Published on: July 07, 2005
Leading Pathology Organization Opposes Closing AFIP at BRAC Hearing
Cites AFIP’s Invaluable Contributions to Medical Research, Homeland Security and Civilian and Military Patient Care
Washington DC—In testimony before the Defense Base Closure and
Realignment Commission (BRAC) today, Daniel L. Seckinger, MD, FCAP,
past-president of the College of American Pathologists told commission members
that closing the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP) would have
serious, wide ranging ramifications affecting medical research, veterans,
homeland security and both military and civilian patients.
“A decision to close the AFIP is no small matter,” said Dr. Seckinger. “It has
far-reaching implications for both the military and civilian medical
communities and should be evaluated in a larger context than simply its role
in the military health system. I urge the Commission to keep in mind that once
you dismantle 150 years of unmatched medical scientific expertise, there is no
According to Dr. Seckinger, the AFIP is one of only a few facilities in United
States with the ability to deal with a bioterrorist attack through rapid
diagnosis and the ability to manage an epidemic. In addition, the AFIP has
also developed improved ways to detect bioterror agents such as a new test
that identifies cholera at the sub-atomic level and, in partnership with the
private sector, a new biothreat detector utilizing Raman spectroscopy.
“Since September 11, 2001 speculations have centered on the manner of the next
assault, not “if” or “when” but “how.” Whatever form of bioterrorist attack,
the AFIP has the expertise to assist in rapid understanding and diagnosis of
the agent,” said Dr. Seckinger.
During his testimony, Dr. Seckinger also identified multiple unique
contributions that the AFIP makes to the US medical community saying that many
thousands of civilian and military lives have been saved thanks to the
expertise of the AFIP which provided the medical community with answers to
unusual and exceptionally difficult cases.
Dr. Seckinger also testified as to the irreplaceable nature of the AFIP’s vast
tissue repository that spans over 150 years of American medical history.
While the current proposal would warehouse all of these cases, it makes no
provision for upkeep or to continue to use the repository as a functional
resource for education and research.
“Throughout its history, this national treasure of more than 3 million cases,
50 million paraffin blocks, and 10 million formalin-fixed tissue
specimens—many rare and unusual—combined with DNA and molecular breakthroughs
has allowed us to develop curative therapies for previously untreatable and
often fatal diseases,” said Dr. Seckinger.
Dr. Seckinger cited the AFIP’s contributions to the development of a typhoid
vaccine and the discovery of the cause of yellow fever as just a couple of the
AFIP’s many successes that have served all patients, not just the military.
According to Dr. Seckinger, military care would be compromised under the
proposed plan to close the AFIP. For example, the AFIP provides expert
pathology services to military medical centers around the globe through the
Army Telepathology Program that utilizes remote controlled microscopes and
offers medical treatment and consultation that would be otherwise unavailable
in the field. Also, the AFIP also maintains 40,000 specimens in registries for
POWs, Agent Orange, and Operations Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom among
others, benefiting thousands of veterans and today’s deployed forces. Last
year alone, the AFIP reviewed over 13,200 cases for VA and hospitals and
“Preserving AFIP is essential to all of medicine,” said Dr. Seckinger. “We
fervently oppose closing AFIP and we call on the Commission to reject the
Department of Defense’s recommendation to do so.”
Dr. Seckinger’s testimony
is available on the CAP website at www.cap.org
For more information, contact Anthony Phipps via e-mail at email@example.com
or by phone at 800-323-4040, ext. 7574.
The College of American Pathologists is a medical society serving about 16,000
physician members and the laboratory community throughout the world. It is
the world’s largest association composed exclusively of pathologists and is
widely considered the leader in laboratory quality assurance. The CAP is an
advocate for high quality and cost-effective patient care.