Careers in Healthcare S2 E4 Pride Month : Marie, Consultant Pathologist

Marie’s a consultant pathologist. That means she looks at skin tissue samples through a microscope to discover a patient’s diagnosis. Recently, Marie’s also been involved in management and education roles.


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Marie's pathway to becoming a consultant pathologist

In school, Marie had always been interested in science. She considered doing a Chemistry degree at University. When a few friends started talking about applying to study Medicine, she thought she might apply too. For Marie, Medicine wasn’t a lifelong ambition but something that she only considered towards the end of school.

Marie explains that when she went to medical school, pathology was a large part of the undergraduate curriculum. There were lots of very motivational tutors who inspired her interest in the field. When she became a doctor, Marie enjoyed going along to pathology conferences. She says Pathology caught her attention because it’s a little bit off the mainstream.

Marie's typical day

Marie says no 2 days are quite the same as a pathologist, which is one of the reasons she likes it! She usually comes into the office, check her emails and then begins specimen dissection. She might also spend a couple of hours looking at the new skin specimens that have arrived in the department.

Every specimen must be examined and reported on in detail. First, they need to be processed through the laboratory and made into slides for the microscope. With help from a biomedical science support worker, Marie carefully examines the slides under the microscope and dictates a report.

Sometimes Marie is teaching a trainee pathologist, so she’ll be supervising their specimen dissections. Marie spends lots of time with trainees, where they can look at cases together, discuss them and learn together.

Marie's work as an associate postgraduate dean

Before Marie became an associate postgraduate dean, she’d already been training programme director for pathology in her region. She loved teaching about her subject. Marie says that the associate postgraduate dean role appealed to her because she could have more involvement in the organisation, management and quality of people’s training across Scotland. She says it’s something quite new for her, but she thinks it’s always good to have new challenges to look forward to and get involved in!

Since Marie’s become associate postgraduate dean role, she’ll usually have a few meetings during the week. At certain times of the year, she’ll have to spend time looking at things like the National Training Surveys that trainees do around Scotland. The survey allows trainee doctors to comment on the quality of their training. Based on the results, Marie and her team will decide which training programs are doing well and which have some difficulties or need some improvement.

Top skills for pathologists

Because of the workload Marie has, she says the ability to prioritise is important. Every week, she has a large workload to get through, so she always needs to consider which task is the top priority. For pathologists, the top skills are attention to detail and continued curiosity about your field. You need to be able to keep up to date on new developments in pathology.

Marie's experience with NHSScotland

Recently, Marie’s been involved in setting up and leading the LGBTQ+ staff network in her Health Board. She says it’s been a personal goal for her. When she was in the early stages of her career, she noticed that there weren’t very many LGBTQ+ role models around in the workplace or in educational settings. When she moved into a more senior role, she decided that she needed to be that person that she needed when she was younger. The network now has a great core group, who all have lots of different skills from education to communications. Together, they all work to create a more inclusive workplace for their Board. Marie says the initiative has been well supported by the organisation and that she’s looking forward to the network growing once the pandemic is over.

In terms of advice for LGBTQ+ people considering where they might like to work, Marie offers some suggestions. She says we should all be able to be effective team members. Part of being a great team member is being yourself and not having the distraction of hiding or filtering aspects of who you are. Marie says we should all be able to come into work and be free to be ourselves without fear of judgement or being undermined.

Marie says in the past she’s found herself in a position where she didn't feel comfortable being out. As a gay woman, there’ve been times when she didn't feel comfortable disclosing that aspect of herself. It can be very difficult to build effective relationships with your colleagues if you're always hiding what’s an important part of yourself. However, Marie says that it’s great that we've reached a point now where she feels the prevailing culture is one of openness and sharing the things about ourselves that are important to us.

Marie's advice for you

If you’re interested in becoming a pathologist, Marie recommends being able to demonstrate your commitment to the field as early as possible. If you can, attend online sessions with some relevant professional organisations. Marie suggests the Pathological Society or the Royal College of Pathologists. Work experience with a pathologist might also be a possibility once pandemic restrictions have been lifted.

Find out more 

We hope you enjoyed learning about Marie's work as a consultant pathologist. Find out more about different roles in NHSScotland by visiting our blog.

If you’d like to read about NHSScotland careers, including those in medicine, explore our careers.