Q. I’m will be starting my pathology residency in about a year. Any suggestions for getting prepared for residency? I have been reviewing www.enjoypath.com and others, but wanted to get your opinion.

A. Good for you! When many people think of pathology (do many people think of pathology?), they think of surgical pathology – stuff that comes out of the operating room, biopsies, etc. But there are many other parts to a pathology residency, such as hematopathology, microbiology, forensic pathology, and blood banking. I’ll run through some of the books used in these areas, then I’ll tell you what I would have done if I knew then what I know now.

Surgical pathologyRosai’s Surgical Pathology is probably the most commonly-used book; another good source is the set of AFIP Fascicles (there’s a fascicle on pretty much every organ system). These sources are too in-depth for you now (with one exception that I’ll mention in a minute), and probably too expensive. They’re more for reference than for reading through on a Sunday night. You’ll use them until you’re nauseated when you’re a resident though.

Hematopathology: The best source for this is the AFIP Fascicle on the subject: Tumors of the Bone Marrow. This is the exception to what I said above about reading the fascicles before residency – this one would be great to go through ahead of time. There’s a lot to learn, and if you go through it once, it will make a lot more sense when you get to it in your residency. It’s small enough that you can certainly get through it in a few months.

Microbiology: We used Koneman in our residency program, and I think it is a good textbook. It’s more than you’d want to go through ahead of time though; I’d use something like Clinical Microbiology Made Ridiculously Simple. It has nice drawings and mnemonics, which is something you need in microbiology.

Forensic pathology: A couple good ones for this are put out by DiMaio: a textbook (long) and a handbook (short).

Blood banking: We used McCullough’s Transfusion Medicine text in residency. Nice and short and readable. Here’s a fun game that you might want to try too.

I think if I had it to do over again, I would do three things:
1. Read Robbins. All of it. Maybe twice. I know, I know, it is a “med-school” textbook, but we used it all the time in residency. So did the attendings at times, by the way. It’s no small feat, but should be possible in a year, and it would prepare you well. You might even take notes on the histologic appearance of different tumors and diseases; you would have those to refer to during residency. You can look at websites too (like Webpath and Ed’s Pathology Notes) – and you should – but Robbins will give you a systematic and thorough review.
2. Read the AFIP bone marrow fascicle. I actually did this before my med school rotation in hematopathology, and I was so glad I did. It will make you shine when you get to your rotation.
3. Not worry about the other stuff. The other rotations will be easy enough to go through without advance preparation.

Good luck!