Pathology practice in a resource-poor setting: Mwanza, Tanzania

Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2011 Feb;135(2):191-3. doi: 10.5858/135.2.191.


Practicing pathology in a resource-poor setting presents many challenges that are unfamiliar to pathologists in developed countries. Typically, the number of pathologists in a resource-poor country is small, even as a percentage of the total medical workforce. Although pathology should play a central role in the delivery of appropriate health care to the patient, this role is often hidden and not well recognized by patients, clinical colleagues, or other stakeholders, such as administrators and politicians. The public tends to think of the pathologist as the "Doctor of the Dead." The financial rewards are also small. Consequently, it is difficult to recruit physicians into pathology. The lack of human and material resources allocated to pathology leads inevitably to a large gap in health care for many patients, with an unmeasured negative effect, at both the individual and societal levels. Correct management of the patient, even when available, is not administered because of the lack of pathologic information. Surgery may be performed without the benefit of preoperative or postoperative pathologic confirmation of the diagnosis, let alone identification of important prognostic information. The pathologist plays a key role as an educator in developing countries to medical students, allied health professionals, and medical colleagues and is, therefore, called upon to provide many hours of teaching. The pathologist is uniquely qualified to provide knowledge and understanding regarding the diseases in the region where he or she practices. Although many of these challenges are universal, they are perhaps nowhere more acute than in resource-poor settings.

MeSH terms

  • Developing Countries*
  • Health Resources
  • Humans
  • Pathology / organization & administration*
  • Pathology / standards
  • Physicians*
  • Tanzania
  • Workforce