Pathology has a reputation for being the most easy-going of rotations. I found that to be true! Not only did the reasonable hours (8 am – 5 pm) allow me to catch up on sleep, but we also had first pick of the Pathology candy bowl, a hospital institution much appreciated by sleep- and food-deprived students, interns, and residents.
The Pathology Department also has a wonderful staff. Not only did they graciously invite us to their potluck and Yankee swap on the very first day of the rotation, but they also were thrilled to show us what they do. The lab technicians showed us how they dropped pieces of formalin-fixed tissues into liquid paraffin wax, cooled it, then shaved it into ultrathin slices. The ultrathin slices were then placed on glass slides and a glass-fronted machine automatically stained the slides in a series of steps before our eyes. The lab techs even kept a box with some of their coolest slides, which included cross-sections of an iguana tail and an owl eye.
But as much as I enjoyed discussing labwork abnormalities and reviewing blood smears, I’m glad to be finished with my Pathology rotation. Maybe some people became used to performing necropsies, but I never did. Necropsy differs from cadaver dissection in an anatomy lab, and it wasn’t just repulsive, it was disturbing. I do understand the importance of necropsies, though: they provide closure for grieving owners, help curb the spread of infectious disease, settle legal disputes, and continually educate the veterinary field. So while it was a laidback 3 weeks, I’ll be glad to move back into the land of the living.