuity of services, working cooperatively at a high level of expertise.
  • Role with pathologist’s assistant students: Teaches the techniques of gross analysis to pathologist’s assistant students; supervises and evaluates the performance of trainees.
  • Role with the operating rooms: The PA assists in frozen section tasks: responds to requests from the OR for specimen pick up and orientation; relays clinical information relating to the frozen section to the surgical pathology laboratory; performs gross analysis and triage; and selects tissue for frozen section examination under the supervision of the attending Pathologist.
  • Role with surgeons: Duties are connected to the frozen section tasks.  The PA may field general questions about the tissue handling, and defer to the attending Pathologist covering the service.
  • Block information
  • Attending service assignment
  • Prefixes
  • Specimen identification and info

Required Qualifications at this Level


Bachelor's or Master's degree from an accredited Pathologist Assistant program.



Degrees, Licensure, and/or Certification:

Certification by the American Association of Pathologist Assistants.

Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities:

Basic knowledge of human anatomy, macrosurgical techniques, general laboratory skills.Understanding of safety and infection control requirements of position. Demonstrated ability to obtain and prepare tissue for evaluation, provide assistance to pathologists, in a timely and quality manner. Proficiency in preparing and maintaining records, use of electronic communications tools and software.


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