Pathologists' Assistant



This M.S. track focuses on the education of pathologists' assistants.  Pathologists' assistants provide service in anatomic pathology under the direction and supervision
of a qualified anatomic pathologist, with responsibilities including gross surgical pathology, frozen section preparation, and autopsy pathology.  This program is not research-based, and no thesis is required.  The program is designed to serve individuals holding baccalaureate degrees in various science-related fields (clinical laboratory science, cytotechnology, biology, chemistry, etc.) who have an interest in pathology, particularly the anatomic aspect of pathology.

Pathologists' Assistant Career Responsibilities

The Pathologists' Assistant is qualified by academic and practical training to provide the following services and others under the direction and supervision of a pathologist:
Preparation, gross description, and dissection of human tissue surgical specimens including the following: obtaining clinical history, describing gross anatomic features, dissecting surgical specimens, preparing tissues for histologic processing, and photographing all pertinent gross specimens and microscopic slides

Preparation of human postmortem examinations including the following: conferring with the attending pathologists to identify any special techniques and procedures to be utilized in the completion of the postmortem examination, performing postmortem examinations, selecting, preparing and submitting appropriate gross tissue sections, performing special procedures such as coronary artery perfusion, central nervous system perfusion, enucleation, inner ear bone dissection, spinal cord removal, etc., and organizing information pertinent to the preparation of the preliminary summarization of the clinical history.

Freezing tissue removed at surgery in preparation for intra-operative examination by a pathologist.

Performing such administrative, budgetary, supervisory, teaching, and other duties as may be assigned.

Mission Statement

The mission of the M.S. Pathologists= Assistant track within the graduate program in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine is to provide quality education in the knowledge, skills, and professional attitudes of pathologists= assistants in order to prepare graduates who have entry-level competency to practice as a pathologists= assistant.   

Statement of Goals

The goals of the M.S. Pathologists= Assistant track are to prepare graduates who:

 1.   have the knowledge and skills to perform the duties and carry the responsibilities of a pathologists= assistant.

 2.   participate as effective members of the health care team.

 3.   demonstrate professionalism through honesty and integrity in performing and reporting laboratory assessments, show respect for patient confidentiality, and desire for life-long learning through continuing education, scholarship, service, and participation in professional organizations.

 4.   value the career of the pathologists= assistant.

 5.   successfully complete national certification examinations.


Entry Level Competencies for Pathologists= Assistants

Upon successful completion of the M.S. pathologists= assistant program, the graduate will be able to demonstrate the behaviors required for entry-level competency as described in the following table.


Surgical pathology:

-assisting in the preparation and performance of surgical specimen dissection by assuring appropriate specimen accessioning, obtaining pertinent clinical information and studies, describing gross anatomic features, dissecting surgical specimens, and preparing and submitting of tissues for appropriate processing.                         

-obtaining and submitting specimens for additional analytic procedures (immunostaining, flow cytometry, image analysis, bacterial and viral cultures, toxicology, electron microscopy, etc.).

-assisting in photographing gross and microscopic specimens.

-performing duties relating to administration (maintaining surgical pathology protocols, reports/data, assisting in completion of coding/billing

-assuring proper maintenance of equipment, providing supplies, maintaining cleanliness of surgical pathology suite

-assisting in organizing and coordinating anatomic pathology conferences



Autopsy Pathology:

-assisting in the performance of postmortem examination by ascertaining proper legal authorization, obtaining and reviewing the patient=s chart and other pertinent clinical data studies, conferring with attending pathologists to identify special techniques/procedure to be used, notifying involved personnel (physician in charge, funeral home, other authorities) of all special procedures and techniques required, coordinating special requests for specimens.

-assisting in performing the postmortem examination (external exam, in situ organ inspection, evisceration, dissection, dictation, recording data such as organ weights, presence of body fluids, gross anatomic findings), selecting and preparing tissue for frozen section analysis, histologic processing, and special studies (light, electron, and immunofluorescent microscopy), and obtaining specimens for biological and toxicological analysis.

-obtaining specimens for special studies (flow cytometry, image analysis, immunohistochemistry)

-performing special procedures such as coronary artery perfusion, central nervous system perfusion, enucleation, inner ear bone dissection, spinal cord removal, etc.

-gathering and organizing clinical information and data pertinent to preparing preliminary summarization of the clinical history.

-preparing the body for release (indicating presence of biohazards, radiation implants) and releasing body to appropriate mortuary or funeral home representative

-assisting in photographing gross and microscopic specimens

-performing duties related to administration (maintaining anatomic pathology protocols, maintaining slides) and assuring completion of coding.

-participating in the completion of the autopsy report.

-assisting in organizing and coordinating anatomic pathology conferences

-assuring proper maintenance of equipment, providing adequate supplies


Frozen Section Specimen Management:

-receiving and retrieving samples for the surgical suite

-assisting with preparing the specimen for microscopic exam by the pathologists.

-accurately communicating data from members of the healthcare team to the pathologist and from the pathologist back to the healthcare team.


 Administrative and Educational Duties:

  -performing administrative, budgetary, supervisory, teaching, and other such duties as may be appropriate and assigned

  -applying educational methodologies as needed.

  -participating in safety programs

Basic Knowledge:

-Will have basic knowledge and skills in anatomy/basic microanatomy, general and systemic human pathology, anatomic pathology (surgical pathology techniques, autopsy techniques including toxicology collection techniques, histological methods and techniques includes concepts of immunohistochemistry, concepts of molecular diagnostics, microbiology/immunology, clinical pathology, embryology, laboratory safety, laboratory information systems, laboratory management, medical ethics, medical terminology, general biology, general and organic chemistry, college-level mathematics (through algebra), and educational methodologies.


-demonstrate ethical and moral attitudes and principles, respect for patients, and confidentiality for the patient=s record and/or diagnoses. 

-communicate effectively to enable consultative interactions with members of the healthcare team, external relations, and customer service.



Curriculum for the Pathologists' Assistant M.S. Track:

The 22-month curriculum for the Pathologists' Assistant track is standardized, beginning with a full year of basic science courses and featuring a second year that highlights anatomic pathology techniques courses and practical experience.


 Year 1 Fall: Basic Histology D502
Human Physiology F503
 Year 1 Spring: Gross Anatomy D501
Infectious Microbes and Host Interactions J510
Techniques in Specimen Processing C690
 Year 1 Summer Gross Surgical and Pediatric Pathology Techniques C691
Autopsy and Forensic Pathology Techniques C692
 Year 2 Fall General and Clinical Pathology C693
Practicum for Pathologists' Assistants C695
 Year 2 Spring Systemic Pathology C694
Practicum for Pathologists' Assistants C695
 Year 2 Summer Practicum for Pathologists' Assistants C695

C695 Practicum for Pathologists’ Assistants includes 9-10 months of clinical rotations, starting in mid-August and ending at the end of June. These rotations include gross surgical pathology at the Indiana University Health Pathology Laboratory, autopsy pathology at the Indiana University Health Pathology Laboratory, frozen section management at Indiana University Hospital, gross surgicals and frozens at Eskenazi Health Hospital, surgicals/autopsies/frozens at Roudebush Veteran’s Medical Center Hospital, and forensic autopsies at the Office of the Marion County Coroner. All of these sites are located in downtown Indianapolis; all are within easy walking distance of the IU School of Medicine classroom facilities except the Marion County Coroner’s Office, which is approximately 2-3 miles away.

Although completion of this M.S. track does not require a research experience, interested students may opt to include a research experience.  Students pursuing the thesis option may substitute 2 credits of C859 Research in Pathology  for each of two elective 1-credit practicum experiences from the C695 Practicum for Pathologist Assistants.  At least two additional credits of C859 will be required.  Thesis-option students will continue their research after completion of all Pathologists' Assistant program requirements.  Research will continue until a project, with a thesis equivalent in all respects to other M.S. in Pathology projects/theses, is complete.  Thesis option students will also enroll in C808 Graduate Student Seminar for 1 credit. 

 Part-time Study: Part-time study is not recommended but may be approved for completing the first year curriculum for selected individuals.  However, full-time study is required for all students during the second year of the program. 

Pathologists' Assistant Accreditation, Certification, Etc. grad_Photo6.jpg

 Pathologists' assistant is a recognized specialty accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS), which has established the didactic and clinical experiences necessary for effective education of pathologists' assistants.  The Indiana University School of Medicine Program is fully accredited by NAACLS. 

 Upon completion of an accredited pathologists' assistant program, graduates are eligible to sit for the pathologists' assistant certification examination offered by the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) (  Passing the certification examination is not a requirement for M.S. degree completion, but the credential is required by most employers in the United States.

 The American Association of Pathologists' Assistants (AAPA) is the professional organization for pathologists' assistants in the United States.  The AAPA is the only national organization that unites pathologists' assistants and provides guidelines for their appropriate practice.  Visit the AAPA website at read more about the responsibilities and career opportunities of pathologists' assistants

 Demand for certified pathologists' assistants is high, and the employer demand exceeds the supply of pathologists' assistants produced at present.  Pathologists' Assistants may work in academic medical centers, community hospitals, private laboratories, coroners' and medical examiners' offices, and other locations in which their services are needed.

Dept. of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine Administration Office | Van Nuys Medical Science Building | 635 Barnhill Drive, room A-128 | Indianapolis, IN 46202 Indiana University Health Pathology Laboratory: 350 W. 11th Street, Indianapolis, Indiana 46202