College of American Pathologists
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  President’s Desk


CAP Today




February 2010

Stephen N. Bauer, MD

How to up the opportunity odds

The College is a diverse, energetic, 17,700-member organization. A lot of qualified pathologists would like to be more involved, which is fortunate, because long-term effectiveness requires a continual supply of volunteers. It takes time to learn your way around, and we need to bring new people along to develop the next generation of CAP leaders.

I have heard from a number of disappointed and frustrated CAP fellows who had sought positions on one of our councils or committees, and they made some good points. Several were of the opinion that the appointment process should be more transparent. We are working on that, and also studying ways to improve the appointment process so that we have more detailed information about the applicants.

Opportunities for meaningful service to the College are plentiful. An incredible 40 percent of our 11,000 active, practicing fellows log at least 180,000 hours per year in service to the specialty. These are committee members, yes, but they are also members of the House of Delegates, Laboratory Accreditation Program inspectors, PathNet members, and member research panel participants who answer surveys that help to shape our priorities. In sum, these are 4,500 pathologists who make a lot of things happen, and only 12 percent of them serve on councils and committees.

This year, nearly one-third of the 109 vacancies for members on CAP councils and committees were filled by first-time appointees. Increasing the number of positions for first-time fellows is a priority, but the need to ensure that upcoming leaders have broad-based experience competes with that goal, as does the need to see each committee has a solid cohort of seasoned incumbents. Terms run six years, so positions don’t turn around quickly. Still, there are ways to boost the odds of getting a slot on a committee of interest.

Members who seek appointment to a council or committee are encouraged to apply in the first quarter of the year. A thoughtfully completed application that identifies expertise, interests, and specialized skills is important. Still, just as none of us would select a new partner without meeting him or her, the College is not likely to make an appointment on the strength of an application alone. If you want to be appointed to one of these key roles, we need to know who you are. Building a reputation through service in other CAP activities can give an applicant a huge advantage.

CAP councils and committees are experimenting with short-term working groups that focus on specific projects. The CAP Pathology and Laboratory Quality Center, which will develop best practices guidelines, and the CAP Institute for the Advancement of the Pathology Specialty, which creates certificate programs in continuing education, will appoint working groups as well. If you would be willing to serve on a working group, mention that on your application.

Our committees have gender balance similar to that of the membership, but we are still striving to increase ethnic and racial diversity, which is a challenge because we do not track race or ethnicity. We do know that international medical graduate participation is growing significantly, although that is an inexact proxy for ethnic and racial representation. One way to help us build on that progress is for international medical graduates in the first five years of practice to participate in the CAP mentor program. Mentorship is an essential tool for everyone, but we are especially hopeful that many of our international medical graduates will participate.

In my early years of practice, a senior partner mentored me, opening doors before I had even thought to knock. The OBRA/COBRA legislation had just passed, constraining traditional methods to bill for pathology services. I complained about that one afternoon, and to this day I can see his wry smile. “Well,” he said, “do you want to complain about it or do something about it?”

I was quick enough to answer in the affirmative, little knowing that I would soon receive a call from the California Medical Association asking if I could testify in the state capitol. At the hearing I met people from the California Society of Pathologists; they invited me to join them for lunch. Almost before I knew it, I was on their board. A few years later, a pathologist on the CAP Board of Governors who had worked with me at the CSP asked me to work on a CAP committee, and work it was. Before long, my spouse was sitting me down at the kitchen table with the family calendar, asking if I knew how many days I had been away from home that year. I didn’t know it had been 61 days, but I knew I had been traveling to Washington, DC, every six weeks to help with negotiated rulemaking related to reimbursement of laboratory services. At times it was dull, it was long, and it was a lot of time. It was also a valuable education.

I think it was Woody Allen who said that 80 percent of success is showing up. Visibility counts. So if you would like to be more involved with the College, take on a leadership role for your state pathology society. Come to the CAP annual meeting, where the family of pathologists comes together and everyone in the elevator is a pathologist. Check out the House of Delegates, the first-time attendees’ orientation, and the member town meeting while you’re there. These are opportunities for intentional networking where you will meet leaders and mentors and future colleagues who can help you move forward in your career.

Transforming pathology requires networking skills, and the College is a fine place to learn them. Access to opportunities is about what you know, but it is also about who you know. So get to know us. We are a powerful community, and membership is wide open.

Dr. Bauer welcomes communication from CAP members. Write to him at