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Curriculum

The 22-month curriculum for the Pathologists’ Assistant Master of Science degree 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 FallBasic Histology D502
Human Physiology F503
Year 1 SpringGross Anatomy D501
Infectious Microbes and Host Interactions J510
Techniques in Specimen Processing C690
Year 1 SummerGross Surgical and Pediatric Pathology Techniques C691
Autopsy and Forensic Pathology Techniques C692
Year 2 FallGeneral and Clinical Pathology C693
Practicum for Pathologists’ Assistants C695
Year 2 SpringSystemic Pathology C694
Practicum for Pathologists’ Assistants C695
Year 2 SummerPracticum 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 and autopsy pathology at the IU Health Pathology Laboratory, frozen section management at IU Health Indiana University Hospital, gross surgicals and frozens at Eskenazi 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 a few miles away.

Although completion of this MS 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 one-credit practicum experiences from the C695 Practicum for Pathologist Assistants. At least two additional credits of C859 are required. Thesis-option students continue their research after completion of all Pathologists’ Assistant program requirements. Research continues until a project, with a thesis equivalent in all respects to other MS in Pathology projects/theses, is complete. Thesis-option students also enroll in C808 Graduate Student Seminar for one credit.

Pathologists’ Assistant Program Courses

The following courses are included in the 22-month program curriculum.

These courses or their equivalent are offered by other departments (not Pathology and Laboratory Medicine) and are required for program completion.

Basic Histology D502 (4 cr) is offered by the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology. Lecture and laboratory instruction on the microscopic structure of the basic tissues and organs of the body.

Human Physiology F503 (5 cr) is offered by the Physiology and Biophysics Department. Human physiology with emphasis on basic physiological mechanisms of control with regard to membrane, neural, endocrine, reproductive, muscle, cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal, renal and multisystems physiology.

Gross Anatomy D501 (5 cr) is offered by the Anatomy and Cell Biology Department. Introduction to the concepts, terminology, and basic structure of the human body. Prosection of the body uses a regional approach. Emphasis on providing fundamental knowledge of the structure/function of major organ systems, peripheral nervous system, and vascular supply to the trunk, head and neck, limbs, and back.

Infectious Microbes and Host Interactions J510 (3 cr) is offered by the Microbiology and Immunology Department. Emphasis on the molecular and cellular events which permit pathogenic bacteria and viruses to enter the human cells and disrupt cell function while evading the host’s immune system.

These courses are offered by the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and are required for degree completion.

C690 Techniques for Specimen Processing (2 cr.): Tissue procurement, processing, and fixation; histologic staining both routine and special stains; cytopathology techniques in sample preparation; and staining, immunostaining, and electron microscopy sample preparation.

C691 Gross Surgical and Pediatric Pathology Techniques (3 cr.): Proper handling and evaluation of tissues removed during surgery and examined in the surgical or pediatric pathology laboratory.  Embryology will be integrated into the pediatric pathology sequence, along with medical photography and related medical terminology for all topics.

C692 Autopsy and Forensic Pathology Techniques (3 cr.): Techniques involved in all phases of the human post-mortem examination, including evisceration, dissection, description of findings, and preparation of postmortem reports. An additional focus of this course is forensic pathology techniques, along with related medical terminology.

C693 General and Clinical Pathology (4 cr.): Basic concepts of pathologic processes and knowledge of clinical pathology, including clinical chemistry, hematopathology, transfusion medicine, and clinical microbiology tests and procedures used in anatomic pathology.

C694 Systemic Pathology (3 cr.): Organ systems and pathologic issues.

C695 Practicum for Pathologist Assistants (7-9 cr.) provides practical experience in hospital and other settings in surgical, pediatric, autopsy, and forensic pathology. Students perfect their skills in 9-10 modules of training at various facilities throughout Indianapolis. At each practicum site, students receive hands-on training and hone the skills necessary for pathologists’ assistants.

Essential Functions for the Pathologists’ Assistant Program

The following non-academic criteria (essential functions) must be met by all applicants and enrolled students in the IU School of Medicine MS Pathologists’ Assistant Program.

The applicant/student must be able to participate actively in all demonstrations, laboratory exercises, and clinical experiences in the professional program component of the degree. The applicant/student must be able to use a variety of manual and automated techniques to process, dissect, stain, etc. tissue samples from patients. The applicant/student must be able to assess and comprehend the condition of all the patients assigned to him/her for sample procurement, examination, diagnosis and treatment. Such analyses and assessments require the functional use of visual, auditory and somatic sensations.

The applicant/student must be able to communicate effectively, efficiently and sensitively to elicit information, assess non-verbal communications, and transmit information to patients, fellow students, faculty, staff and all members of the health care team. Communication skills include speaking, reading and writing as well as the observation skills described above.

The applicant/student must have sufficient motor function to perform basic dissection and prosection techniques, operate equipment commonly encountered in gross surgical, autopsy, and frozen section laboratories, record data legibly as needed, and interpret and respond to examination results.

The applicant/student must be able, in a timely fashion, to measure, calculate, reason, analyze, evaluate and synthesize. Due to the detailed nature of some laboratory tasks, this may require long periods of concentration. Problem solving, the critical skill demanded of pathologists’ assistants, requires all of these intellectual abilities. In addition, the applicant/student must be able to comprehend three-dimensional relationships and understand the spatial relationships of structures.

The applicant/student must possess the emotional health required for full utilization of his/her intellectual abilities, the exercise of good judgment, the prompt completion of all responsibilities, and the development of mature, sensitive and effective relationships with patients, fellow workers, other students and others members of the health care team. Applicants/students must also be able to tolerate taxing workloads, function effectively under stress, adapt to changing environments, display flexibility, and learn to function in the face of uncertainties inherent in clinical problems. Compassion, integrity, concern for others, commitment and motivation are personal qualities which each applicant/student should possess.

Entry Level Competencies for Pathologists’ Assistants

Graduates of the MS Pathologists’ Assistant program at IU School of Medicine have basic knowledge and skills in anatomy/basic microanatomy, general and systemic human pathology, anatomic pathology, surgical pathology techniques, autopsy techniques (including toxicology collection), 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.

Graduates also demonstrate ethical and moral attitudes and principles, respect for patients, and confidentiality for the patient’s record and/or diagnoses, and they can communicate effectively to enable consultative interactions with members of the health care team, external relations, and customer service.

Graduates of the IU School of Medicine MS Pathologists’ Assistant program are able to demonstrate the behaviors required for entry-level competency in core areas.

Following completion of the MS Pathologists’ Assistant program, graduate are able to:

  • Assist in the preparation and performance of surgical specimen dissection by assuring appropriate specimen accessioning, obtain pertinent clinical information and studies, describe gross anatomic features, dissect surgical specimens, and prepare and submit tissues for appropriate processing.
  • Obtain and submit specimens for additional analytic procedures, including immunostaining, flow cytometry, image analysis, bacterial and viral cultures, toxicology, and electron microscopy.
  • Assist in photographing gross and microscopic specimens.
  • Perform duties relating to administration, including maintaining surgical pathology protocols, reports/data and assisting in completion of coding/billing.
  • Assure proper maintenance of equipment, provide supplies, maintain cleanliness of surgical pathology suite.
  • Assist in organizing and coordinating anatomic pathology conferences.

Following completion of the MS Pathologists’ Assistant program, graduate are able to:

  • Assist 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.
  • Assist 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.
  • Obtain specimens for special studies (flow cytometry, image analysis, immunohistochemistry).
  • Perform special procedures such as coronary artery perfusion, central nervous system perfusion, enucleation, inner ear bone dissection, spinal cord removal, etc.
  • Gather and organize clinical information and data pertinent to preparing preliminary summarization of the clinical history.
  • Prepare the body for release (indicating presence of biohazards, radiation implants) and releasing body to appropriate mortuary or funeral home representative.
  • Assist in photographing gross and microscopic specimens.
  • Perform duties related to administration (maintaining anatomic pathology protocols, maintaining slides) and assuring completion of coding.
  • Participate in the completion of the autopsy report.
  • Assist in organizing and coordinating anatomic pathology conferences.
  • Assure proper maintenance of equipment, providing adequate supplies.

Following completion of the MS Pathologists’ Assistant program, graduate are able to:

  • Receive and retrieve samples for the surgical suite.
  • Assist with preparing the specimen for microscopic exam by the pathologists.
  • Accurately communicate data from members of the healthcare team to the pathologist and from the pathologist back to the healthcare team.

Following completion of the MS Pathologists’ Assistant program, graduate are able to:

  • Perform administrative, budgetary, supervisory, teaching, and other such duties as may be appropriate and assigned.
  • Apply educational methodologies as needed.
  • Participate in safety programs.