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Outside the Lab Profession, Training and education

Not with a Whimper

In June, I had the pleasure of visiting the oncology research and treatment mecca that is the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, where I met with Michael Roehrl, Director of the Precision Pathology Center – and one of our Power List members. Our discussion took many twists and turns, but we kept returning to one topic: the future. In particular, the need for pathology to look forward and remain innovative and disruptive. We spoke at length about the lack of pathology subspecialization in Europe that is hindering progress and, worse still, good patient care; the inhibitive fear of diagnostic error; the urgent need for raised public awareness of pathology; the worrying acceptance of budgetary and resource constraints; resistance to innovation (look out for a follow-up article that I’ve already titled “Pathological Complacency”); and other specialties’ critical dependence on pathologists and laboratory physicians, whom Roehrl aptly calls the “Physicians’ Physician” (another article in the making...).

What struck me most during our conversation was Roehrl’s passion for his profession, and the need for pathology to be a leader in innovation in the era of precision health care, especially when it comes to new technologies and disruptive theranostics. A challenge for pathology, he believes, has been predominantly caused by the reduced finances allocated to it, the falling numbers of trainees attracted to it, and sometimes a traditional mindset of those working within it. In short, we agreed that we need more people fighting for pathology.

Though my colleagues and I have been fortunate to work with many trailblazers and advocates, there aren’t enough people who feel sufficiently empowered to talk about the value of pathology to medical colleagues, the budget controllers, government, the public and, dare I say it, to patients. Just to emphasize the point, I was talking with someone in industry recently who spoke of a customer – a very senior pathologist – who was normally openly communicative and articulate. Apparently, he became less talkative as he ascended a building in an elevator towards the floor containing the offices of C-suite executives where, on arrival, he “completely lost his voice.” We must acknowledge that such failures in visibility come with consequences. I’ll refer you to one of many articles that we have published on the subject (1). If you have any thoughts on this subject or if you would like to share your opinion, we would love to hear from you ([email protected]).

I’ll leave you with a quote from a survey of medical students that was presented at the 2017 annual congress of the Canadian Association of Pathologists: “Maybe you should take pathology out of the lecture titles so students aren’t put off.” We all need to work together to change this perception.

Fedra Pavlou


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  1. JI López, “The Invisible Doctor”, The Pathologist, 09, 46–48 (2015).
About the Author
Fedra Pavlou

After graduating with a pharmacology degree, I began my career in scientific publishing and communications. Now with more than 16 years of experience in this field, my career has seen me heading up editorial and writing teams at Datamonitor, Advanstar and KnowledgePoint360 group. My past experiences have taught me something very important – that you have to enjoy working with, and have respect for your colleagues. It’s this that drew me to Texere where I now work with old colleagues and new. Though we are a hugely diverse team, we share several things in common – a real desire to work hard to succeed, to be the best at what we do, never to settle for second best, and to have fun while we do it. I am now honored to serve as Editor of The Pathologist and Editorial Director of Texere Publishing.

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