College of American Pathologists
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CAP Today




May 2011
Cytopathology And More

Nicole E. Thomas, MPH, CT(ASCP)

If you subscribe to the CAP’s cytopathology programs, and are a reader of this section of CAP TODAY, you may have wondered about the group behind it all and how it works.

It is the CAP Cytopathology Committee, one of the many scientific committees that function under the CAP Council on Scientific Affairs. Twenty-seven members from across the country and Canada, and committee staff, provide the expertise needed to carry out myriad functions that benefit the cytopathology field.

The committee’s charge is to be the resource for those who practice cytopathology by providing education, proficiency testing, a framework for quality assurance and performance improvement, and information on technical advances in cytopathology. Members meet four times a year to work on the CAP cytopathology programs, address policy and administration and laboratory accreditation issues, discuss current topics in the field, and answer customer inquiries. Meetings are used, too, to analyze data from the programs and to begin to develop the supplemental questions laboratories receive in some of the slide mailings. Unlike most of the other scientific committees, the Cytopathology Committee devotes a large part of its meetings to reviewing slides: Each meeting brings about 800 newly donated Pap slides and 100 to 200 nongynecologic slides that feed the educational and proficiency test slide sets.

The committee’s work is demanding, and the four four-day meetings per year aren’t nearly enough time to complete it all. Between meetings, members develop the discussions for the online cases, scrape up images to enhance the cases, write articles for CAP TODAY (such as those in this issue), work on research projects, and write manuscripts for peer-reviewed journals. The committee has authored an atlas on gynecologic cytopathology. An estimated 40 hours of work per year is required outside of the meetings.

The committee consists of 25 members, one junior member, one liaison from the American Society of Cytopathology, and two cytotechnologist consultants. Members come from academic institutions, military medical centers, and corporations representing the diversity of the field. Among the members are varying levels of expertise, from Ritu Nayar, MD, one of the editors of the Bethesda System for reporting cervical cytology, to Ly Ma, MD, a resident just beginning his career. Each member contributes to the group by bringing to the table his or her unique work experience, which helps bring about a greater understanding of the needs of laboratories at large.

There is much work to be done, but the members find that serving on the committee is mutually beneficial. Committee member Manon Auger, MD, of McGill University Health Center in Montreal, says, “Although contributing to the development of cytology educational products . . . does require a significant amount of work, the benefits brought from the reading/learning in their preparation are great and rewarding.” Marilee Means, PhD, SCT(ASCP), of the University of Kansas Medical Center and a consultant to the committee, says, “I feel very honored to have gotten to know many of the cytopathologist leaders in the field who are ardent, passionate, deeply professionally committed, productive, and engaged in providing the best in professional education, advocacy for the profession, and leadership for the future.” And committee liaison Christine Noga Booth, MD, of the Cleveland Clinic: “It has turned my job into a rewarding career.”

Each CAP committee has a staff person (or persons) assigned to it to help the group complete its work and to facilitate its integration with other areas and activities of the CAP. Cytopathology Committee staff review the slides used to make up the proficiency testing and educational slide sets. Thus, the CAP cytotechnologist specialists and operations staff function much like a production team while carrying out their other duties.

The results of these committee and staff efforts are the CAP cytopathology programs: Pap Education, Pap PT, NGC, FNA, FNAG, CHPV, and, new for 2011, the Fields of View educational program.

Nicole Thomas is cytology technical specialist, CAP Surveys. She is one of two staff members who support the Cytopathology Committee and its products and programs.