College of American Pathologists

  News Release


Published on January 30, 2014

Contact: Laura Diamond
Phone: 202-354-7102

Contact: Charles Fiegl
Phone: 202-354-7134

Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Organizations Address Future Workforce Issues in Joint Statement

Washington, DC—Today, organizations representing pathology and laboratory medicine released the joint statement “Workforce Issues Affecting Pathology and Laboratory Medicine,” illustrating the workforce issues facing pathology and laboratory medicine under today’s health care system, while outlining recommendations to help pathologists best meet patient needs in the future.

The report is the outcome of the December 2013 Pathology Workforce Summit, which convened, for the first time, representatives from 24 professional pathology and laboratory medicine organizations in Washington, D.C., and was sponsored by four major pathology organizations: the College of American Pathologists (CAP), the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP), the Association of Pathology Chairs (APC), and the United States & Canadian Academy of Pathology (USCAP).

“As we continue to see a decreased supply of pathologists and new challenges to laboratory medicine, the future of the pathology workforce is uncertain,” said CAP President Gene N. Herbek, MD, FCAP. “The CAP believes action is needed now to help the pathology and laboratory community meet the needs of our health care system and our patients’ needs in the future.”

Among the meeting’s findings, attendees identified five emerging issues that will impact the pathology work force, includin

  1. A Decreased Supply of Pathologists and Laboratory Professionals. The supply of pathologists and laboratory professionals will decrease substantially over the next 20 years. According to an analysis published in the Archives of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, the supply of active pathologists in the US is projected to fall from about 17,600 full-time equivalents (FTE) in 2010 to about 14,000 FTEs in 2030.
  2. Changes in the Demand for Pathology Services. The demand for pathology and laboratory services over the next 10 to 20 years will be affected by changes in population age and disease incidence. In addition, the mix of services demanded is likely to be affected by new health care technologies and opportunities emerging under Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs).
  3. New Factors Requiring Creative Reconsideration of the Nature of Recruitment and Training and Advocacy for Adequate Resources. The number of new pathologists expected to graduate in the next 15 years is far below the number of pathologists expected to leave practice, and current approaches for training pathologists may not be addressing the changing needs for pathology practice. The discipline itself needs to undertake a timely reconsideration of how best to make use of its available training capacity. Attention needs to be directed both to present areas of need such as forensic medicine and to future needs such as pathology informatics and genomic medicine.
  4. Workforce Projections Must Account for All Members of the Laboratory Team. Laboratory professionals’ roles tend to be technically distinct and complementary, as opposed to subsets, and therefore projections must account for each distinct need or member of the care team.
  5. Access to Education and Training Opportunities. The availability of training programs will be critical in maintaining and developing an adequate supply of qualified pathologists and laboratory professionals.

In response to these issues, participants agreed on three key recommendations to address future workforce issues: (1) reassessing what every pathologist needs to know and identifying new ways to ensure that adequate numbers of pathologists acquire both general skills and subspecialized expertise, especially in key emerging areas; (2) organizing pathology to attract and recruit highly qualified medical and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) students into pathology and laboratory professions; and, (3) reevaluating long-term training expectations to propagate an outlook of lifelong learning to maintain or enhance career opportunities and applicability to current health care delivery systems and payment models.

Moving forward, meeting participants have agreed to adopt the set of recommendations outlined in the joint statement and will continue working together to advance these recommendations for addressing pathology and laboratory medicine workforce issues.

For more information about workforce issues or to read the joint statement, visit the CAP website.

About the College of American Pathologists

As the leading organization for board-certified pathologists, the College of American Pathologists (CAP) serves patients, pathologists, and the public by fostering and advocating excellence in the practice of pathology and laboratory medicine worldwide. With more than 18,000 physician members, the CAP has led laboratory accreditation for more than 50 years with more than 7,600 CAP-accredited laboratories in 50 countries. Find more information about the CAP at Follow CAP on Twitter at @pathologists.