To the Editor.—We read with interest the review by Koch et al1 on medical education in pathology, which outlined strategies for undergraduate and graduate curricula based on 5 educational paradigms: cognitive load, competency-based learning, boot camps, peer-assisted learning, and the flipped classroom. As junior doctors and novice educators, we have benefited from and leveraged on many of these strategies, including peer-assisted learning and the flipped classroom approach. However, we believe that current circumstances, namely the diminishing status of pathology in medical student curricula and the rise of technology in medical education, demand novel strategies. To this end, we propose 2 suggestions for consideration.
First, we propose that pathologists be engaged more widely in preclinical medical education, in particular during cadaveric dissection or anatomy teaching sessions. These sessions are traditionally run by anatomists, and in recent years, surgeons, who have the experience and expertise to emphasize particular areas of surgical importance in the dissection hall.2 In a similar vein, we propose that pathologists could also play a role in the dissection hall and anatomy teaching. Integration of pathology into the dissection hall has been suggested before,3 although the focus has been on the mere identification of pathologies, such as pulmonary tuberculosis or a colonic tumor. We believe that in addition to the identification of pathologies, a surgical pathologist would have an opportunity at this instance to discuss how such a specimen may be handled and processed in the laboratory and its clinical implications (eg, diagnosis, staging, and prognostication of malignancy). This would help medical students connect the dots on the role of pathology in the wider clinical setting and potentially inspire interested students to consider pathology as a career.
Second, we suggest the development and incorporation of augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) tools for specimen grossing in postgraduate pathology training. VR has been used in a wide variety of surgical disciplines, such as neurosurgery,4 to overcome the steep learning curve and improve understanding of complex anatomy. Similarly, grossing is a crucial part of pathology training, which requires trainees to learn how to handle myriad specimens, including en bloc specimens.1 The use of technology in this regard is encouraging in that it allows the initial cognitive load to be spread out over several sessions in a safe simulated environment. Other postulated benefits of AR and VR that may be applicable to pathology include enhancing trainees' ability to learn, synthesize, and incorporate knowledge and ideas through virtual, augmented, and even mixed reality tools remotely, especially crucial in the current worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.5 It is high time for digital education to be used in pathology education to allow trainees the opportunity to practice even in the event of isolation notice or deployment to the pandemic's frontlines.
While these suggestions are promising in theory, we concede that further study is required, and we hope that future research can investigate their utility in achieving learning outcomes and in increasing interest in the field of pathology.
The authors have no relevant financial interest in the products or companies described in this article.