College of American Pathologists
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  In Memoriam - Robert H. Knapp, MD, 1951–2009


CAP Today




September 2009
Feature Story

The late Robert H. Knapp, MD—a surgical pathologist and cytopathologist who died July 13—will be remembered as a warm human being, knowledgeable colleague, and strong advocate for the profession through the CAP and other societies, say his friends and associates.

David M. Graham, MD, who worked alongside Dr. Knapp for 14 years, most recently with Pathology Laboratory PC in Grandville, Mich., says Dr. Knapp got along well with everyone, had a great sense of humor, and “was certainly a competent, caring individual. He was highly regarded by his clinical colleagues as well as his pathologist colleagues.”

“He was the kind of guy the clinicians sought out for his opinions,” says Timothy J. Pelkey, MD, a colleague in Grandville and CAP member who began working with him in 1998. “He was kind of our go-to guy for urology cases and prostate biopsies. ... I don’t even know how many committees he was on—multiple committees with the CAP.”

At the time of his death, Dr. Knapp chaired the Histotechnology Committee and the Michigan delegation in the CAP House of Delegates. He was a member of the Surgical Pathology Committee, the Anatomic Pathology Cluster, the Diagnostic Intelligence and Health Information Technology Committee (DIHIT), and the Pathology Electronic Reporting Task Force (PERT). Dr. Knapp served on the Cytopathology Committee from 1997 through 2004.

George Birdsong, MD, met Dr. Knapp on the Cytopathology Committee in 2000 and more recently worked with him in the DIHIT and PERT groups. He says Dr. Knapp made a mark with his legislative advocacy.

“He was very much the right man for that kind of a job because he was so personable as well as knowledgeable,” Dr. Birdsong says. “He could present an argument in a compelling manner without the listener feeling browbeaten. He was as persuasive as one person could be.”

Saeid Movahedi-Lankarani, MD, served with Dr. Knapp on the CAP Histotechnology Committee, where Dr. Knapp helped to balance the different personalities and goals among physicians and nonphysicians. “Bringing the committee together, he was always very valuable,” Dr. Movahedi-Lankarani says. “He had great interpersonal skills.”

Dr. Knapp conducted many CAP inspections, which were well thought of because of his blend of professional seriousness and personal charm, Dr. Pelkey says. “For the dinners, he used to always make it a point of everyone sitting down and having a big dinner and ordering wine,” he says. “It promoted this collegiality among everybody.”

“He would hobnob with the other laboratory’s leadership,” Dr. Graham adds, “and enjoyed going out to eat with them and getting the whole process completed in a satisfactory and efficient manner.”

Dr. Knapp sported a pleasantly gregarious persona, friends and colleagues say. “His voice was loud and boisterous, not in a way that was overly aggressive or overly forward, but just a jolly kind of loud,” Dr. Birdsong says. “When I think of him, I think of that hearty laugh, holding up a glass of wine, and listening to him loudly toast something or tell a joke.”

“That’s exactly how I would describe it,” Dr. Pelkey adds. “He was always very talkative, and you normally could hear him coming before you saw him coming. It was just a friendly kind of loud.”

Dr. Pelkey remembers Dr. Knapp’s surprisingly wide array of personal interests. “One day he might talk about going to the observatory the night before to watch an eclipse or a nearby planet. The next day he might talk about staying up late to watch a foreign film with his daughters,” he says. “He might be training for a 10K run or preparing for a trip to Alaska.”

“It still doesn’t seem like he’s gone,” Dr. Pelkey adds. “It’s like he’s just on vacation, and he’s going to be back. He was so full of life.”