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Pathologists' Assistant (PA) M.Sc Program

Pathologists’ Assistants (PAs) are “physician extenders” for anatomic pathologists. PAs perform delegated medical tasks under the supervision of a medically qualified pathologist.  They perform initial examination, dissection, and gross description of surgically removed tissues, assist in dissection of bodies during autopsies, and perform intraoperative frozen sections.  They possess highly standardized skills related to each of these procedures which allow pathologists to spend more of their time looking at slides.

***For the most current information regarding the program, admission criteria, application materials, and important dates, please visit
cumming.ucalgary.ca/gse/programs/pathologists-assistant.

The University of Calgary has launched a new Pathologists' Assistant (PA) M.Sc. training program as a specialization within the Medical Sciences Graduate Program starting July 2012. The program’s Preliminary Report has been approved by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS), an American agency that accredits training programs of allied health professionals who work in anatomic pathology or clinical pathology laboratories.  NAACLS approval is based upon a formal evaluation process demonstrating that the program appears to meet all requirements for formal accreditation; however, full accreditation can not occur until: (1) students are actually progressing through the program, (2) additional documentation (i.e., self study) is submitted, and (3) NAACLS has performed a formal site visit. For additional information please visit NAACLS, call 847·939·3597 or mail;

National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences
5600 N. River Rd.
Suite 720
Rosemont, IL 60018-5119

Accredited North American PA training programs are normally two year M.Sc. degrees, which may be thesis-based, course-based, or some training programs offer both options.  There is currently only one NAACLS accredited PA training program in Canada and it offers both options.

The new University of Calgary PA M.Sc. training program is a 24 month continuous (excluding university holidays), intensive thesis-based program with Calgary Laboratory Services (CLS) as the clinical affiliate providing the practicum training.

We also hope to offer a course-based PA training program after the thesis-based program is underway.

Year 1 - begins in July with MDSC 751.43, Orientation and Clinical Rotations for PAs.  Also in the summer of the first year, the students take an online medical terminology course, pick Faculty Supervisors, and select thesis research projects. In September, students begin the 1st year courses in Human Anatomy (MDSC 703) and Human Physiology (MDSC 604).  In January, Human Physiology continues and students take a one term course in pathology (MDSC 515); both courses end in April.  In May of the 1st year, the students take a human histology practicum with 1st year pathology residents. The thesis proposal is defended at the end of the 1st year. 

Year 2 – throughout this year, the students complete required practicums at CLS in autopsy pathology, Surgical Pathology, and Pediatric Pathology. 

Thesis research is completed throughout both the 1st and 2nd year, normally culminating in a thesis defense at the end of the 2nd year.

After graduation, students are eligible to sit the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) PA board-certification examination.

The job market for board-certified PAs is excellent, with jobs available in Alberta and throughout North America.

The Department of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine (DPLM), which has > 80 clinical and GFT faculty members, provides clinical and didactic instruction and administrative support for the program. CLS provides access to its facilities, staff, and clinical materials for training. CLS has had a long standing affiliation agreement with the DPLM and the University of Calgary for training residents and medical students and the University of Calgary Head of the DPLM is a member of CLS’ Executive leadership team.

Up to three positions are available each year. Applications are due March 30 for the start date of July 1 each year. There is only one start date per year, and applicants who are unable to start on July 1 are urged not to apply. Admission requirements are based on the Medical Sciences Graduate Program, and can be found here: ucalgary.ca/mdsc/Admissions. If you meet the admission requirements, and can perform the essential functions, please apply using the online application form, which is found here: ucalgary.ca/mdsc/guidelines. Please note, supervisors for research projects will be coordinated AFTER admission to the program, during the first two months. When applying, simply state ‘TBD’ in the supervisor/project fields.

After the application deadline the selection committee will review the applications and interviews will be set up with appropriate candidates. Successful candidates will be informed as soon as possible after the interview process.

Successful candidates will be informed as soon as possible after the interview process.

The following table shows the outcome of the program since its first graduation class in 2014:

  2014 2015
Graduation Rate 2/2 3/3
Exam Pass Rate 1/1 (100%) 0/0
Attrition Rate 0/2 (0%) 0/3 (0%)
Placement Rate 2/2 (100%) 3/3 (100%)

If, after reviewing the above documents, you have specific questions, please email Dr. Amy Bromley, the Program Director, at amy.bromley@cls.ab.ca