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Outside the Lab Training and education, Profession

Putting Pathology Back into Schools

We enthusiastically agree with the authors of last month’s feature article (1) regarding the importance of encouraging students to learn more about the practice of pathology. One approach that has been successful at Thomas Jefferson University’s Sidney Kimmel Medical College is an honors program for second-year medical students who have displayed aptitude and interest in pathology. This program was introduced as voluntary enrichment to our regular second-year pathology course in 1992 (2). Today, over 25 years later, despite all the curricular reforms and the amalgamation of pathology with other basic science courses into a common preclinical curriculum, it is still going strong.

Every year, 15 to 25 students (from a class of 260) are admitted to the honors program. These students spend the year interacting with a mentor in the Department of Pathology. At the end of the year, each student gives a presentation – either a poster or a talk – on a topic of their choice at a Pathology Honors Student Research Symposium. In some years, the oral presentations were recorded and uploaded to the departmental website; more recently, students have submitted abstracts that are posted to the Jefferson Library Digital Commons for ongoing reference (3). The level of scholarship is generally very high – in fact, some projects have even led to publications.

Through their participation in this program, students acquire a deeper understanding of the mechanisms of disease and the practice of pathology. Our residency program director, Joanna Chan, notes, “Most of the medical students at Jefferson who go into pathology were involved in the second-year pathology honors program and the Pathology Interest Society.” Approximately two new students per year from Jefferson choose to pursue pathology.

The pathology honors program at Jefferson is funded in part by the Intersociety Council for Pathology Information (ICPI). Students are inducted into a national Pathology Honor Society and provided with colorful certificates and lapel pins. The ICPI also funds 53 Margaret Grimes, MD, Medical Student Interest Groups at participating medical schools, including our own, to further enhance students’ exposure to pathology (4). We are grateful to the organization for their financial support.

We strongly believe that departmental enrichment programs like these are valuable to medical students because they often have an otherwise limited view of pathology in an integrated curriculum. It is increasingly difficult to maintain a strong footprint for pathology in undergraduate medical education, but we have proven that it is certainly not impossible. Year after year, we have been encouraged by the interest of our students, who keep recommending this program to their incoming junior colleagues. Apparently, nothing works so well as a word-of-mouth recommendation – and we hope that this enthusiasm for pathology education will continue to be passed down from one generation of medical students to the next.

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  1. N Zafar, J Baccon, “So You Want to Be a Pathologist…”, The Pathologist, 42, 16–25 (2018). Available at:
  2. BA Fenderson et al., “Characteristics of medical students completing an honors program in pathology”, Hum Pathol, 30, 1296–1301 (1999). PMID: 10571508.
  3. Thomas Jefferson University, “Pathology Honors Program Student Research Symposium” (2018). Available at: Accessed May 21, 2018.
  4. Intersociety Council for Pathology Information, Inc., “Margaret Grimes, MD, Medical Student Interest Group (MSIG), 2017-2018 Academic Year Grant Program” (2018). Available at: Accessed May 21, 2018.
About the Author
Bruce Fenderon and Ivan Damjanov

Bruce Fenderson and Emanuel Rubin are Professors of Pathology at Sidney Kimmel Medical College, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, USA.

Ivan Damjanov is Professor of Pathology at The University of Kansas School of Medicine, Kansas City, USA.

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