College of American Pathologists
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  President’s Desk Column


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CAP ’03: A warm welcome home

October 2003
Mary E. Kass, MD

We all read to keep up professionally, but print is just one method on the menu.

Learning via journal is like nutrition via vitamins. It covers the minimum requirements without spice or nuance. Education in isolation is efficient but one-dimensional; you get the facts without the flavor of a firsthand account.

I attend conferences for intellectual stimulation and camaraderie. I want to hear firsthand reports of medical progress, to learn how the latest advancements are being applied. I have enjoyed that kind of nourishment and I’m willing to travel for it.

When we held our annual meeting in conjunction with others, the focus was diluted. We traded professional immersion in the long-simmered stock of one rich tradition for a lukewarm simmer in a thin broth of many disciplines. The move to sole sponsorship this year gave shape, color, and sound to the College as our professional home. We could reconnect and recapture early enthusiasms about pathology. We had the time, the space, and the chairs.

When the transition committee that planned CAP ’03—The Pathologists’ Meeting convened just over a year ago, we had decisions to make. We wanted this meeting to be energizing, unconventional, and unlike anything we’d ever done before. Were our expectations realistic? Was a dramatic restructuring even possible with so little planning time? We didn’t know, but we had to try.

We decided to work with three keywords: learn, connect, and lead. We would pursue top-drawer speakers, promote networking, and nourish leadership skills. We would launch a new tradition for the College, a “pathology appreciation weekend,” if you will, where members and their families would return each year to rekindle and recharge. And we would do this in a dozen small ways. By setting up topical luncheon roundtables where we could network. By offering wonderful tours and events for members, spouses, and friends. By changing to first-name nametags.

Our first priority was to provide outstanding learning experiences specifically for pathologists. We recruited a stellar 10-member education committee and asked its members to construct a curriculum both cutting-edge and practical. We wanted a balance between anatomic and clinical pathology and a roster featuring the very best speakers. We wanted to satisfy intellectual curiosity and prompt new ways of thinking about our work. We wanted people to go home with useful ideas for practice improvements and insights they could apply first-thing Monday morning.

The curriculum was diverse and flexible. Although most enrolled a la carte from the daily menu of courses, some opted for the two-day molecular pathology program and others spent all day Friday on transfusion medicine. Many took a local half-day recreational tour (or two) with spouses and friends. Stimulating seminars, lively roundtables, and opportunities to relax recharged our batteries.

We built a “connections café” on site, with Internet kiosks, posters, abstracts, and industry presentations. Just as we had hoped, the café drew members throughout the day. We scheduled CAP Board of Governors members to spend time there, to ask members about their level of satisfaction with the College, what they like about how we do things now, and what they would change. We hope that those who stopped to talk will keep on talking, continue coming to meetings, and consider joining a committee or two.

A lot of people have leadership skills, but few of us are born with them. Leadership track workshops on public speaking, laboratory management, and advocacy in the greater community addressed that need. These skills will enable our members to participate more effectively as members of the medical staff and leaders in the laboratory community.

In time, we will create a track for resident members and add seminars for others on the laboratory team. For now, we will provide content for pathologists alone because we need to do this first piece extremely well before we take on more.

I was inaugurated as CAP president during CAP ’03, an auspicious beginning that casts a rosy glow toward the horizon. We’ll talk about my hopes for the CAP in future columns. In this column, I wanted to give everyone who wasn’t with us in San Diego a reason to join us next year and the year after that.

Although I’m writing this in September, you’ll be reading it at the end of baseball season. Perhaps you’ll watch a television rerun of that wonderful baseball movie, “Field of Dreams,” featuring Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones. Costner plays a young man who wants to convert his cornfield to a baseball field where he hopes Shoeless Joe Jackson, one of baseball’s immortals, will return to life. Costner’s character finds little support for the plan, but his vision takes shape when he hears a voice out in the cornfield. “If you build it,” he is told, “he will come.”

This meeting set the stage for an annual celebration of pathology. The next one will be Sept. 19–22, 2004 at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort in Phoenix, Ariz. I hope you will join us. We have built it and you should come.