Rebecca Baldassarri, MD, is a pathologist who works within a subspecialty called cytopathology, which means the study of individual cells. Pathologists in other subspecialties more frequently work with biopsies, or tissue samples, from patients. Cytopathology can help pathologists diagnosis a range of conditions throughout the body, from the cervix (Pap smear) to the lungs.
“The procedures used to get patient specimens for cytology can vary, but it usually involves fine-needle aspiration,” Dr. Baldassarri says. This means a physician will insert a thin needle into an area on the body where a problem is suspected, such as a lump or a build-up of extra fluid.
On any given day, Dr. Baldassarri might examine cell samples from the genitourinary system, including the prostate for cancer screening, or the lungs.
“I think our primary role as pathologists is to communicate a diagnosis very clearly to the treating physician,” she says. “And to understand the different dimensions of a patient’s care and his or her medical history.
At Yale School of Medicine, Dr. Baldassarri is an assistant professor of pathology.