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MHS - Pathologists’ Assistant

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Pathologists’ assistants combine profound knowledge of human anatomy and disease systems with clinical procedural skills to help a pathologist diagnose diseases, assist in autopsies and ensure successful treatment for all patients.

Program Overview

Understand disease, uncover the diagnosis and ensure continued patient health

As a pathologists’ assistant, you’ll uncover the many factors preventing the healthy function of organs and body systems. Our NAACLS-accredited program — one of only 11 of its kind in the U.S. and Canada — teaches you to examine, process and prepare tissue specimens for a variety of clinical tests and procedures. The skills you acquire place you in high demand in hospitals, clinical laboratories, research and medical teaching facilities.

Our program emphasizes a strong foundation in the theory and application of anatomical, surgical and autopsy pathology. You’ll become proficient in such procedures as light microscopy, biomedical imaging, frozen sections and tumor triage. This combination of knowledge and technical skill enables you to competently identify diseases, assist in post-mortem examinations, and compile accurate clinical histories.

State-of-the-art facilities, such as our clinical skills lab, blend the classroom and laboratory dynamic for a collaborative and hands-on learning experience. Your 12-month rotations place you in both community and university hospitals, giving you the opportunity to apply your skills in settings for both surgical and autopsy pathology and further define your career goals.    


A faculty member assists a student with putting on a white coat


Student Event

A student smiles in her seat during the white coat ceremony.

Leadership training

Quinnipiac University pathologists' assistant student Ki’Essence Culbreath, MHS ’19, waiting to receive her coat at the Pathologists' Assistant White Coat Ceremony.

Taking the next step

The pathologists’ assistant program hosted its inaugural white coat ceremony in April of 2019 to celebrate the completion of the academic portion of its first-year students’ graduate education. The students of the Class of 2019 have dispersed throughout the country to begin their clinicals.

The program was one of Quinnipiac’s first master’s programs, graduating about 600 students since 1973. Program alumni are working in almost every state — 49 in all. It’s also one of just 9 such programs in the United States, with 2 additional in Canada.

“We have gained national recognition. We want our students to understand that we value them — and all that they have accomplished and continue to accomplish.”
Robert D. Cottrell
Director of the pathologists’ assistant program


A woman in lab unscrewing a jar lid

Looking to the future

As a student, Liz Pitroff, MHS ’21, already has a "job notebook" filled with her aspirations, which include working for a Connecticut hospital and staying in contact with Quinnipiac.


Student Spotlight: Liz Pitroff, MHS '21

A woman in a laboratory cutting up specimen for a slide

Breaking barriers

Pitroff and her husband are very conscious about exposing their daughter to pushing through artificial boundaries about women pursuing careers in STEM.

Building a family and a career

After completing a bachelor’s degree in three years, Liz Pitroff, MHS ’21, set her sights on earning a master of health science at Quinnipiac University.

And raising a 9-year-old daughter. And moving to Connecticut. And looking at her future through an eye-opening, 13-headed microscope.

For Pitroff, a pathologists’ assistant student in the School of Health Sciences, life in graduate school has been a wonderful whirlwind of classes, calendars and, yes, family hikes — every chance she gets.

“Science and the environment are huge in our family,” said Pitroff, who lives with her husband, Nile, and their daughter, Ella. “We’re very conscious about exposing Ella to science and pushing through those artificial boundaries about women pursuing careers in STEM.”

Science, technology, engineering and mathematics — they all factor into pathology. At Quinnipiac, Pitroff and her fellow students learn to examine, process and prepare tissue specimens for clinical tests and procedures.

From classes in the microscopic anatomy lab with associate professor Maurice Fremont-Smith to learning about physiology and disease mechanisms with associate professor Thomas Martin, Pitroff has discovered a whole new world.

“I would definitely encourage older professional women — or men, for that matter — who have families that this is absolutely a field you can go into,” Pitroff said. “Quinnipiac is fantastic about encouraging all its students. I’ve found that if you love what you’re doing, it’s achievable.”

Alumni Spotlight: Kristine McCluskey MHS '02

A recognized leader

Whether it’s in the classroom, lab or hospital, pathologists’ assistant and professor Kristine McCluskey, MHS '02, is a recognized leader in teaching.

A professor of pathology and immunology at Baylor College of Medicine, McCluskey founded the professional organization Pathassist of Texas in Houston LLC and created the 2017 All-City Anatomic Pathology Symposium in Houston. She also helped the American Association of Pathologists’ Assistants develop stronger professional development programs.

In 2016, she received Baylor’s Fulbright & Jaworski LLP Faculty Excellence Award for her work in teaching and evaluation.

“My passion is to strengthen both pathology residency and pathologists’ assistant programs,” McCluskey said. “We need to focus on training people to be the best they can be.”   

Headshot of Kristine McCluskey

Prepared for success

McCluskey is a leader in pathology and immunology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas.

As a clinical preceptor, McCluskey has trained and evaluated students from many colleges and universities, including Quinnipiac, where she once taught as a clinical adjunct professor. She said Quinnipiac students are among the most capable and confident in the country.

“With their self-direction and pathology knowledge, Quinnipiac students are more comprehensively prepared to begin their second year of clinical training,” McCluskey said.

McCluskey still remembers her time as a Quinnipiac pathologists’ assistant student and how her classmates and preceptors, many of whom were Quinnipiac alumni, motivated her to take control of her learning during both her didactic and clinical training.

“I can’t say enough about Quinnipiac’s program,” McCluskey said. “Residency programs should learn from it how to condense the expanding knowledge in this field and teach students to apply it in clinical settings.”

Our Faculty

Faculty dedicated to student success

Quinnipiac’s School of Health Sciences professors are committed to the personal and professional success of every student. While passionate scholars and accomplished in their own fields, teaching is the number one priority. Small class sizes, accessible professors and a close-knit community create the kind of supporting, enriching environment that is rare. We are personally invested in seeking ways to help our students develop into strong, certified, leading professionals.

Curriculum and Requirements

MHS Pathologists' Assistant Curriculum

Plan of Study Grid
First Year
Summer SemesterCredits
College-based didactic coursework  
BMS 532
Histology and Lab
and Histology Lab
PA 502 Medical Terminology: Advanced 2
PA 512
Human Anatomy
and Human Anatomy Lab
PA 515 Human Physiology 4
PA 526 Biomedical Photography 4
Fall Semester
BMS 517 Human Embryology 3
PA 511 Human Microscopic Anatomy 4
PA 513 Basic Human Pathology I 3
PA 518 Laboratory Management 3
PA 535 Disease Mechanisms 4
Spring Semester
BMS 535
Histochemistry and Lab
and Histochemistry Lab
BMS 572 Pathogenic Microbiology 4
PA 514 Basic Human Pathology II 3
PA 516 Clinical Pathology 4
PA 517 Applied Anatomic Pathology 4
Second Year
Summer Semester
12-month hospital-based clinical training session  
PA 520 Autopsy Pathology I 6
PA 523 Surgical Pathology I 6
Fall Semester
PA 521 Autopsy Pathology II 6
PA 524 Surgical Pathology II 6
Spring Semester
PA 522 Autopsy Pathology III 6
PA 525 Surgical Pathology III 6
 Total Credits89

In addition to the college-based classroom coursework taken during the first year, the student is introduced and oriented to the pathologists’ assistant profession by weekly attendance at clinical and gross conferences during their second year. This facilitates integration of the classroom coursework with intensive clinical training during the second year.

To continue in the pathologists’ assistant program, students must maintain the minimum academic and clinical requirements for the program. Students must achieve the following requirements:

  1. Maintain an overall GPA of at least a 3.0 following the first didactic year.
  2. Maintain an overall GPA of at least a 3.0 during each semester of the clinical year. 
  3. Successfully complete all clinical rotations.

Failure to meet any of these requirements may result in probation or dismissal from the program.

Additional course details
Explore descriptions, schedule and instructor information using the Course Finder tool.

Student Learning Outcomes

Through their graduate studies, pathologists’ assistant students are able to:

  • 1. Develop a comprehensive knowledge of scientific facts, principles and data that contribute to the practice and operation of a pathology laboratory.
  • 2. Understand performance‑based education in order to assist the anatomic pathologist in the hospital or in other medical environments.
  • 3. Compare the structure and physiological functions of normal organs, tissues and cells to those of abnormal ones.
  • 4. Understand the characteristics of stains and the staining properties of normal and abnormal cells and their cellular constituents.
  • 5. Assist the pathologist who is determining the pathogenesis of disease by:
    • a. Properly collecting and handling specimens and keeping appropriate records using biomedical/photography techniques.
    • b. Submitting tissues and selecting the necessary and appropriate techniques for processing and proper staining procedures.
    • c. Proving accurate gross descriptions and selective sectioning of surgical specimens following established protocols and procedures.
    • d. Reviewing histological slides for technical quality and collecting clinical information and laboratory data for final diagnosis by the pathologist.
  • 6. Perform a postmortem examination and relate the clinical history to the results of the dissection.
  • 7. Recognize and record anatomic and morphologic changes in relation to clinical manifestations and laboratory data for the pathologist's interpretation.
  • 8. Understand the operation and services provided by the anatomic pathology laboratories and develop skills for the operation and management of the autopsy suite and surgical cutting room.
  • 9. Interact with the pathologist by integrating didactic biomedical knowledge with practical hospital-based training. 
  • 10. Through management training and experience, supervise and coordinate the work of other laboratory professionals.

Clinical Partners and Accreditation

The program is a cooperative educational endeavor with Quinnipiac involving:

  • Baylor University, Ben Taub Hospital, Houston, Texas
  • Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts
  • Crouse Hospital, Syracuse, New York
  • CT State Medical Examiner Office, Farmington, Connecticut
  • The Hospital of Central Connecticut, New Britain, Connecticut
  • Hartford Hospital, Hartford, Connecticut 
  • Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts
  • Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota
  • Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York
  • Norwalk Hospital, Norwalk, Connecticut
  • Saint Francis Hospital, Hartford, Connecticut
  • St. Vincent's Medical Center, Bridgeport, Connecticut
  • UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles, California
  • Veterans Affairs Medical Center, West Haven, Connecticut
  • Yale New Haven Hospital, New Haven, Connecticut
  • Yale New Haven Hospital – Saint Raphael Campus, New Haven, Connecticut
  • Yale New Haven Hospital – Bridgeport Campus, Bridgeport, Connecticut

Quinnipiac University is a charter member of the Association of Pathologists' Assistant Training Programs, and its program meets criteria established by the American Association of Pathologists' Assistants (AAPA). This program is fully accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS), 5600 N. River Road, Suite 720, Rosemont, IL 60018 | | 773-714-8880

Public Outcome Measures


Job Placement Rate**

Graduation Rate

ASCP Certification Pass Rate*













* For the class of 2017 and 2019, the first-time pass rate was 100%. For the class of 2018, the first-time pass rate was 96%, with subsequent overall pass rate of 100%.

** 100% job placement secured prior to graduation date of May 11, 2019

Attrition Rate

The attrition rates for the program are as follows:

  • 2019: 8%
  • 2018: 4%
  • 2017: 4%

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