What are you doing now?

I am currently working full-time as a pathologists’ assistant (PA) at London Health Sciences Centre – University Hospital. In this position, I rotate weekly through autopsy and surgical pathology as well as participate in teaching prospective PA students, MLT students and pathology residents.

What was/is the most unexpected part of being a PA and what do you enjoy the most?

Pathologists’ assistants complete very specialized and specific training, and I assumed that my career would center solely on autopsy and surgical pathology. However, through networking, I’ve found PAs in a multitude of positions such as management, tissue banking and academia which is exciting since there’s continued room for growth. As a recent alumna, the thing I enjoy most is working at LHSC. With access to a wide spectrum of specimens from simple to complex, as well as autopsy and forensic pathology, I am continually learning and being challenged.

What advice would you give current PA students/prospective applicants?

Get involved! I found that my extensive involvement in extracurricular and volunteer activities prepared me the most for my career. As a PA your roles and responsibilities go well beyond the grossing bench and autopsy suite (i.e. administrative tasks, teaching initiatives, research projects, etc.) and having time-management expertise really equips you with the ability to multi-task, prioritize and work well under pressure - all skills which are essential for a pathologists’ assistant. 

Steffi Stephenson MClSc-Pathologists' Assistant Graduate 2016

mcarthurWhat are you doing now?

I am employed as the first PA at Cambridge Memorial Hospital, a community-based hospital, in which I developed the role of a Pathologist Assistant, creating all grossing SOPs and the PA employee training program. I gross biopsies, small and large specimens including breast, GI, GU, GYN as well as assist with hospital-consent autopsies.

Graduate study experience and how it has helped or will help your career.

I have two graduate degrees: first is MSc. Pathology research-based, where I learned the basic concepts of pathology and my technical skills in conducting research. I also presented multiple poster and oral presentations, in which I gained confidence in myself and my knowledge. My second graduate degree is MCl.Sc. Pathologist Assistant Program. It is during this experience where I learned how to apply my concepts of pathology into a real world clinical setting. I learned so much knowledge and skills that are extremely important for a career as a PA. I was offered a position at Cambridge Memorial Hospital well before my graduation date, and I was able to confidently develop this role as the first PA due to my specialized training at Western.

Comment on why you initially chose the PA program, e.g. our courses.

I chose to pursue the PA program at Western because this was the first accredited PA program in Canada. I had been a Western student for both my undergraduate degree as well as my research Master’s Degree, and I was excited by the uniqueness and specialized training that this program offered. It gives an excellent background of courses to build up your knowledge base, as well as offers intense training in a clinical setting, allowing you to use your knowledge and apply it to real case settings. It is also very important that Western is affiliated with University Hospital, which is a forensic center and tertiary hospital, therefore you have the opportunity to learn on high profile forensic cases and complex multi-organ specimens during your autopsy and grossing rotations.

Anything else you would like to highlight about yourself.

As one of the first Pathologist’s Assistants to graduate from an accredited PA program in Canada, I am excited to help build this profession and showcase its important role in the Canadian healthcare system. This profession is already greatly established and respected in the United States, and with Westerns PA program expanding and improving every year, Pathologist’s Assistants will be widely recognized in Canada. I hope to continue improving my skills through continued education and help hospitals become more efficient in assessing and processing specimens. 

Kara McArthur MClSc-Pathologists' Assistant Graduate 2013

This program offers very effective teaching. Students are trained to be medical experts and technically efficient. They are also partnered with a growing number of major teaching hospitals and community hospitals in Ontario, which allows students to truly experience the different aspects of the profession. I also did a research project and presented it at national and international meetings. I received 5 full time job offers while still in school and will be working at a major medical teaching hospital upon graduation.  

Lei Gong MClSc-Pathologists' Assistant Graduate 2015

I joined the MClSc Pathologists’ Assistant Program after graduating from Western University with an Honors Specialization in Medical Sciences. Although I initially came in with little background in Pathology, I was able to learn quickly with the help of the great team of PAs and pathologists who guided me through the well-organized and structured curriculum of the program. I especially enjoyed the clinical training that not only taught me the important technical skills required as a PA, but also allowed me to experience firsthand what a typical working day as a PA was really like. The community hospital placement at the end of the program gave me a chance to work independently, with opportunities to study the workflow and quality assurance procedures of a pathology lab in a smaller hospital setting. After the completion of the program, I felt confident in my abilities as a PA and I was soon able to find work as a full time PA.

Currently, I hold a supervisory role within the pathology department at the Foothills Medical Centre, which is also affiliated with the University of Calgary medical school and the U of C PA program. My responsibilities include overseeing the day-to-day operations of the gross room, designing and optimizing standard operating procedures and processes, and staff management. In addition to performing routine gross examinations and autopsies, I am also involved in implementation of quality improvement processes in the lab as well as the training of new PAs, PA students, residents, and MLTs.

Christina Yang, MSc, PA(ASCP)CM 2010 Graduate

The balance between the classroom and hands on training gave me the necessary knowledge and skills to work as a Pathologists’ Assistant (PA). Upon the completion of the course I received two job offers and was able to commence working with minimal additional training.  

Rebekah Carter, MSc, PA(ASCP)CM 2010 Graduate