College of American Pathologists
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  President’s Desk Column


cap today

Staying in touch and a step ahead

March 2004
Mary E. Kass, MD

I chose pathology as a specialty for many reasons, but a need to stay sharp and relevant was near the top of my list. I knew that pathology would never stop evolving. I could never know it all, and a lifelong pursuit would have good purpose.

I also knew that pathology was a science that would have meaningful applications both concrete and diverse. Some of our most important contributions have been those that we alone could make. One example was during the anthrax scare two years ago, when the College leadership quickly partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to enable laboratories to respond quickly and effectively. Another came to fruition last summer, when we signed an agreement with the National Library of Medicine to make SNOMED CT freely available to everyone in the United States.

I can remember when pathology was thought to be a low-profile specialty, but such notions have long-since evaporated. Modern pathology is cutting-edge medicine practiced in the public eye. Many of our responsibilities now extend well beyond the laboratory and call upon skills never contemplated in medical school. The more we know, the more we need to know, and the more we appreciate opportunities to teach and learn from one another.

Fortunately, the CAP responds to this need with a commitment to top-notch continuing medical education. Everything we do, from laboratory accreditation to our new Virtual Informatics College, is designed to help us remain first-rate physicians.

We are now preparing for our signature event, CAP ’04, to be held Sept. 19-22 at the beautiful new JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort and Spa in Phoenix. This is our second independent annual meeting, and as at the first, we plan to celebrate our roots, to dig deep, and stretch tall.

I know that "resonate" is an overused word, but that’s what CAP ’03 did for me. Our first solo meeting answered my need for intellectual challenge and bolstered my confidence in the future of our specialty. For the 1,000 of our colleagues who came together in San Diego, CAP ’03 was about more than education or networking or even comradeship. It was about reinvention. It was more than a refresher course; it was a Renaissance.

CAP ’03 made us aware of the College’s potential as an organization, of what we can do if we experiment and take risks. It introduced high-energy, cutting-edge, physician-specific CME. Education by and for pathologists struck a chord. Our members loved it.

CAP ’04 will offer much of the same and more. We have a larger menu of courses-107 choices as opposed to 66 in 2003. Some courses were oversubscribed last year, and we’re therefore offering them again this year for those who had to be turned away. You will find everything from bladder and breast pathology, billing, and business metrics to lymphomas, thrombosis, troponin, and soft tissue and thyroid pathology. There will be a variety of learning opportunities: didactic sessions, microscope tutorials, lively roundtables, and day-long seminars on molecular pathology and transfusion medicine. The course catalogue should be in your hands by the time you read this; spend some time with it. Register early to learn firsthand from a faculty of 127 of the brightest minds in our specialty. Plan to enjoy the magnificent site and spend restorative evenings with family and friends.

The annual meeting is also a place for conversation about the CAP and the future of our specialty. Such conversation is already driving changes within the College that are designed to improve communication and encourage innovation.

For example, the Board of Governors has been working to streamline and accelerate its deliberations. We now devote at least half of each Board meeting to an open discussion of strategic matters. Board meetings don’t last any longer, but they’re more productive and more lively. We’re learning new ways to work together.

We hope to learn more about better ways to lead and listen, to appreciate our members’ needs. To this end, we have asked Board members to serve on councils and encouraged them to attend committee meetings. Instead of gleaning information from written reports, Board members will participate in council and committee work that informs policymaking. We will get to know each other better and enjoy each other more.

These are good steps, but they’re not enough. We need more direct input from the membership. The mechanism we’ve come up with is the first annual Members Town Meeting, a one-hour forum during CAP ’04, scheduled for Sept. 21. I hope that everyone who registers will set aside that hour to meet with CAP leaders and to share their thoughts. Please be there, and don’t hesitate to speak up.

If you had not been planning to attend CAP ’04, I hope you will reconsider. This is an important time for our specialty; we have much to do. Reinvention does not occur in a vacuum. We launched something extraordinary in San Diego last October. CAP ’03 felt less like a conference than a springboard. We now know that’s exactly what it was, and I expect we’ll trace an even more impressive trajectory come September. Hope to see you there.

Dr. Kass welcomes communication from members. Send your letters to her at