Clinical Rotations

Clinical Rotations

Anatomic Pathology Rotations

Surgical Pathology

Frozen Section Sign-OutSurgical pathology consists of a four-day rotational cycle, with one resident covering the responsibilities for each day of the cycle. Residents sign-out the majority of specimens they gross, with the exception of small specimens (i.e. biopsies). Surgical pathology is general sign-out, with the exception of dermatopathology and neuropathology. To learn more about general sign-out, please refer to questions and answers.

Day 1 - Frozen Section: Residents are responsible for sectioning specimens and communicating with surgeons. Histotechnologists process the slides. First year residents are on shift from 7:30 AM (operating room start time) until 9:30 PM. Senior residents cover call after 9:30 PM on the weekdays and 5:30 PM on Saturday. All residents are responsible for communicating the results to the surgeon in the operating room and documenting the diagnosis.

Day 2 - Grossing: Grossing is the most rigorous part of surgical pathology. On average, residents gross from 9:00 AM to 6:30 PM as well as two Saturdays per block. Residents are responsible for grossing or triaging specimens that are accessioned before 4:00 PM. Specimens that arrive between 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM are triaged for the following day. Residents often gross the more complex specimens while support staff cover the small specimens (i.e. biopsies). There are two dedicated pathology assistants who help with a variety of activities in the gross room.

Day 3 - Small Sign-out and Preview: Slides for biopsies are usually available at 7:30 AM for the resident to preview and sign-out often begins around 9:00 AM. After sign-out, the resident is responsible for dictating the final diagnosis, ordering stains and contacting physicians with urgent results. In late afternoon, the main cases will be available for the resident to preview. First year residents are not expected to comprehensively preview all of the slides nor all of the cases; the purpose of previewing for first year residents is to review interesting cases in depth, gather paperwork that may be needed for specific cases, and become familiar with the patient’s clinical history. Previewing should never extend beyond 10:00 PM.

Day 4 - Main Sign-out: Residents begin main sign-out mid-morning. Each week there are different attendings on service, so residents experience a variety of diagnostic approaches. Following sign-out, the resident is responsible for dictating, reviewing billing codes, ordering stains, obtaining additional sections, and editing the final report. The resident is also expected to review the operating room schedule for the next day in order to prepare for potential frozen section specimens. On average, most residents are finished by 6:00 PM.

Autopsy Pathology

Autopsy Pathology AssistantTwo residents are assigned to the autopsy service each block. Residents are responsible for verifying consent, communicating with the ordering physician about the decedent's clinical history, performing the autopsy, reviewing the gross and microscopic findings with the attending, and writing the final report. Each autopsy case is presented at the weekly autopsy conference on Thursday mornings and neuroanatomical examinations are performed after fixation on Friday mornings. Autopsy technicians perform eviscerations, although residents are required to learn how to eviscerate in preparation for their forensic pathology rotation. There is a dedicated pathology assistant who assists with organ dissection. Each year approximately 250 autopsies are performed at the University of Virginia. Residents average 50-60 hospital autopsies by the end of their training. Each resident on the autopsy service is responsible for call coverage two Saturdays per block.


Preliminary FNAResidents on the cytology service complete a variety of activities that fluctuate on a daily basis. Generally, residents preview cytology cases, participate in fine needle aspiration procedures, assist with preliminary diagnoses, and attend sign-out. First year residents are encouraged to perform fine needle aspirations on palpable masses and learn how to prepare cytology slides. Highlights of this rotation include interacting with patients, performing procedures, and reasonable working hours. Residents also have the option to spend a few mornings in the histology lab learning how to embed tissue, prepare slides and process stains.


Residents participate in all activities of the diagnostic service of the Division of Neuropathology, which includes the examination of brain smears, frozen sections and permanent sections of neurosurgical specimens, and the gross and microscopic examination of brains obtained from the autopsy material. Consultation case materials submitted from outside centers are also part of the routine evaluation. Residents essentially function as fellows in studying first hand the neuropathological material under the guidance and supervision of a neuropathology fellow and faculty member.

Residents also participate in all clinical and teaching conferences of the division including Neuro-Oncology Tumor Board, Combined Neuropathology Conference, Neuroradiology Rounds, Neuromuscular Conference, Pituitary Conference, Neuropathology Journal Club etc. Projects in clinicopathologic correlation and/or experimental neuropathology may also be possible during this rotation.

Forensic Pathology

First year residents complete their forensic rotation in either Richmond, Virginia (70 miles from Charlottesville) or Roanoke, Virginia (120 miles from Charlottesville). Residents can elect to either commute or relocate for the four-week rotation. Mileage reimbursement or a housing allowance is provided up to $1,200. During the rotation, residents perform autopsies (including eviscerations), visit crime scenes, and contribute to the legal aspects of cases. Works hours are usually from 8:00 AM until 4:00 PM. Most residents average 10-20 cases during this rotation, ten of which can be applied to ACGME board requirements.


Clinical Pathology Rotations

Clinical pathology encompasses cytogenetics, hematopathology, clinical chemistry and toxicology, coagulation,  microbiology and immunology, molecular medicine, and transfusion medicine. There is a year long clinical pathology lecture series, numerous one-on-one discussions with faculty, and bench time with the technologists. The residents take CP call which entails answering questions about appropriate tests, helping clinicians with test interpretation and approving tests that are sent to outside laboratories. The week culminates with a CP call conference in which recent issues that arose during the week are discussed. The resident on call usually presents a teaching point revolving around a call experience. Residents receive ample exposure to quality assessment and control on-site as well as through monthly meetings.