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What is a Neuropathologist?

By Elva K.
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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Neuropathologists are physicians who help diagnose disease of the spine or brain. This work entails examining tissue, fluid, or tumors from the spine or brain to help in the diagnosis process. For example, if a tumor exists, a neuropathologist does evaluation to clarify the type of tumor, specify whether the tumor is cancerous or not, and clarifies the prognosis so that the treatment protocol can be effectively planned for the patient.

Typically, a neuropathologist does not work with patients in the same room. Rather, neuropathologists often work alone in a lab setting analyzing information sent to them by neurologists or other physicians. In addition to neuropathologists analyzing tissue samples or fluids from the patient, they also analyze the results of specific medical scans. For example, a neurologist may analyze the results of computerized axial tomography (CAT) scans or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The results of the neuropathologist's analysis enables the neurologist to make a clearer diagnosis.

Those wanting to be a neuropathologist typically have a college degree and a Doctor of Medicine degree (MD). The process they go through to attain these degrees is arduous. For example, the college degree could be in any major; however, the college degree usually includes chemistry, biology, physics and other science-related courses that meet medical school application requirements. After college, medical school is four years in duration. Then after medical school, there is typically an internship followed by residency training where the neuropathologist does supervised patient treatment and learns about pathology within an autopsy, surgery, forensics, immune system, skin, or molecular context.

Physicians specializing in neuropathology tend to have excellent academic ability as evidenced by their typically high grade point average (GPA) in college and medical school. They also usually have excellent analytical ability due to having to use their skills to analyze tissue and fluid samples to determine whether or not disease is present. Also, in addition to their excellent academic and analytical skills, neuropathologists tend to have good communications skills because they must explain, both verbally and in writing, their analysis results to patients and other physicians.

Neuropathologists can practice in a variety of settings. For example, a neuropathologist can do laboratory pathology tests. Some neuropathologists work at hospitals, public clinics, universities, or for the government. By contrast, some neuropathologists choose to work as professors in medical schools or as medical writers. Or, neuropathologists sometimes become medical administrators in pharmaceutical companies.

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