How two Labcorp physicians are training the next generation of pathologists

25 April 2023

Pathologists play a major role in healthcare, but not everyone knows just how big a part they really play. That’s because pathologists often operate behind the scenes, providing diagnoses on a wide variety of tissue samples and performing clinical interpretation of laboratory results. They can also hold key leadership roles in laboratory quality systems and laboratory regulations. To put it simply, their work is vital to diagnosing, treating and curing disease.

However, the number of pathologists in the U.S. decreased by almost 18% between 2007 and 2017, according to a National Institutes of Health survey. At the same time, the workload per pathologist increased by almost 42%. Dr. Brian Poirier, medical director of coagulation and endocrinology laboratories at Labcorp Esoteric Business Unit (EBU) Labs, and Dr. Deborah Sesok-Pizzini, chief medical officer at Labcorp Diagnostics, knew something had to be done.

Training the next generation of pathologists

The duo began a program that offers pathology residents, who are receiving training and experience at hospitals and health systems, the opportunity to learn from Labcorp specialists and see firsthand how a large global life science company operates. Labcorp has 11 core diagnostics labs and more than 5,000 tests, including esoteric tests. Labcorp also has more than 540 million tests ordered annually. The high volume of standardized testing leads to high-quality data along with real-time and long-term precise monitoring. It was obvious to Poirier and Sesok-Pizzini that Labcorp can provide a unique experience for residents who are based in academic medical centers and community health systems alike.

Poirier and Sesok-Pizzini recruit Labcorp pathologists and scientists to provide lectures and host short rotations for pathology students. The program allows students to visit Labcorp’s laboratories and see firsthand how pathology leads to more accurate diagnosis and the invention of tests that lead to better patient care.

“One of the big parts of improving health and improving lives is training the next generation of pathologists,” Poirier said. “It’s vital to our mission.”

Inspiring medical residents to explore specialties and subspecialties

As Labcorp continues to become the lab of choice for hospitals and health systems, it’s become even clearer that the residents who are learning at those health systems should also learn from the pathologists who are working on research and testing at Labcorp.

Sesok-Pizzini said many residents who are considering a specialty don’t understand how vast the area of pathology is. As a whole, she notes, the field is trying to be more visible to both patients and the next generation of medical professionals.

“Because of our level of expertise in testing, part of the experience we can give a trainee at Labcorp is a pathway to different subspecialties,” Sesok-Pizzini explained. “So if a medical student wants to learn more about infectious disease and specialize in microbiology, they can see ways that can happen for their career.”

Sharing insights into the world of research and clinical trials

Dr. Crystal Lenz, chief resident at Penrose-St. Francis Health Services in Colorado, received training through Labcorp's partnership with the Penrose residency program. She said her primary focus was on coagulation, or the process of clotting, with Poirier. Residents also received lectures on transfusion medicine, lab management and molecular pathology. “Coagulation is a tough topic that we otherwise would get very little in-person, formal training in, and certainly no hands-on or real-world training,” Lenz said. “This has been completely invaluable to me as a resident: being able to have focused time to learn coagulation with an expert in the field and working through real patient cases rather than just reading the information from a book and trying to retain and integrate that.”

Lenz said that Poirier also served as a mentor during the rotation and discussed the various job opportunities within the expansive field of anatomic and clinical pathology. She said that she and other residents also learned more about Labcorp as a global life sciences company with not only testing capabilities, but research and clinical trial work.


Dr. Brian Poirier, medical director of coagulation and endocrinology laboratories at Labcorp Esoteric Business Unit (EBU) Labs and Dr. Crystal Lenz, chief resident at Penrose-St. Francis Health Services in Colorado.

Dr. Brian Poirier, medical director of coagulation and endocrinology laboratories at Labcorp Esoteric Business Unit (EBU) Labs and Dr. Crystal Lenz, chief resident at Penrose-St. Francis Health Services in Colorado.

Advancing technology and medicine with robust training programs

Sesok-Pizzini, who is also an adjunct professor of clinical pathology and laboratory medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, said the program creates more robust training opportunities and will directly impact the next generation of pathologists who will continue to advance technology and medicine.

“The program allows us to teach students and trainees and expose them to the work we are doing at Labcorp in research and development,” she said. “It provides an opportunity to fill in gaps in their current training program with some of the more advanced molecular testing we are doing here.”

Because of Labcorp’s size, there is no shortage of opportunities to create robust learning opportunities for residents.

“We provide esoteric reference lab testing, in multiple clinical disciplines, that is often not performed at the residency facilities,” she noted. “In addition, the high volume of testing performed by Labcorp across the country means that even rare clinical cases are routinely seen throughout our testing facilities, and our scientists thus have exposure to wonderful teaching material on a weekly basis.”

Labcorp benefits not only from a greater partnership with health systems across the country, but also from helping train pathologists who will someday create the next breakthrough in research and testing.


>5,000 tests, including esoteric
>15,000 phlebotomists
85 pathologists on staff
50-100 new tests/technologies launched each year
11 core diagnostic labs
2,500 MDs/PhDs on staff
>540M tests ordered each year

How Labcorp plans to increase residents’ access to specialists

Poirier and Sesok-Pizzini are working toward a five-year plan that includes 30 to 40 scientist educators to cover the major clinical lab disciplines with well-vetted lectures appropriate for pathologists in training that can be given via Webex or on-site when possible. While many trainings are possible remotely, there will be clinical pathology rotations, lasting one to two weeks, available based on proximity to Labcorp’s labs. “The ultimate goal is to create a mature training program that offers both didactics and on-site training in clinical pathology to all of the Labcorp hospital partners’ residency trainees,” Poirier said. “A recurring theme we’ve heard from partners is the loss of certain testing expertise in these [pathology] residency programs because the testing is now sent out, which leaves a gap in the program’s ability to train with local experts and local case studies. We can help fill that gap.”

The Labcorp program is currently active at Penrose Pathology Residency Program in Colorado, Wake Forest Pathology Residency Program in North Carolina, and the Laboratory Genetics fellowship program at Virginia Commonwealth University, with two additional programs in the works.