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Laboratory Medicine and the study of disease for medical students

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Temerty Medicine’s MD Program is one of the largest undergraduate medical education programs in Canada. 

To treat patients, you must understand disease and its diagnosis. 

Faculty in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology can help future clinicians understand the importance and relevance of Laboratory Medicine to clinical care and the career paths it opens.

Why is Laboratory Medicine and Pathology important for clinical care?

Did you know that approximately 70-80% of treatment decisions in a hospital are based on what happens in the clinical laboratory? 

Multidisciplinary teams of experts in various areas of Laboratory Medicine analyze samples, make diagnoses, provide treatment guidelines and recommendations, and conduct leading research into the causes, diagnosis, and treatments of disease.

Physicians and scientists in Laboratory Medicine use a wide array of conventional tests and advanced molecular diagnostics to provide clinicians, such as oncologists, immunologists, and infectious disease physicians with comprehensive diagnoses.

As an MD student, learning more about Laboratory Medicine will help you to:

  • become a better clinician as you understand the role laboratory medicine specialists play in treating your patient and how you can work together to improve health outcomes.
  • understand more career options so you can discover what you love to do. There are as many areas of Laboratory Medicine as there are clinical specialties so find out which one is right for you.
  • see that the stereotypes and myths about Lab Medicine and Pathology just aren’t true. Pathologists work in a team setting and use their communication skills to play a vital role in patient care.
  • broaden your skillset and knowledge in other specialties, such as medicine and surgery, by exploring Laboratory Medicine through Electives.

Find out more about our Postgraduate Residency Training Programs

Get experience of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology

Medical students at the University of Toronto can learn more through several opportunities.

Foundations teaching (years 1 and 2)

In the first year of your studies, you will be introduced to Laboratory Medicine, including lessons on:

  • Histology
  • Inflammation and Infection
  • Blood
  • Microbiology
  • Integrated Anatomy

You will learn from, and interact with, Pathologists and Medical Microbiologists during Case based learning (CBL) – introduction to medicine course sessions. Find out more about the structure of Foundations.

You can arrange shadowing experiences with experts in disease diagnostics as part of your Enriching Educational Experiences (EEEs).

You also receive opportunities such as an introduction to Forensic Pathology from the Chief Forensic Pathologist of the Ontario Forensic Pathology Service (OFPS), and Deputy Chief Coroner, Dr. Michael Pollanen, who teaches medical students and invites them to visit the OFPS.

Clerkship (years 3 and 4)

During Clerkship, you will hear from Pathologists in Bridge Courses: Transition to Clerkship (TTC) and the Transition to Residency course (TTR).

Electives (open to medical students studying at institutions in Canada)
If you are interested in obtaining experience in Laboratory Medicine, apply for an elective rotation within our department. 

The Electives Program at the University of Toronto places several categories of students:

  • University of Toronto medical students during their Clerkship Elective block
  • Visiting students from AFMC/AAMC accredited medical schools
  • Visiting students from International FAIMER accredited medical schools. 

You can apply if:

  • you are registered in the Clerkship phase of your medical program at a Canadian or US medical school when the elective would take place. 
  • you are registered in the second to last (penultimate) or final year of your medical program (not including postgraduate training) at an International medical school when the elective would take place. 

Electives can take place across our hospital partner network in institutions such as:

  • The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) 
  • The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) 
  • Sinai Health: Mount Sinai
  • Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
  • Unity Health Toronto: St. Michael’s Hospital and St. Joseph’s Health Centre
  • University Health Network: Toronto General Hospital (UHN-TGH)
  • Women's College Hospital 

University of Toronto students can find out more through the MD program website.

Students at other universities, see the UME Electives Program website for full details and how to apply.

You usually must register by the first week of October each year.

Enriching Educational Experiences (shadowing opportunities)

Open to medical students at the University of Toronto.

An important part of Pathology is the gross examination. Performed by Pathologists’ Assistants and Pathologists, this begins with the overall description of a surgical specimen in terms of size, shape, colour, and weight.

Any suspicious masses or lesions will be correlated with relevant clinical history to better guide which samples will be relevant for microscopic and/or molecular studies. Proper gross examination is key to an accurate tissue diagnosis, which determines clinical management.

At Mount Sinai hospital, a team led by Dr. Carlo Hojilla performs virtual gross rounds every Friday. During these online educational sessions, we talk through a full specimen examination, case management, and potential pathologic diagnoses and differentials.

You can apply to join the Virtual Gross Rounds. Anyone with a interest in Pathology is welcome.

A group of students sitting at a table with a laptop and smiling

Special Interest Group in Pathology

A fun group led by current residents and MD students at the University of Toronto, this group explores an interest in Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.

Through the ‘Case of the Month’ members can compete for cash prizes.
The group is only open to current MD students at the University of Toronto.

If you are a medical student at U of T and would like to hear about their activities or events, email Hayley (hayley.good@mail.utoronto.ca) or Bryant (bryantby.lim@mail.utoronto.ca). 

Corwyn Rowsell

Coordinator, Undergraduate Medical School Education

Corwyn Rowsell

416-864-6060 Ext: 2367
RowsellCo@smh.ca

Location: Unity Health Toronto: St. Michael’s Hospital
30 Bond St., Room CC 2-017

Dr. Rowsell's faculty profile