One day in 2018, the head of the Bioinformatics Core Facility of the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics called me into his office. He told me there was another person in Switzerland engaged in digital pathology research and suggested I reach out to her. Sometime later, Inti Zlobec and I met for the first time in the Geneva train station cafe. We immediately hit it off and discussed digital pathology for hours, and came to realize that there was no established Swiss network for people like us. There were many individuals engaging in digital pathology independently around the country, but there was no mechanism for them to meet, exchange best practices, and network. It was at that moment that the idea of the Swiss Digital Pathology Consortium (SDiPath) was born – and, along with our colleague, Rainer Grobholz, we organized our first society meeting later that year in Bern. We were very nervous because we weren’t sure if anyone would actually show up to the inaugural meeting! In the end, folks from all over the country came to enjoy talks and learn about what projects others were engaging in. SDiPath has continued to grow, and now boasts over 170 members across the country, evenly divided between pathologists, researchers, and the exceptional support staff needed to deploy and sustain digital pathology at our various institutions. What amazes me most is that Inti, Rainer, and I don’t consider ourselves special. We were just regular folks that asked people if they would like to meet. Somehow that nucleated a vibrant community that is releasing Swiss Digital Pathology Recommendations (under review), as well as Swiss Digital Pathology Research Infrastructure under the leadership of our other colleague, Viktor Koelzer (1). My takeaway is simple: find people that share your interests and take risks. Who knows what great relationships you’ll create and what fascinating things you’ll learn!
- A Janowczyk et al., “Towards a national strategy for digital pathology in Switzerland,” Virchows Arch, 481, 647 (2022). PMID: 35622144.