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Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2012 Dec;136(12):1565-70. doi: 10.5858/arpa.2011-0629-OA.

Value-added benefits and utilization of pathologists' assistants.

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Pathologists' Assistant Department, Rosalind Franklin University, North Chicago, Illinois, USA.



The role of pathologists' assistants (PAs) in terms of surgical and autopsy prosection has been well established; however, the role of PAs in areas beyond surgical and autopsy pathology, such as laboratory administration and management, education, and research, is not so well understood.


To determine the scope and extent of ancillary duties (value-added benefits) performed by PAs.


A self-administered, electronic survey was disseminated to all members of the American Association of Pathologists' Assistants with fellowship status to analyze the ancillary duties PAs provide in laboratory administration and management, education, and research.


Respondents were from 44 states and most had 6 or more years of experience in various work settings: community hospitals (50%), academic hospitals (30%), private pathology laboratories (15%), and "other" settings (5%). Most were involved in quality assurance programs (64.0%), laboratory accreditation inspections (56.2%), and a large percentage (44.4%) also had direct supervisory experience. Roughly 36% of respondents reported training residents in prosection skills in a clinical setting, while a small percentage reported teaching for-credit courses in a classroom setting (4.9%). The primary research responsibility was fresh tissue procurement for tumor banking (52.7%).


Pathologists' assistants currently are involved in ancillary duties beyond surgical and autopsy prosection. Our findings indicate that PAs have a desire to become more involved in these duties, and there is opportunity for pathologists to benefit further by using PAs to the full extent of their knowledge, skills, and interests.

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