A hematopathologist is a clinical scientist and doctor who analyzes blood samples to identify disease. He or she uses sophisticated equipment to view, separate, and test blood components. Based on the results from laboratory testing, the hematopathologist can create detailed reports and pass on findings to physicians, so they can make accurate diagnoses. Many hematopathologists also conduct general research on drugs and diseases to discover better treatment methods for various conditions.
When a physician suspects a patient is suffering from a bone marrow or blood-borne disease, he or she collects samples to send to the hematopathologist. In the laboratory, the hematopathologist arranges samples on slides to view them closely under a microscope. The doctor also employs a machine called a flow cytometer to count and identify cellular components of blood. The flow cytometer focuses laser light on a sample to reveal individual particles, which may appear abnormal if a disease exists. Other well-established physical and chemical tests are performed to confirm the presence of abnormalities.
Once the hematopathologist is confident in a diagnosis, he or she generally writes a laboratory report and explains the results to the physician. Diseases such as leukemia, lymphatic cancer, and certain viral and bacterial infections are explained in detail in the hematopathologist's report. His or her expert knowledge of blood diseases can help the physician determine the severity of a condition and the best course of treatment.
Medical scientists and doctors are constantly adding to the collective literature on disease. In order to stay up-to-date on breakthroughs and findings, a hematopathologist frequently reads through medical journals and attends professional conferences. He or she also makes personal contributions to the body of knowledge by publishing clinical procedures and research results in official journals. Most hematopathologists are skilled writers, able to accurately convey their ideas to other professionals in the field.
A person who wants to become a hematopathologist first needs to earn a Doctor of Medicine degree from an accredited four-year medical school. Following graduation, a new doctor receives practical training in a four-year residency program at a hospital laboratory. During a residency, the doctor learns a broad range of techniques from experienced clinical scientists in hematology and pathology. The last portion of a residency is dedicated specifically to blood and bone marrow diseases. After gaining experience in a residency program, a successful new doctor can take a board certification exam administered by a national organization to earn a license and begin working independently.