What is pathology?

The National University of Samoa has engaged a forensic pathologist for the first time, opening the doors for medical students to get specialised training in work vital to the field.

But what is pathology, or forensic pathology?

Dr Osborne Embiruka Nyandiva, Kenyan born Canadian and now living in Moto’otua, sat down with the Observer to explain.

“Pathology is just but a link between the practice and the patient,” he said.

“The role of a pathologist basically is involved in conducting forensic investigations, diagnoses and especially cancers, and since it is a diversified disciple, sometimes they are involved in surgical procedures as well,” he said.

Medical pathology is fundamentality the diagnosis of disease and the study of diseases. But Dr Nyandiva said it’s also about the wellbeing of the patient.

The field has been growing quickly lately, and many breakthroughs in pathology require few resources, making them easy to transfer to Samoa.

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Pathology can also look at diseases differently to solve previously unsolvable problems, and “change the narrative” around treatment, said Dr Nyandiva.

““Take for instance cancer.”

“Major treatment is not just about doing a surgical procedure, or getting someone involved in chemotherapy,” he said.

New technologies like field biopsies can be used to follow up patients even after surgical procedures to address cancers that return.

“We don’t yet understand the effect that cancer might have left in the body, so now we have real time cancer diagnostics.”

Dr Nyandiva is also deeply interested in gene therapy, or replacing defective genes with normal onces in order to correct genetic disorders or cancer ridden cells. 

This would defend cancer patients against metastasis, or when the cancer returns, potentially elsewhere in the body.

“We can use the gene to sort of camouflage it and clear up any possible traits of the cancer,” he said.

Dr Nyandiva is the National University of Samoa senior lecturer. He holds Bachelors degrees in Medicine and Surgery, an Advanced Postgraduate Diploma in Forensic Medicine and a Masters degree in Anatomic and Clinic Pathology, with a PhD in Molecular Pathology and Oncology in 2018. In September 2016, he was awarded a Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists in the United Kingdom.

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