After getting over my initial annoyance at having to be at school bright and early this morning instead of getting to sleep in a little, I have to tell you that I think pathology is awesome! We went on a tour of the pathology lab, and it was really interesting. They had us gown up, and they showed us a colon with polyps in it and a rectum with a cancer in it. We also saw a liver with cancer in it. The liver still had the gall bladder attached, and the gall bladder is very easy to recognize because it is bright green. When the resident cut it, all kinds of dark green bile came oozing out. I never knew until today that bile was so green. The last thing we saw in the path lab was a tech who was dissecting lymph nodes from a patient with breast cancer. She let me touch the nodes, and they feel kind of like hard lumps. Some were enlarged, which she said was not a good sign.
Afterward, we went to the histology lab, and we saw how they make slides. It's a very complicated, multi-step, labor-intensive process. The tissues have to be sectioned, embedded in paraffin wax, trimmed, placed on slides, stained, fixed, labeled, and distributed. I didn't have an appreciation until now of how much work goes on behind the scenes like this. When you go to have a biopsy or a surgery as a patient, there are a lot of people in the hospital who work to prepare your slides for the pathologist.
The last thing that we did was to see the scanning electron microscope (SEM). It was a little confusing because we really didn't know what we were looking at, but the operator was explaining some of the structures to us. We were looking at a kidney slide, and he showed us part of the glomerulus, which is the capillary bed that acts as a filter for the nephrons in the kidneys. The impurities that your kidneys filter out leave the glomerulus and pass into the nephron, where they ultimately get excreted in the urine. We also saw some rough endoplasmic reticulum, and he tried to zoom in on a ribosome for us, but it was too dim for us to be able to see it. I guess I'll just have to take the textbook's word for it about what ribosomes look like.
All I can say after this is that pathology is definitely on my list of possible specialties. I'm not sure yet what I want to do when I grow up, but this is something that I'm considering. It's just really interesting.