Today, Tuesday 8th March is International Women’s Day 2022. The theme this year is #BreakTheBias and what better way to do so than by sharing the incredible women who work in the pathology sector.

Only 50 years ago, studies on children showed that when asked to draw a scientist, more than 99% of the boys and girls involved drew a male scientist. Thankfully, in recent years when this study has been repeated, the gender balance proved less biased, with more than 50% of girls drawing female scientists, but with 90% of boys drawing male scientists, it is clear we still have far to go in #BreakingTheBias, particularly in the world of science.

To support this year’s IWD theme #BreakTheBias, we are shining a light on three incredibly talented women in pathology; Prof Jane Dahlstrom, Dr Lucinda Wallman and Dr Caitlin Keighley.

This year is particularly important, as while pathology is the engine room of healthcare, many people were almost unaware of its existence before the pandemic. Pathology teams have worked incredibly hard over the past two years, ramping up testing to record levels as cases surged, and behind many of these tests are dedicated women scientists. According to the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia, 46 per cent of their fellows are women, and 53 per cent of pathology trainees are women.* Figures from the Australian Institute of Medical and Clinical Scientists show that 68 per cent of their current members are women.

Prof Jane Dahlstrom, Dr Lucinda Wallman and Dr Caitlin Keighley are three Australian women working in pathology that are making a difference.


Prof Jane Dahlstrom

Prof Jane Dahlstrom OAM is Senior Staff Specialist, Anatomical Pathology at ACT Pathology in Canberra, and Chair and Professor of Pathology at the Australian National University Medical School.

Prof Dahlstrom has had a distinguished career in pathology, including important research and work in perinatal pathology and placental pathology to help families who lose babies or have problems during pregnancy.

She also looks after the Pathology Museum at Canberra Hospital which is home to more than 1,200 specimens of human tissue.


Dr Lucinda Wallman

Dr Lucinda Wallman is Pathologist in Charge of Immunology at Laverty Pathology in North Ryde. She has worked in pathology for more than 20 years.

Although she is also trained as a clinical immunologist and allergist, Dr Wallman is drawn to the diagnostic challenge and investigating what is making her patients unwell.


Dr Caitlin Keighley

Dr Caitlin Keighley is a Microbiologist and Infectious Diseases physician at Southern IML Pathology in Wollongong.

She is a contributor to the Wollongong Antimicrobial Resistance Research Alliance (WARRA) and a senior clinical lecturer at the University of Wollongong.


That’s what she said; quotes from our pathology ambassadors:


On their careers in pathology:


Dr Lucinda Wallman “Pathology is an ideal career for a woman. It’s challenging and exciting, offers potential for research and teaching, and also allows flexibility to achieve work-life balance, raise a family and continue doing clinical practice at the same time. The pathology landscape is also changing dramatically with innovative new technology, automation and digital pathology on our doorstep. It’s a compelling place to be.”

Prof Jane Dahlstrom“While doing my PhD I met some pathologists and I realised this was my dream job – it would allow me to combine my passion for research, my enjoyment of teaching, and my desire to be in a job that makes a difference as a medical practitioner. After all, pathologists are the doctors who make the diagnosis of a disease that then determines a patient’s treatment and often their prognosis.”

Dr Caitlin Keighley“I have worked in pathology for 8 years and I love the diagnostic process. Testing allows refinement of syndromic medicine, which is a blunt tool but pathology sharpens the tools of medicine.”


On their favourite parts of the job:


Prof Jane Dahlstrom“I really enjoy working in pathology as I am part of a passionate team of scientists, technicians, medical typists, registrars and pathologists who work so hard for a common goal – to give the correct patient the correct diagnosis in a timely fashion.”

Dr Caitlin Keighley“My favourite part of the job is problem solving. Many people don’t realise that sepsis kills more than heart attacks. In microbiology, finding the answer means finding the cure. There is incredible value in diagnostic certainty.”

Once someone has a diagnosis, they know what to expect, how long it would probably take to get better and what to do.”

Dr Lucinda Wallman“For me, the best part of my day is getting into the lab and reporting patient samples, correlating results with the other available results and patient history, and teaching the lab staff about interpretation and clinical significance of results. I also love reporting direct immunofluorescence studies on fresh skin samples. Down the microscope you can see the immune system doing damage in real time – and in bright green!”


On their lives outside the lab:


Dr Lucinda Wallman“I love physical challenges – I spend a lot of time in the gym and spent my spare time in lockdown last year learning to hold a handstand for 30 seconds!”

Prof Jane Dahlstrom“I enjoy spending time with my husband, children, grandchildren and our wider family as well as enjoy playing card games, playing the piano and making scones”

Dr Caitlin Keighley“In my spare time, I enjoy Kung Fu, surfing, Latin dancing, and playing the violin.”

Learn more about people of pathology here. 

*Figures kindly provided by RCPA