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Outside the Lab Training and education, Profession

Fighting Pigeonholes

The Last Respite of the Socially Inept?” – last month’s cover feature on negative pathology stereotypes – prompted a swift response from many of you.

Certainly, we hoped to stir up the hornet’s nest a little. After all, the public face of pathology is an issue that concerns us all. Negative stereotyping is damaging the field of pathology, frightening away the brightest medical students and painting an inaccurate picture of life in the lab. The big question is: how can we change that negative image?

Well, it’s not easy. And sure enough, you let us know how frustrating it can be; “like hitting your head against a brick wall” was one of the phrases used. We all know what a stereotype is: “a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing” (Oxford Dictionary) – and the real crux of the problem lies in the word “fixed”.

Changing people’s opinions isn’t easy, especially when those views are deeply ingrained and constantly reinforced by the media (that is to say, fixed). Ironically, even those pathologists who go out of their way to show that they’re just as friendly, capable and hardworking as any other specialty face challenges; people just can’t seem to understand why a doctor with such outstanding qualities would “be forced” to become a pathologist – much less want to become one…

And yet, there’s immense value in what you do. After all, pathology is an essential, integral and constantly evolving aspect of patient care – but can you do more to ensure that your work is not overlooked or taken for granted?

The lab isn’t the only place where you can make a difference. An enthusiastic and approachable mentor is more likely to encourage a student to consider pathology than an intelligent but dispassionate one who simply quotes textbooks from memory. And in the wider world, showing people that there’s life beyond the television portrayal of the forensic pathologist can surprise them and challenge their preconceptions.

The more visible you are – and the more you show both medical students and members of the public that the stereotypes are tired and outdated – the better the outlook for the field. If we all make a conscious effort to shift the stereotype, more promising young students will be attracted to a career in pathology, adding further momentum to the cause.

In terms of shining a spotlight on pathology and pathologists more generally – well, we will do our best.

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Rich Whitworth
Content Director,  Texere Publishing

Have you experienced negative stereotyping? Do you have a suggestion for combating it?

We would love to hear your opinions and experiences.
Email [email protected].

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About the Author
Rich Whitworth

Rich Whitworth completed his studies in medical biochemistry at the University of Leicester, UK, in 1998. To cut a long story short, he escaped to Tokyo to spend five years working for the largest English language publisher in Japan. "Carving out a career in the megalopolis that is Tokyo changed my outlook forever. When seeing life through such a kaleidoscopic lens, it's hard not to get truly caught up in the moment." On returning to the UK, after a few false starts with grey, corporate publishers, Rich was snapped up by Texere Publishing, where he spearheaded the editorial development of The Analytical Scientist. "I feel honored to be part of the close-knit team that forged The Analytical Scientist – we've created a very fresh and forward-thinking publication." Rich is now also Content Director of Texere Publishing, the company behind The Analytical Scientist and The Pathologist.

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