College of American Pathologists
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December 2007
Feature Story


A broader membership

In the first letter from his President's Desk, Jared Schwartz, MD, PhD, defined "A Powerful New Vision" of and for our CAP, including the challenges, rights, and obligations (October 2007). The CAP vision statement had been reworded in August.

This would be a good time to re-examine the provision in our bylaws that requires certification by the American Board of Pathology for membership. Many academic pathologists who are not board-certified were once our teachers, role models, and friends, and they now write the texts and articles that enlighten us, teach the courses at our meetings, and are the consultants to whom we refer our most difficult cases. Many of them are well trained and would like to join the CAP, but they had chosen not to take the ABP certification exams.

Not having provisions to consider them for full membership hinders our recruitment efforts. Academic residencies and fellowships are the source of most, if not the best, of our colleagues. It is therefore in our mutual interest to establish good relations with those potential Junior Members, through their programs, as soon as possible. The keys to their looking favorably on us are the attitudes of their teachers, mentors, department chairs, and program directors.

Currently, relations between the CAP and the academic chairs of pathology are suboptimal. Many of those chairs are unaware of the benefits of CAP membership because they are not eligible to join. It is presumptuous to expect them to proselytize and recruit for us, among their residents and fellows, when we show little respect for them and keep them ineligible for membership in our College. The CAP will have to build bridges to our colleagues in academia. There is much we can teach and learn from each other in a mutually beneficial win-win association. And keep in mind that membership is not a zero-sum game, with non-certified academicians displacing those who are board-certified. There is no downside to increasing CAP membership from among the ranks of academia.

I know there are efforts to make non-boarded academic pathologists eligible to become honorary fellows or affiliate members, or even to establish a second-class membership category for them—but that's not good enough. They should be eligible for full membership and fellowship.

This might be best effected by amending the constitution and bylaws to say that, for purposes of eligibility in the CAP, training in pathology and the rank or position of professor, associate professor, assistant professor, chairman of department, and/or residency program director shall be considered the equivalent of board certification. When considering non-boarded physicians for their staffs, many outstanding hospitals accept "equivalent qualifications" in their credentialing process. Perhaps the CAP should, too.

Let's show academicians the respect they are due, acknowledging that we need them (perhaps even more than they need us), welcoming them into our organization as equals, facilitating a mutual exchange of information, and improving our success rate in recruiting their residents and fellows. There is nothing in our "powerful new vision" that mentions, implies, or requires the self-limiting exclusivity of board certification.

Seth L. Haber, MD
Adjunct Clinical Professor

Department of Pathology

Stanford University

School of Medicine

Emeritus Chief of Pathology
Kaiser Permanente Medical Center

Santa Clara, Calif.

bullet CAP president Jared Schwartz, MD, PhD, replies: Your argument in support of an academic pathologist class of membership is welcome and timely. The matter has been referred to the Council on Membership and Professional Development with the aim of an appropriate recommendation to the Board of Governors next year. If the Board supports establishing an academic Fellow class of membership, a constitutional amendment must be proposed and submitted to CAP Fellows for a vote. An affirmative vote by at least two-thirds of the Fellows voting is needed for any amendment to be adopted.


Remembering Dennis

The memorial tribute to Dennis B. Dorsey, MD (September 2007), brought memories of him to mind. He was the CAP's most outstanding president, a sentiment expressed by his fellow past president, Herbert Derman, MD.

Dennis invited me to serve on the Standards Committee in 1980. He was a perfectionist in all areas, and it was a privilege to observe his leadership skills in managing the many interfaces between the CAP and other standard-setting organizations.

He was an elegant gentleman in his dress, style, and demeanor. His broad intellect covered topics far beyond medicine and science, to include innovations in laboratory management, photography, and using computers. In later years, he was invited routinely to the annual CAP Quality Assurance Seminars. He sat in the front row, taking meticulous notes, so he could give a brief yet comprehensive summation and assessment of the seminar at its closing. His speech was as precise as his hematology controls.

Following the death of my son Kenney Gilmer, Dennis and his wife, Hazel, invited me to their home in Florida for a short visit. This devoted couple nurtured me in my grief, a gesture never to be forgotten. Dennis was a class act in every aspect of his life and among the most civilized gentlemen I ever knew. I shall always remember him.

P. Ridgway Gilmer Jr., MD
Houston, Tex.