College of American Pathologists
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In memoriam:
William J. Reals, MD 1920-2002

Former CAP president William J. Reals, MD, died Nov. 12. He was 82.

"He was an extremely intelligent individual who had superb leadership qualities," says Tyra Hutchens, MD, also a former CAP president. "In almost any organization that he became involved with, he rose to the top."

Dr. Reals served as secretary-treasurer and vice president of the College before being elected president in 1971. He was recognized with the CAP Pathologist of the Year Award in 1974 and the CAP/ASCP Distinguished Service Award in 1982, and he was made a life fellow of the College in 1981. Dr. Reals was also a past-president of the American Board of Pathology.

At the time of his death, Dr. Reals was professor emeritus at the University of Kansas School of Medicine. Prior to his retirement, he served as dean and vice chancellor for the Wichita campus, which, in 1985, created the William J. Reals Gallery of Art. Dr. Reals had also served as director of laboratories and vice president for medical affairs at St. Joseph Medical Center, Wichita.

A World War II U.S. Army veteran, Dr. Reals served as a medical officer
in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War and remained in the Air

Force Reserve for 27 years before retiring in 1980 with the rank of brigadier general.

Dr. Reals, a licensed pilot and an internationally renowned expert in aviation accidents, was the chief pathologist for the 1977 collision of two jumbo jets on Tenerife in the Canary Islands, which killed 583 people and is considered the greatest loss of life in a single airplane accident. He was the author of two books on aviation safety, Medical Investigation of Aviation Accidents and Aerospace Pathology, both published by the CAP.

Dr. Reals’ colleagues, however, remember him for more than his professional accomplishments. "I first met him when I was a resident and my chief of service took me along to a cancer conference," says former CAP president Loyd Wagner, MD. At dinner one evening, Dr. Wagner objected to his boss’ racist remarks and was fired on the spot. Dr. Reals was at the table. "I left the table and thought, ’Well, what am I going to do now?’" recalls Dr. Wagner. "And Dr. Reals talked to my chief and said, ’You can’t do that.’ So the next morning I had my job back and an apology."

Dr. Hutchens remembers Dr. Reals’ role in converting the CAP Assembly into the present House of Delegates and in restoring the financial health of the College in the early ’70s. "Although he had strong opinions, they were usually right, and he was able to work with people to get things accomplished," says Dr. Hutchens.

Perhaps Dr. Reals’ most enduring contribution to the College is the Laboratory Accreditation Program, which was conceived in unusual circumstances. In 1983, Dr. Reals recalled that "Jim Barger [James Barger, MD] and I together evolved the concept [of the LAP] at the meeting of the College which was held at the Palmer House. Unbelievable as it may seem, we stepped out from one of the hallways during a noisy session and wrote the resolution standing on a fire escape 25 stories above Chicago."

Dr. Reals is survived by his wife, Norma; sons William Jr., Thomas (also a physician), and John; daughters Ann and Mary; and 18 grandchildren.