Is the Profession of Anatomic Pathology Shrinking?

Did the number of active pathologists practicing in the United States actually shrink by 17.53% between 2007 and 2017? That is the conclusion of a study published on May 31 by the online Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). This startling finding is our lead story in this issue.

A research team of five pathologists in the United States and Canada determined that the number of active pathologists in the U.S. fell from 15,568 in 2007 to 12,839 in 2017. During that same time, the number of active pathologists in Canada increased by 20.45%, from 1,467 to 1,767.

Another finding of interest is that, even as the number of active pathologists in the U.S. declined, the number of cancer cases increased by 16.88% (from 1,444,920 cases in 2007 to 1,688,780 cases in 2017). The researchers wrote that the number of new cancer cases per U.S. pathologist went from 92.81 in 2007 to 131.54 in 2017. The researchers pointed out that the fewer U.S. pathologists in the U.S. must now handle more cancer cases per pathologist per year.

To help our clients and regular readers understand the significance of these findings, we provide useful business intelligence from Rick Cornell of Santé Consulting. He is nationally-recognized in the pathology profession for his experience in recruiting and placing pathologists over the past 25 years. Indeed, Cornell offers evidence that the job market for pathologists is tightening, as evinced by the higher salaries and benefits being offered by pathology labs with job openings, as well as the shorter time it currently takes young pathologists coming out of residency and fellowship programs to find a good position.

Classic economics says that, if the supply is tight and demand is strong, prices will rise to bring supply and demand into alignment. Cornell’s observations about the robust job market for pathology positions would confirm that this economic principle is in play within the pathology profession. With fewer pathologists in active practice, pathology labs are raising salaries to attract the best candidates for their open positions.

The Dark Report is first in the lab industry to analyze the conclusions in the JAMA study about the significant decline in the number of active pathologists in the U.S. during the 2007-2017 period. We will bring you a more detailed assessment about this surprising trend in future weeks.


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