The power of pathology

In a year of challenges and uncertainty, it has highlighted the important role of our healthcare workers who not only work on the frontline but also the hundreds of staff who work hard behind the scenes. One of the departments that has played a crucial role particularly in the last six months is Pathology.

Today is International Pathology Day, an annual awareness day dedicated to highlighting the fundamental role of pathology in the healthcare community and in the lives of everyone. The study of the nature and causes of diseases through diagnostic testing has never been more prevalent.

Professor William Rawlinson, Senior Medical Virologist, Director of Serology Virology and OTDS Laboratories (SAViD), NSW Health Pathology, Randwick, has been working with teams for many years in preparation for the next infection. 

“In virology, we are very used to the concept of a newly emerged infection. We have been planning this for literally 40 years. We hoped we would never see it, but we planned for it. A lot of people have worked for a long time behind the scenes and that research and knowledge informs what we do now," said Professor Rawlinson.

"I think you then have to look at particular populations, you have to look at pregnant women, you have to look at kids, you have to look at elderly people, people with immune suppression and you have to think about how you design and interpret your tests for those people. We are doing that now with SARS-CoV-2, it’s a continuous process."

The power of pathology has been at the forefront especially within the last six months. Now more than ever, the healthcare system has leaned on the knowledge and expertise of Pathologists to guide and protect the local community.

Professor Alison Kesson, Head of Pathology, Infectious Diseases and Microbiology at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, has been leading her team since the beginning of March to process the thousands of samples to test for COVID-19.

"Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the Infectious Diseases and Microbiology department has been very busy supporting all the activities in the hospital related to COVID-19. Our main role has been the testing for the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the Molecular Pathology section with test numbers now reaching up to 300 per day or over 2,000+ per week,” said Professor Kesson.

“All this testing has required extra equipment and an increase in staff so that we can provide results within 24 hours or earlier. We also provide all the support for infection control and oversee the Hospital’s infection control procedures to keep our patients and staff safe and protected from acquiring the infection”.


International Pathology Day is an annual initiative led by The Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia and takes place on 11 November.