As a pathologist, I’m used to people thinking that my job mainly involves dealing with death. But nothing could be further from the truth. That is why I and many of my colleagues are so dismayed by changes introduced during the coronavirus epidemic which mean that pathology has not been able to play the role that it should have in helping to understand this new disease.
The word ‘pathology’ tends to conjure up images of body bags, mortuaries and murder investigations. ‘Ho ho,’ people say, ‘your patients can’t answer back.’ They imagine days spent trudging across fields to reach murder scenes, Silent Witness-style, and nights sifting through arcane evidence to catch the perpetrators. And a rare type of pathologist — the forensic pathologist — does indeed do that.
Most pathologists, though, spend the majority of their careers looking after the living. After all, pathology is the study of disease, and the whole point of knowing about diseases is to inform our approaches to preventing and treating them.
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