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In Memoriam
William R. Dito, MD

1929-2006

May 2006

William R. Dito, MD, a member of the CAP Board of Governors from 1998 to 2004 and whose founding work in pathology informatics is legendary, died April 3 of lung cancer. He was 76.

Dr. Dito last year was awarded the College’s Frank W. Hartman Memorial Award for his years of outstanding service on the Information Science and Technology Committee, Internet Editorial Board, and Informatics Committee, all of which he chaired at various times. His work in these areas was instrumental in the development and design of the CAP Web site, and his support of the launch of the site played a key role in ensuring its success. In addition, Dr. Dito’s direction as chair of the Information Science and Technology Committee was integral to the start of the College’s e-LAB Solutions. “Bill provided leadership and lasting accomplishment,” says longtime friend and colleague Franklin R. Elevitch, MD.

Dr. Dito served on, among other CAP groups, the Commission on Laboratory Accreditation, Publications Committee, Council on Practice and Education, and Ad Hoc Telehealth Planning Group. He received the CAP Presidents Medal in 1997 and 2004, the Distinguished Service Award from the American Society for Clinical Pathology, and the CAP/ASCP Distinguished Service Award in 1998.

Dr. Dito was a member of the editorial boards of the American Journal of Clinical Pathology, Laboratory Medicine, Archives of Pathology, and Clinical Laboratory Management Review. He was also editor of Informatics in Pathology, by Grune and Stratton, from 1991 to 1994.

A pioneer in pathology informatics, Dr. Dito was chosen as the 2004 Honorary Fellow of the Association for Pathology Informatics in recognition of his contributions to the field, only the third to receive the honor. Raymond D. Aller, MD, who says Dr. Dito was a mentor to him and the instructor of many informatics courses he took, recalls that Dr. Dito devised approaches and techniques that his pathologist colleagues used, often years before similar programs became available commercially. One example: in the early 1980s, an Apple II program to create lecture slides in color, years before PowerPoint.

“He was definitely one of the trailblazers in pathology informatics,” Dr. Aller says. “He took whatever was available in his toolbox at the time and did very useful things with them. He did many things before anyone else thought of doing them.”

Dr. Dito retired in 1995 as division head of laboratory medicine at Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation, La Jolla, Calif. Before his 20-year service at Scripps he was chief of laboratory services at Veterans Administration Hospital and associate professor of pathology at the University of Arizona, both in Tucson.

Former colleague Robert Nakamura, MD, chair emeritus of the Department of Pathology at Scripps Clinic, remembers Dr. Dito as a man of great integrity.

“Integrity is a buzzword that means a lot of things to everybody, but it’s a consistent behavior in your belief in values,” says Dr. Nakamura, describing Dr. Dito as someone whose actions followed his words. “He always was a loyal person, a person of high integrity. That’s what I remember most about him.”

Dr. Nakamura and others knew Dr. Dito for his intelligence, pragmatism, and even his engaging style of speaking.

“Bill was a one-of-a-kind sort of guy,” says Dr. Elevitch. “What you saw was what you got. Open, forthright, principled, articulate, energetic—he seemed bigger than life.” Dr. Elevitch, chair of the CAP SNOMED International Authority, became friends with Dr. Dito while active in the ASCP and served with him on several CAP committees. “Bill spoke with his voice, eyes, arms, and hands in a very engaging way,” he says. “Sort of an expression of putting himself into everything he said. I always thought that was part of his San Francisco Italian upbringing.”

CAP president Thomas Sodeman, MD, says Dr. Dito was proud of his Italian heritage and spoke of it often. One of his fondest memories of Dr. Dito took place at a dinner party a few years ago. “Bill sat around at the table and explained to us all the Italian gestures,” he recalls.

At other times Dr. Dito enjoyed telling stories about the challenges of raising five sons with his wife, Bridget.

“They were the center of his life, there’s no doubt about it, along with Bridget,” Dr. Sodeman says, noting Dr. Dito’s later devotion to his 11 grandchildren as well. “His family was important.”

In addition to being an avid golfer, Dr. Dito was a worldwide traveler and particularly fond of cruising, Dr. Sodeman says.

“Oh boy, did he love to take cruises. He’s cruised about every place you could go on a cruise,” he says, recalling how Dr. Dito spoke often of his trip to the Black Sea.

When the two had visited in February, Dr. Sodeman recalls Dr. Dito mentioning an upcoming cruise that, despite his illness, he wanted to take, displaying the determination that served him well throughout his life.

“Boy, he wanted to make that cruise so bad,” says Dr. Sodeman. “And, he did.”

The William R. Dito, MD, Fund for Informatics has been established within the CAP Foundation. Memorial gifts can be sent to the CAP Foundation at 325 Waukegan Road, Northfield, IL 60093, or they can be made by calling 800-323-4040 ext. 7749 or online at www.cap.org. Contributions will be used for projects that align with Dr. Dito’s lifelong interest in informatics.