College of American Pathologists
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  In Memoriam:
  Dennis B. Dorsey, MD 1912-2007






September 2007
Feature Story

Dennis B. Dorsey, MD, CAP president from 1975–1977, died June 12 at age 95.

Dr. Dorsey served the CAP as a member of the Board of Governors (1964–1970), as regional commissioner (1964–1967) and chair (1968– 1969) of the Commission on Inspection and Accreditation, as vice president (1973– 1975), and as Standards Committee chair (1980–1982). He was a College liaison and an independent consultant to outside groups, including the Centers for Disease Control, Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals, and Veterans Administration (all renamed later), and the U.S. Public Health Service. Dr. Dorsey was a gifted writer whose first official task for the College was as 1961– 1962 editor of the Bulletin of the College of American Pathologists.

Dr. Dorsey began his career as director of pathology at Lakeview Memorial Hospital, Danville, Ill., in 1950. Shortly after he arrived, he set about creating systems for quality control. “The first thing he did was to devise a method to process tissue rapidly by hand,” says Herbert Derman, MD, a close friend who served as 1983–1985 CAP president.

“He ordered National Bureau of Standards-calibrated flasks and pipettes and made his own standards by weighing out the chemicals on an analytic balance. He put together his own program, which controlled accuracy, precision, and the detection of random error in hematology. He invented quality control in hematology, there’s no question about that,” he says.

Dr. Dorsey developed in 1953 the first personnel management standards for the laboratory. “He drew up a table of organization and job descriptions and checklists for performance evaluation with pay keyed to performance, and published pay rates and ranges. Then, a couple years later, he created a cost-accounting system for the laboratory,” a new concept for laboratory management at the time, Dr. Derman recalls.

Dr. Dorsey was elected president of the Illinois Society of Pathologists in 1956. A year later, he was named president of the Illinois Society of Blood Banks and elected to represent Illinois in the CAP Assembly.

“What I remember about Dr. Dorsey was that he was a real gentleman,” says John K. Duckworth, MD, a former member of the CAP Board of Governors and a former chair of the Commission on Laboratory Accreditation.

Tyra T. Hutchens, MD, who succeeded Dr. Dorsey as CAP president in 1977, says Dr. Dorsey’s intelligence was his most striking characteristic and that he was “innovative and wonderful to collaborate with.

“He was a wonderful spokesman for pathology,” Dr. Hutchens says.

Dr. Dorsey received the CAP/ ASCP Gold Award for his scientific exhibit on quality control in hematology in 1962, the first of many honors that would include the CAP Pathologist of the Year Award in 1969 and the CAP/ASCP Distinguished Service Award in 1986.

The Dorsey family relocated to Winfield, Ill., in 1964, when he accepted a post as laboratory director at Central DuPage Hospital. He was by then much in demand for his workshops on laboratory management (Related article: How and why pathologists fail as managers for his 1962 essay on pathologists as managers) and quality assurance. This was also the year he wrote the first checklist for laboratory inspectors and standards to accompany each item in the checklist. He later joked that when he presented the 10-page checklist to the accreditation commission, its members asked that he shorten it and he agreed to do so if they would tell him what to cut. “When they got through telling me what to take out,” he said in 1985, “it was up to 15 pages and it’s been growing ever since.”

In 1967, as College liaison, Dr. Dorsey shared the standards with the Joint Commission and the CDC. The Joint Commission eventually adopted standards identical to those of the CAP, and the CDC accepted CAP accreditation as evidence of compliance with the Clinical Laboratories Improvement Act of 1967.

In 1980, Dr. Dorsey was asked to take on the responsibilities of the CAP Standards Committee chair, and under his leadership the Standards Committee coordinated all the scientific standard-setting activities of the College and liaison activities with outside standard-setting organizations.

Dr. Dorsey held several patents for photographic camera exposure controls and safety closures and invented a camera for simplified photomicrography. “When he first got to Danville, he wanted to have pictures for teaching and the hospital wouldn’t put up the money for a camera,” Dr. Derman recalls. “So he invented a camera for taking pictures through the microscope; it would be like today’s digital camera that sits on the microscope.”

Dr. Dorsey’s daughter, Carol Bristol, says her parents loved to dance and to travel, and they traveled extensively after his retirement from hospital practice in 1977. When Hazel Dorsey died in 2003, they had been married for 64 years. “Both my parents always said, ‘When we are gone, do not mourn us, we had a great life!’” she says. “And they certainly did.”


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