College of American Pathologists
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October 2005
President's Desk

Thomas M. Sodeman, MD

"I believe in the dreams of the future more than the history of the past." —Thomas Jefferson

Every two years, there is a change in the presidency of the College of American Pathologists. Each year new governors join its board. This renewal brings with it new ideas and approaches to the issues we face in the practice of pathology. Change can be healthy. We can only act on the future. Yet, in the past lie many truths that will help us form that future.

As the 29th president of the CAP, I am committed to the mission of the organization. I want to take this time to remind the membership of the CAP mission statement:

The College of American Pathologists, the principal organization of board-certified pathologists, serves and represents the interests of patients, pathologists and the public by fostering excellence in the practice of pathology and laboratory medicine.

This mission is the core that drives College actions. Our vision is to be the leading organization for physicians practicing pathology, a leader in setting standards and performance measures, and an influential advocate for pathologists. We meet this challenge through an organization composed of members committed to improving patient care through the practice of quality medicine. Pathologists are physicians first. Each of us trained in the provision of health care and took an oath to uphold the principles of medicine.

Essential for the College to succeed in its mission is a set of organizational core values. These values include advancing the patient’s health, enhancing the performance and image of pathologists, advocating for excellence in the profession, developing collaborative relationships to improve quality, and delivering science-based, innovative products.

As an organization, the College establishes a series of strategic directions. These directions are built upon the mission and vision. New directions for 2006 include strengthening the House of Delegates to make it the leading member forum for issues facing the practice of pathology, ensuring that the Laboratory Accreditation Program of the College advances the quality of pathology services and addresses patient safety, and establishing the College as a major source of patient information on issues related to pathology.

To achieve these directions, the CAP Strategic Planning Committee outlined a series of initiatives for the organization to consider. Key among these initiatives are a process to identify and assist pathologists in transitioning new technologies into pathology practices, active participation in establishing global standards for care, improving communication to members, and ensuring that reimbursement for pathology services adjusts to the developing technologies in pathology.

My personal goals for the next two years run parallel to those set by the Strategic Planning Committee. I plan to strengthen our partnerships with key national medical organizations and our state pathology societies. Educational programming will be a high priority, as will cutting-edge information about new technologies and indicators of future changes in practice. We will continue to monitor what works best and offer new approaches, such as enriched offerings for those who are preparing for maintenance of certification.

We cannot know what our profession will be like in 10 years, but we can see the agents of change. A decade from now, we could be talking about the microscope in the past tense. In a few short years, trays of slides may be supplanted in many medical centers by digitized images. Time now spent at the microscope may instead be used to examine results of proteomic studies. Instead of reading out slides, we could be comparing our tissue samples to similar findings online and researching the effectiveness of therapies that have been attempted in similar circumstances.
As technologies that will both disrupt and enhance the practice of pathology continue to emerge, we must be nimble and clear-eyed about opportunities to expand the scope of our practices. It will also be important to prepare for changes in the greater economy and the ways our patients access health care. We will need to be open-minded and flexible. That may translate to some “out-of-the-box” thinking about how those in smaller practices can team up to give their patients the benefit of technologies that are likely to cluster in major medical centers.

We will also be looking for better ways to share information and talent within the College through refinements in governance. We need to recognize and respect what we have and put it to good use. This is about what some people call an “attitude of gratitude.” I intend to see that the human, technical, and cultural resources of the College are well appreciated, wisely applied, and clearly focused on what is best for our patients, our science, and the advancement of excellence in the greater medical community.

The College is an organization driven by volunteer members and a dedicated staff. Our professional association exists to empower the members and provide a sense of identity. We can advance the science of health care and the roles that pathologists have in the health of Americans. With the support of the CAP fellows and the staff of our Northfield, Ill., and Washington offices, I know my next two years as CAP president can advance the College and the practice of pathology. CAP is the leading organization of board-certified pathologists, and I am honored to be its new president.

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