There is a global decline in medical graduates pursuing pathology careers, resulting in a broadening gap between workforce demand and supply.
To determine causes of low popularity of pathology as a career and develop strategies to avoid a workforce crisis.
An online survey was distributed and yielded 1247 responses, including 609 Australian medical students from 10 medical schools, 119 prevocational doctors from 10 major teaching hospitals in New South Wales, 175 residents, and 344 pathologists throughout Australia.
Compared with pathology-uninterested peers, students and prevocational doctors interested in pathology careers were more likely to value research opportunities (57 of 166 [34.3%] pathology-interested respondents versus 112 of 521 [21.5%] pathology-uninterested respondents; odds ratio [OR] = 1.91, P < .001), have children (19 of 165 respondents [11.5%] versus 22 of 522 respondents [4.2%]; OR = 2.96, P < .001), and self-identify as introverted (87 of 167 respondents [52.1%] versus 179 of 526 respondents [34%]; OR = 2.1, P < .001). Those uninterested in pathology were more likely to value patient interaction (363 of 524 respondents [69.3%] versus 71 of 166 respondents [42.8%]; OR = 3.02, P < .001). Lack of exposure to pathology was the most-cited reason for rejecting pathology (after lack of patient interaction). There was poor understanding of the role of pathologists and low confidence in the ability to interpret histopathology reports among medical students and prevocational doctors. Negative stereotypes regarding pathologists were identified.
Active interventions increasing exposure of medical students and prevocational doctors to pathology as a career, as well as promotion of research opportunities and potential for work–life balance, are needed to address pending workforce shortages.
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The authors have no relevant financial interest in the products or companies described in this article.
This work, in part, was presented as a poster at the United States & Canadian Academy of Pathology annual meeting; March 5, 2020; Los Angeles, California.