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New Microscope Enhances Pathology Services in Wood Buffalo

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A new microscope funded by the Northern Lights Health Foundation has played an instrumental role in the recruitment of a second pathologist to the Wood Buffalo region.

Pathology services are based in the Laboratory of the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre, where a variety of testing and clinical consultation services are provided to the community.

“Pathology is a diagnostic service and a consultation service to the clinicians. It basically looks for disease process – what does disease go through then what would be the possible consequences and possible management of those issues,” says Dr. Osman Tutuncuoglu, Director of Laboratory Services and a Pathologist at the Health Centre. 

He goes on to say there are many ways for pathologists to determine a patient’s condition through their services.

“For the diagnosis, there are many ways to do it – one is clinical pathology which you do in the laboratory using chemistry, microbiology, the blood bank and so on. Another is anatomical pathology where we look at the biopsies, and we look at the tissues and cells,” he says. “By looking at the changes in the tissue level, we make our diagnosis and then we deliver it to the clinician, and clinicians then do what is necessary to treat the patient.”

Another key component to pathology is disease management.

“Through our diagnostic services, we can suggest possible treatment options to the clinicians and surgeons we’re working with,” says Dr. Tutuncuoglu, who is originally from Turkey and has been in Fort McMurray since 2006.

According to Dr. Tutuncugolu, pathology is a service needed in all communities and Fort McMurray is no exception.

“What we (pathologists) do here is to try and make the right diagnosis and with that, provide the patient with the right treatment and the right management,” he says. “Clinicians are experts in their field and they can assume what’s wrong with the patient but they need to confirm it. Without confirmation, they cannot do anything more than a consultation to help their patients out.”

“Illness and disease can progress rapidly so services such as these need to be on site in order to provide clinicians and their patients with timely information. Having the services on site also ensures clear communication between pathologists and clinicians,” says Dr. Tutuncugolu. “This practice is all about communication – discussing the patient, the findings and the right course of treatment. If a pathologist wasn’t on site, it would be very difficult for the community.”

In his role, Dr. Tutuncuoglu oversees and maintains the pathology services on site within the Lab, ran by Dynalife. Up until recently, he was the only pathologist in the region. While he says this was very rewarding, it has also presented its challenges.

“Since coming to the community in 2006, I’ve been the only pathologist here. It’s an extremely active discipline where the practice is always evolving which is challenging but very exciting,” he says. “While I’m handing the entire pathology service myself, I am able to draw upon Dynalife’s expertise to assist and consult in areas where needed.”

The Health Centre recently saw the addition of a second pathologist, Dr. Josephine Akinfolarin. With the support of the Health Foundation, the Laboratory received a new microscope which Dr. Akinfolarin now uses. According to Dr. Tutuncuoglu, a microscope is essential to the pathology practice.

“A microscope to a pathologist is like a coffee maker for Starbucks or a taxi for a taxi driver! It’s absolutely essential to the services we provide. Without it we cannot function,” says Dr. Tutuncuoglu. “Everything that we do for diagnostic purposes goes through a microscope and having said that, without a microscope there’s no pathology.”

Dr. Tutuncuoglu sees many benefits through the addition of a second pathologist.

“Our services are very detail oriented. For us, we’re looking at millions of cells and if two or three of them are abnormal we have to catch it so it’s great to have a second pair of eyes to consult with,” he says. “Pathology is also like every other discipline in medicine – lots of sub-specialties are required and special interests, which are important. Having another pathologist allows us to complement one another and build on each other’s strengths ultimately providing the community with stronger pathology services.”

Photo: Dr. Osman Tutuncuoglu and Dr. Josephine Akinfolarin are thrilled to have received the new microscope - a welcome addition to the pathology services at the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre. 

About the Northern Lights Health Foundation
Established in 1985, the Northern Lights Health Foundation engages people, inspires philanthropy and secures funds to improve health and promote wellness in Wood Buffalo. The Health Foundation connects people with opportunities to have a direct and positive impact on health care in our region.

For information on how you can support community health care, contact us:


Northern Lights Health Foundation
7 Hospital Street,
Fort McMurray, AB T9H 1P2 

Phone: (780) 791-6041
Fax: (780) 791-6241


Charitable Registration Number: BN 107395030 RR0001


Amelia Schofield is a marketing and communications professional based in Fort McMurray, AB. She’s currently the Marketing and Communications Officer with the Northern Lights Health Foundation and a regular contributor to YMM Magazine.  Amelia is also the Owner + Creator of Amelia Emily Design, a local business specializing in knitted goods.

Follow Amelia on Twitter at @AmeliaSchfld