130 years Celebrating Together

Serving Puerto Ricans, One Diagnosis at a Time

The soul of Puerto Rico is its people; our human capital that contributes directly to the collective well-being of our society. At the heart of that well-being is our health.

Puerto Rico is a cradle of great talent in health, and retaining these professionals is part of Puerto Rico Pathology's mission. Offering valuable job opportunities to specialists in the skills and knowledge of pathology is key to offering a first-class service.    

Founded in 1954 as the first private pathology laboratory, Puerto Rico Pathology has forged a reputation as one of the leading pathology laboratories in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. 

The business receives over 50,000 unique specimens over the course of a year, and has a portfolio of more than 350 clients, a fleet of eight vehicles, 16 pathologists and over 70 employees.

"We go all over the island serving different patients through outpatient services and hospital institutions. Everything that is extracted from a patient - any biopsy, tissue or fluid - is examined by a pathologist to render a diagnosis"

-- Explained Doctor Elba Torres-Matundan, current president of Puerto Rico Pathology

It all began with Dr. Raúl Marcial Rojas, who founded the Laboratory of Cytology and Surgical Pathology in 1954, until 2014, when Dr. Elba and her colleagues, Dr. Rosa Cortés Rivera, Dr. Víctor J. Carlo Chévere and Dr. Wilma Virella Santana took the helm. 

The company is also equipped with the latest technology and is staffed with expert pathologists specialized in oncologic surgical pathology, cytopathology, gastropathology, clinical pathology and breast pathology, among others, to provide all types of diagnoses accurately.

Serving Puerto Rico's community is at its essence. For Elba and her associates, there are no limits to what they can do for patients. Aside from their collaborative initiatives with organizations such as the Susan G. Komen Foundation and American Cancer Society, among others, Puerto Rico Pathology is prepared to assume the cost of necessary tests for those patients who cannot afford them, in cases of life and death.   

And this help is crucial, especially when it comes to a very specific disease: cancer, something that has touched Elba very closely.

"I am a breast cancer specialist, certified for more than 20 years, and ironically, now a breast cancer patient. This is my second year with this challenge," said Elba, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2021 and has gone through over a dozen chemotherapy treatments. "There is nothing more ironic than you seeing your own cancer through a microscope."

-- Doctor Elba Torres-Matundan

But her joie de vivre is infectious, always cracking jokes and looking her best. Although the malaise comes in stages, and there are good, even excellent days, there are also days of incredible sadness. On top of her health concerns, the doctor carries the burden of work that she needs to delegate to her colleagues.  

Through it all, she remains steadfast in the lab's mission and incredibly passionate about her service. And overcoming obstacles is something they already know how to do.

Puerto Rico Pathology had generators and the necessary equipment to withstand Hurricane Maria and only ceased operations for one day. However, a stray lightning strike several days after the hurricane burned out their generators. 

Thanks to their relationship with different medical institutions, they approached a hospital institution they serve to lend them some patient rooms, and from there, for a month they continued to provide their services.   

In less than a day, the team converted two hospital rooms into temporary pathology laboratories.

Like María, another challenge that all Puerto Ricans have faced was the pandemic. Although the laboratory obtained permits from the Department of Health to provide COVID tests, the biggest obstacle was protecting its employees in a job that cannot be done remotely.   

"First you need a proper environment, you need exhaust fans. You're working with highly flammable, highly toxic liquids and solutions. Also, we didn't want to leave people unemployed. For us the employee is number one, so we divided the employees into Group A and Group B. One group would come in for two weeks, the other for the next two weeks. We didn't have to let anyone go, and we didn't have any resignations," Elba emphasized. 

As decades-long clients of Popular, the team at Puerto Rico Pathology has always had big plans for the business. First, they knew that after 5 years of owning the business, they wanted to strengthen it and move into a large space that could house all of their equipment and services, and they did just that. Now, they are looking to expand into the clinical world. In a few months, the company will have its first clinical laboratory, a dream come true for the team.   

Aside from this, their goal is for Puerto Rico Pathology to become a unique source in the Caribbean, and they hope to expand their team to be able to offer tests that are only available in the United States. This is because they are confident that Puerto Rico has high-quality pathologists.

Their mission includes recruiting younger Puerto Ricans to return to the island to perform these services.

"We have excellent professional pathologists who have nothing to envy specialists in the United States. Today we have 16 pathologists, including five who are quite young and recent graduates, very well prepared, with different specialties," said its current president.

Although the future is uncertain, and there are many obstacles that Elba and her team must overcome, their fighting spirit and the determination of their colleagues can propel Puerto Rico Pathology to become the main laboratory in the Caribbean, and this is what makes them an entity of progress.

From left to right: doctors Wilma Virella Santana, Elba Torres-Matundan, Rosa Cortés Rivera and Víctor J. Carlo Chévere.

As part of our 130th anniversary celebrations, we present the Stories of Progress, which are portraits of commercial customers that show how Popular puts people at the center of progress.