Lydia Pleotis Howell, M.D.

Professor of Pathology

Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
UC Davis Medical Center
PATH Building
4400 V St.
Sacramento, CA 95817

Ph: (916) 734-3330
Pager: (916) 762-6013

Clinical Interests

  • Cytopathology, with a special interest in gyn cytology and breast FNA
  • Breast and cervical pathology


Educational Interests

  • Cytopathology and surgical pathology training of residents and fellows
  • Leadership training of faculty


Research Interests

  • Automated technologies in cytopathology
  • Health services research related to cervical cancer screening; HPV testing and vaccines; breast screening, risk factor evaluation, diagnosis, and prognostication
  • Faculty affairs and faculty development


Brief Biography

Lydia Pleotis Howell is an anatomic and clinical pathologist well known for her work to improve protocols for prevention, diagnosis and treatment of breast and cervical cancer. As department chair, she oversees nearly 40 faculty members and more than 400 clinical and academic staff who provide comprehensive laboratory testing for UC Davis Medical Center and other hospitals and clinics through Northern California, conduct leading-edge basic and translational research, and advance training at all levels within the field.

A pioneer in new methods for cervical cancer screening, Howell led clinical testing of liquid-based Pap tests and computer-assisted screening, leading to Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approval and national implementation of these technologies, which now set the standard of care. Through her participation in national consensus conferences, committees and panels for the National Cancer Institute, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the College of American Pathologists, and the California Department of Public Health, Howell has contributed to the development of a national uniform terminology for gynecologic cytology, algorithms and guidelines for breast and cervical cancer screening and management of abnormal results, uniform practice of breast fine-needle aspiration and laboratory accreditation and quality improvement programs.

Dr. Howell is known for her commitment to faculty development, work-life balance, and for encouraging the success of women in medicine and science, Howell is co-principal investigator of a $1.27 million, four-year grant from the National Institute of Health for research on family-friendly policies for women with careers in medicine. She serves as an advisor to the American Council on Education and the Sloan Foundation on issues related to career flexibility for medical school faculty and also serves as a representative to the Association of American Medical Colleges’ Group on Women in Medicine and Science. During her tenure as associate dean of academic affairs, Dr. Howell expanded and standardized medical and family leave policies, which served as the basis for similar changes adopted through the University of California system. Howell has published articles on generational issues in academic medicine, medical school faculty career tracks and mission-based management, in addition to her scientific publications in pathology.

A graduate of Northwestern University Medical School’s Honors Program in Medical Education in Chicago where received her bachelor’s and doctor of medicine degrees, Dr. Howell served as resident and chief resident in anatomic and clinical pathology at Temple University Hospital, after which she completed a fellowship in cytopathology at Lankenau Hospital in Philadelphia. She serves as an advisor to the California Department of Health Services, is a member of the Hematology and Pathology Devices Panel, Medical Devices Advisory Committee for the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Devices and Radiologic Health, and will become the American Society of Cytopathology’s president in 2011-12.