Spotlight on CAPACP Forensic Section Chair, Jacqueline L. Parai
Tue, 01 Dec 2015

Student, Joseline Rodriguez interviewed Jacqueline L. Parai, MD, MSc, FRCPC, Founder-Forensic Pathology.

1. What interested you into becoming a pathologist?

I became interested in pathology as it was a laboratory based specialty of medicine that would allow me to use logic and my laboratory skills.  I became interested in Forensic Pathology as it was a subspecialty of Pathology that would allow me to conduct autopsies.  It would also allow me to use my knowledge regarding cardiac pathology, clinical pathology, neuropathology and toxicology.  Put another way, Forensic Pathology would allow me to apply knowledge of many different areas of pathology in my day to day practice.

2. About how many average cases do you get daily?

The number of cases done in a day depends on the complexity of the case and the assistance available. 

3. Is this job stressful? or enjoyable since it's so busy?

All jobs can be stressful.  Part of the training for the job is learning how to deal with the day to day stress associated with the job.  If a trainee is unable to do so, they are encouraged to pursue another area of pathology.

4. What are some qualities that are needed to go into this career?

You need to be a good histopathologist, strong with your ability to make visual observations, objective, logical, be able to write concise but detailed reports and have strong communication skills.

The specific objectives of training to become a Forensic Pathologist in Canada can be found on the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada/objectives of training in Subspecialty of Forensic Pathology :
http://www.royalcollege.ca/rc/faces/oracle/webcenter/portalapp/pages/viewDocument.jspx?document_id=TZTEST3RCPSCED000897&_afrLoop=14550521150815405&_afrWindowMode=0&_afrWindowId=11c52ookgg_1#!%40%40%3F_afrWindowId%3D11c52ookgg_1%26document_id%3DTZTEST3RCPSCED000897%26_afrLoop%3D14550521150815405%26_afrWindowMode%3D0%26_adf.ctrl-state%3D11c52ookgg_26

5. Are you credible to do autopsies?

I am certified in Anatomical Pathology and Forensic Pathology by the American Board of Pathology.  I am also a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada in Anatomic Pathology and hold the Certificate of Founder designation in Forensic Pathology by the Royal College of  Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.

6. Who requests an autopsy? 

In general there are two types of autopsies conducted in Canada – those done under next of kin/family consent (typically conducted in hospital following an in-hospital death. and those done as required under the provincial or territorial medico-legal death investigation system (these are typically sudden unexpected deaths in the community or deaths that are thought to have occurred from suicidal, homicidal or accidental means..  For the latter, it depends on the type of death investigation system that is present within the province or territory.  In a Coroner’s system it is the Coroner who requests the autopsy; in a Medical Examiner system it is the Medical Examiner who requests and performs the autopsy.

7. Why do pathology reports take so long?

The time it takes to complete an autopsy report depends on whether additional testing needs to be done.  Additional testing (such as microscopy, toxicology, DNA analysis etc.. will take additional time.

8. What advice would you give to someone if they were going also into this career? 

Train and study well as the knowledge you learn during your residency and fellowship training will go with you throughout your career.

9. What do you generally do everyday?

My job not only includes conducting autopsies and writing autopsy reports; I also teach medical students and residents, do research and participate in various administrative duties.

12. What was your major in college? What major would you recommend for someone interested in pathology?

My undergraduate degree was in analytical chemistry.  In Canada, you must complete medical school before going into a residency in pathology.  Because pathology is a subspecialty of medicine, there really is no specific undergraduate degree that would prepare you for pathology.  Having a background in anatomy or histology may be helpful, but many of us in this profession did not major in anatomy.

13. What would you say was the hardest obstacle while heading towards your major?
I really enjoyed my undergraduate degree in chemistry, I had great professors and my brain enjoyed the laboratory work as well as the mathematical skills needed to complete the degree.