Summer School Reviews
University of Cambridge
This August I was lucky enough to attend the Pathology Summer School at the Gordon Museum in London. Throughout my first 3 years at university, I have been extremely interested in the pathology on my curriculum, and after spending last year intercalating in pathology I was keen to discover more about careers in this area. I stumbled upon the summer school while perusing the Royal College of Pathologists website, and thought it would be a perfect opportunity to hear about all the different options within pathology, to talk to some pathologists, and to hear some fascinating speakers.
The lectures were very informative, giving details about the training pathway for pathologists, their daily lives, and the future of pathology, to name a few examples. Additional breakout sessions focussed on different branches of pathology, such as histopathology, haematology, and immunology. It was so useful to hear about all the different options from experts in those fields, and to have the chance to ask questions about them. We also had a fantastic tour of some of the specimens in the Gordon Collection. At lunchtime we all munched our sandwiches surrounded by thousands of diseased body parts, which was wonderfully surreal.
At the end of a stimulating day, we were taken for an amazing dinner at the top of the Guy’s hospital tower, with stunning views over London. Afterwards, we had a very entertaining quiz, with rounds including “Guess the cuddly pathogen” and “Fictional Pathologists”.
I would thoroughly recommend the summer school to anyone even remotely interested in pathology. I believe it is quite underrepresented on most clinical courses, so occasions like this are invaluable. Personally, the course really affirmed my interest in a pathology-related career, and I’m very grateful to everyone who put so much work into organising it!
1st year medical student at King's College London
Last weekend I attended the annual Pathology Summer School at the Gordon Museum and it was a highlight of my summer holiday. As I have just completed my first year at medical school my summer break was rather long, but following the weekend my excitement for the career I have ahead of me was reignited and I am now eager to get back to university. So far my pathology knowledge has been quite limited, but I feel much better informed after exploring different aspects of pathology including histopathology, microbiology, forensic pathology and haematology. The breakout sessions provided a chance to learn more about specific areas and to interact with pathologists in those fields. It was great to meet students of different years and from other medical schools with a common interest. Of course it was hugely exciting to meet the pathologists. They all had such passion for their specialties and a wide range of interesting experiences. Wherever my career may take me, I hope to have similar passion and enthusiasm for my work. Having attended the summer school I am excited by the prospect of long term continuing education, and by the many possibilities that a career in pathology may offer me. I am so glad that I had the opportunity to attend such a worthwhile and insightful event and would highly recommend it!
Fourth year medical student from Barts and the London.
This summer I had the opportunity to attend the pathology summer school at Kings College London, and am really glad I went. From the moment it started, we had a range of inspirational talks and breakout sessions which proved both interesting and educational. Pathologists from the varying subspecialties gave us a real feel of the sort of work they do, their training pathways as well as guidance on how to prepare for the application process. It provided us with the opportunity to network with working pathologists as well as like-minded students with an interest in pathology.
Contrary to the general perception from the public and medical communities, I realised that there is a great deal of variety within the field of pathology with around 20 subspecialties. Many pathologists deal with the living rather than the dead, with a large scope for research. The majority of pathologists are histopathologists, and many choose the areas of the body they would like to focus on giving even more choice within the field. Not only was the content covered useful and stimulating, but locating it all within the Gordon museum surrounded by pathology specimens gave a lovely atmosphere whilst enforcing the importance of pathology within medicine as a whole.
I have come out of the summer school with a greater knowledge of this specialty, potentially considering it as a future career.
University of Southampton
Anyone fortunate enough to hear a speech by Ian Roberts will know that he can capture his audience within just a few sentences. On our first day in the Pathology Summer School, we had already experienced many first rate presentations but none were quite as mesmerising as the session taken by Ian Roberts. This was not due to oratory skills alone, but also to the revolutionary subject matter of non-invasive autopsies. Despite respect and care being given to deceased patients, autopsies are still somewhat medieval in nature due to the mechanical approach required.
Conventional tools are not too dissimilar to those used hundreds of years ago, as are the procedures. As a result, it can be an unpleasant surprise to witness for the first time. There is no delicate way to remove the top of a patient’s skull, neither is there an easy way to place everything that should be inside the body, beside the body whilst maintaining the patient’s dignity. I know from personal experience that this was one of the most challenging components of my first year in Medicine. Although I had encountered cadavers from my time in the anatomy lab and recently deceased patients from various work experience posts, it was a whole new experience to witness my first autopsy. It was shocking and not something I would not be comfortable for a family member to require.
Yet soon, we learned, this may no longer be the case. A technique involving MRI scanning had been developed, that may eliminate the need for a ‘traditional’ autopsy for the majority of patients. The look of awe was shared by medical students and pathologists alike, as this technology and its many features were described. From realising live TB to finding bullets to diagnosing a ruptured aneurysm, the scanning of a body could not only give information that would be difficult for pathologists to otherwise find, but also provide this information much quicker. In particular bullets, which are well known for embedding themselves in all sorts of places away from the entry site, are found within seconds by the scan. To say that this is impressive would be an understatement. I am sure this view was shared by my colleagues as the silence in the room spoke for itself.
When the lecture was concluded, excited whispers filled the air as students discussed the implications. Even though I had not previously heard of a virtual post-mortem, I had found the title suitably intriguing and therefore had previously signed up for a 45 minute session on the topic. This followed the lecture and meant that we were able to build on our enthusiasm to determine the cause of death in a range of case histories. This enforced the idea that this is a reality for pathologists in the UK. With only 2% of post-mortems in Japan requiring the traditional route, it seems that when I qualify this will be commonplace – an exciting prospect indeed.
University of St Andrews
Attending the Pathology Summer School is perhaps one of the best things I have done throughout my 2 years in medicine. The school opened my eyes to both the breadth and the absolute necessity of pathology.
Before applying for the summer school I had mixed thoughts; I enjoyed the pathology teaching given by my university, but I didn't think it was my favourite aspect of the course by any means (something that seemed surprisingly common when the talks began!). I decided to investigate the specialty further by looking through the Royal College of Pathologists' website, and found pathology had a lot more to offer that I had first realised, prompting me to apply.
Held at St Hilda's College Oxford, the summer school was two days of large group lectures, and smaller group sessions, each one picked by the individual delegate. The small sessions ranged from medical education and leadership, to more in depth looks at the sub-specialties, like neuropathology and haematology. The programme was led by a team of pathologists who went out of their way to make us feel welcome, and challenge the idea of the pathologist sat alone in the morgue in their lab coat, just waiting for the next autopsy or specimen to arrive!
One of the things that struck me when on the course was the difference in the approach to teaching pathology. I'd never really considered the massive impact this specialty has on patient treatment and outcomes. I was also interested to hear about the varying levels of patient contact, as well as the massive opportunity for research, that a career in pathology can offer.
This motivated me to consider the way pathology is delivered in my own medical school, and discuss pathology teaching in the UK with other delegates. I was also fortunate enough to find myself in a conversation with Dr Suzy Lishman, president of the Royal College of Pathologists; Professor Phil Quirke, president of the Pathological Society; and Dr Alec Howat, president of the BDIAP, discussing the way pathology is delivered nationally. Needless to say I felt slightly out of place with my limited knowledge of pathology, let alone the challenges of creating and delivering a curriculum, but simply listening to them discuss teaching and outreach in the UK was inspiring. This specialty is full of engaged and enthusiastic individuals, just waiting for students and societies to contact them to arrange informal talks, lectures or to simply find out more about pathology in general.
It was obvious that they are devoted to improving access to pathology, through events such as National pathology day and week, as well as the creation of this summer school. For me, this was the key message of the course. Pathology is a huge and varied specialty, and I think we need to change the way we present it to medical students and the public. The prospect of improving awareness, even amongst medical students, of the importance and variety of pathology is a challenging and exciting idea. I would encourage any medical student to attend the summer schools, as even if you think you have no interest in pathology, there is no doubt that pathologists will have an impact on you, your patients and their outcomes for the rest of your career.
University of Oxford
Given the style of preclinical teaching in traditional medical schools, I hope that I could be forgiven for associating pathology with nothing but hours of squinting down a microscope. At least, it’s not the more common impression of dead bodies and solving murders! It was therefore impressive to hear the statistics from the Pathology Summer School: 6,000 pathologists work in the UK, practising in 19 different specialities and contributing towards 70% of all diagnoses made in the NHS.
Professor Phil Quirke of the University of Leeds points out, in his talk on “Personalised Pathology’ as the future of the discipline, that pathology is “the lead provider of information” to medicine – and that it must remain this way in order to thrive in the growing marketplace of the life sciences. I wondered whether pathology needed a rebranding – perhaps a new name, even, to avoid the CSI connotations. But Dr. Suzy Lishman, President of the Royal College of Pathologists, has taken a different approach, which she outlines in her talk, ‘Pathology – Why Does It Matter’. Instead, she shares to everyone her passion for pathology with her ‘I Love Pathology’ (complete with wristbands and sticky notes) and National Pathology Week campaigns.
As part of her strategy to reach out to the public and to promote pathology as a career to medical students, this year’s Pathology Summer School found its way to St. Hilda’s College, Oxford, the City of Dreaming Spires. Organised by the triumvirate the Royal College of Pathologists, the Pathological Society, and the British Division of the International Academy of Pathology, the summer school aimed to introduce to medical students about the wide range of specialties and career pathways available within pathology and to engage medical students with the latest research and current issues around pathology.
It is the second time that the course has run; last year, it was a one and a half day course in London. This year, the organisers listened to suggestions from last year’s course begging for more pathology and so the 2015 iteration was two full days consisting of talks, ranging from virtual autopsy to the UK Ebola Response.
Interspersing the talks were workshops on various aspects of the practice of pathology, such as the main subspecialties, but also on public engagement, research, and leadership. Particularly valuable was the ample time to speak to pathologists who are at the top of their field about their research, work-life balance, and opinions on controversial subjects in pathology, such as the exclusion of men who have sex with men from donating blood within 12 months of having sex.
All the medical students took advantage of this amazing opportunity to tap into the greatest resource at the Pathology Summer School: the pathologists themselves. It was also a great chance to meet and network with other medical students to find out what projects other medical students are involved in, and it was particularly promising for the future of pathology to see the diversity in medical students who attended the summer school. There were students of all medical schools, backgrounds, ethnicities, genders, and ages (19-31 years old!) – united by our interest in a diverse, challenging, and stimulating career for the benefit of patients… and only occasionally to solve murders!
Overall, the summer school was an exciting and inspiring experience that I would recommend to any medical student, and in particular, to those who have little interest in or experience with pathology. Even those who left the summer school thinking that pathology was not a career for them still found the experience valuable. Certainly, my own misconceptions of introverted pathologists riveted to a microscope had all but disappeared by the end of the summer school. If that doesn’t motivate medical students to apply, I’m sure the chance to win plush toys at the evening’s social events will!
University of Southampton
Being a mere ‘2nd year’ Medic, the prospect of spending a weekend at a Pathology Summer School terrified me. However, I have a huge interest in pathology and it has always been taught with enthusiasm and excellence at Southampton Medical School. Wanting to learn more about pathology as a career and my tutor being exceptionally keen to inspire “at least one person” in his group to become a Pathologist, I decided to apply.
Having fortunately gained a place, I was the first to arrive at St. Hilda’s College, Oxford. I had no idea what level of (pathological) intellect the other students would have; I anticipated a group of final year medics knowing every histological stain, every biomarker, every micrograph abnormality…
Gradually, other students arrived and I discovered the group was a diverse mix of year-groups, backgrounds, with the majority not knowing which specialty to choose. This was a recurring theme I noticed. Each pathologist I spoke to, even those at the top of the profession, initially had never considered pathology as a career; some even admitting to a prior hatred of the subject during medical school! They “found” pathology because they discovered the beauty of the science behind disease.
Dr Lishman, President of The Royal College of Pathologists, delivered the opening speech followed by the Vice President of BDIAP who proceeded to read a passage vividly depicting a highly amusing, however rather inaccurate and offensive, image of a pathologist which he hoped the weekend would dispel.
The course aided my understanding of pathology as a specialty and career. A lot of new and interesting concepts were presented to me. For example considering the pros and cons of CT post mortems and hearing pathologists’ differing opinions depending on their subspecialty. I also realised the importance of considering and respecting family wishes regarding PMs. It was shocking to hear that roughly every 30 seconds, someone needs some type of blood product, however at any moment in time there is only 1 week’s supply of blood. SHOT: ‘Serious Hazards of Transfusion’ scheme was introduced to us which is an initiative to increase patient safety by reporting any adverse events and reactions in blood transfusion. This has resulted in new recommendations being distributed to all relevant healthcare organisations. Another interesting fact I learnt was that despite the general public’s stereotypical view of a ‘TV pathologist’, forensics accounts for only 1% of pathology subspecialties, with 75% of forensic pathologists being self-employed. I was surprised to hear about research focusing on the relationship of our microbiome to our health, even affecting the way we think; that it is not just our own DNA we should worry about, but that of our microbiota too!
‘The Power-Path-Girls’, an all-girls team including 2 fellow Southampton medics, won the “Runners-up” prize at the pathology quiz; this was a very exciting moment! The winners won cuddly-toy microbes; what could be better?!
Overall this has been the most inspiring extra-curricular experience I’ve had and I would recommend it to any student.