As we start 2019, full of new resolutions, hopes and optimism, I have written down the following presidential address for The ASC Bulletin, outlining my goals and initiatives for the Society.
The cytopathology community in general (and the ASC in particular), is like a big extended family; hence, over the past 25 years I have had the pleasure of knowing so many ASC members at a personal level. However, for those of you who do not know me yet, I would like to briefly introduce myself. I completed my Anatomic/Clinical Pathology training at North Shore University Hospital in New York followed by an Oncologic Surgical Pathology fellowship at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and a Cytopathology fellowship at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. Johns Hopkins captivated me so deeply that ever since completing my training in 1997, I have been on its staff. I have been an ASC member since 1993. Right from the beginning when I stepped into Pathology, I was blessed with great mentors who all had a long and distinguished relationship with the Society. They inculcated in me a strong sense of dedication and selfless service to the ASC – Drs. Steve Hajdu, Patricia Saigo, Yener Erozan and Dorothy Rosenthal (all Past Presidents of the ASC). The Johns Hopkins Hospital itself was a huge motivating factor for me to get involved with the ASC very early in my career – the Cytopathology lab named after the great Dr. John K. Frost and the Cytoprep lab named after Gary W. Gill, both truly remarkable individuals with a long and distinguished service record for the ASC.
At the recent ASC Annual Scientific Meeting in Washington DC, I opened my short president-elect address by reading a quote from President Lincoln – “The best way to predict your future is to create it.” ASC’s future is bright as a result of dedicated and steadfast members like you – striving and endeavoring (and “creating it”) today to ensure that the ASC will lead the profession for decades to come. As your new President, I seek your help and assistance to make certain that we all add measurably to our beloved Society and further its mission of education, research and patient advocacy.
My Goals and Initiatives
New Committees and Task Force
In my professional career, the most successful and rewarding experiences have resulted from close mutual collaborations with like-minded individuals and organizations, most of whom have been overseas. With that firm conviction in mind, my first order of business has been to create a new committee – “The International Membership and Liaison Committee” to explore and seek new membership and collaborations and broaden our base at a more global level. The committee is co-chaired by two outstanding individuals – Drs. Guliz Barkan and Diana Esther-Rossi. I’m happy to report that in the short time that this committee has been in existence, it has already taken a few steps to ensure a robust international outreach. There is a new “international competition” planned by the committee called the “World Vision Cytopathology Contest,” which we anticipate will be a very popular event and will be presented as part of our main scientific session at the Annual Scientific Meeting in Salt Lake City in November 2019.
I have also fulfilled my promise I made when I was nominated to run in the ASC’s election for the President; I am committed to addressing the problem and impact of “small tissue biopsy samples” on our practice of FNA cytopathology. As we know, these small biopsy samples create some unique and troubling issues in cytopathology not only diagnostically speaking but also with regards to billing and accounting. To that end, I have formed “The Small Biopsy in Cytopathology Task Force,” co-chaired by two uniquely qualified individuals – Drs. Stefan Pambuccian and Justin Bishop. The task force is actively investigating the issues involved and will assess the impact of the small biopsy samples on our practice and reimbursement. A detailed report is expected to be prepared by the end of summer and is planned to be presented at the 2019 Annual Scientific Meeting as a “white paper.”
“A World of Opportunities” – Global Expansion and Collaboration in Research and Education
Thanks to the positive and enthusiastic response from the International Academy of Cytology (IAC), most of its leadership attended our 2018 Annual Scientific Meeting in Washington, DC. This gave us the unique opportunity to have an important face-to-face meeting with the IAC officers. A decision was made to move ahead with the plans of having an “International Congress of Cytology” in the US, jointly arranged by the ASC-IAC in 2022. Stay tuned for further details as we are actively sorting out details of this most exciting event. As a well-known Japanese poet Ryunosuke Satoro once said, “Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean,” we expect that such collaboration will benefit both the IAC and the ASC and will eventuate in furthering the mission that both organizations share in common. We are also in active discussions with a number of overseas national and regional organizations to join hands mainly in educational efforts.
Our strength as a professional society is also in the size of our membership base. We are planning new strategies to recruit/retain new/existing members. The international committee initiatives are also synergistic to this effort – “Grow beyond borders – become more global.” Also, based on some excellent recommendations by the outgoing “Membership Committee” and its chair Dr. Rosanne Wu, I have put together plans to form a special subcommittee to look at our annual membership renewal fee structure/categories as well as the registration fee for our Annual Scientific Meeting, to make our membership more attractive to potential new members. A final decision will be made as soon as the subcommittee informs me and the executive board of its recommendations. Also, to further help the important task of the membership committee, I have formed the new “Ambassador Committee” and given it specific charges of introducing new members to benefits and programs offered by the ASC and represent the Society at a local/regional level to increase new member involvement.
“Re-engaging ASC’s Past Leaders”
This has always been very close to my heart since I assumed the presidency. Past leaders of the ASC (presidents, EB members, committee chairs) and their immense contributions have never been forgotten. However, there is a definite need to have a structured plan in place for the Society to take advantage of their wisdom and experience. I have renewed efforts this year to involve many of them as advisors on some standing committees. I have also requested the Chair of the Scientific Program Committee find ways to invite them as faculty at the Annual Scientific Meeting. The “pearls of wisdom” can never get outdated and their simple presence at the Meeting adds so much value and significance. New and junior members in particular, would be thrilled to see these highly acclaimed and famous individuals amongst them. We cannot treasure the present and shape our future without honoring our past.
“The Challenge of Change” – Embracing New Technologies
Every passing year we see the introduction of new and clinically valuable diagnostic tools, which help us measurably to achieve higher accuracy in our daily interpretation of cytologic specimens. We have all witnessed the monumental impact of molecular tests, precision medicine and cancer genomics on our profession. To me, the single most important reason for cytopathology to be so successful as a profession is its ability to adapt and integrate the latest cutting-edge technologies in the practice. The next significantly important and breakthrough technology knocking at our door is “machine learning” or “artificial intelligence.” Consequently, I have advised Dr. Paul Wakely (Chair, Scientific Program Committee) on this issue, and we will have up-to-date expert presentations in the form of a “State of the Art” session during our 2019 Annual Scientific Meeting in Salt Lake City.
“Reaffirming our Identity”
I firmly believe that the pathway to success for us as a profession is reasserting our identity as cytopathologists and cytotechnologists. We should feel pride in what we do every day – play a vital role as an important member of a multidisciplinary team taking care of a sick patient. We should find new and better ways to define/introduce cytopathology to all. To that end, I plan to work closely with the “Social Media Committee,” which is under the able chairmanship of Dr. Amy Clayton, who has some fresh ideas to accomplish this goal up for the year.
“The Measure of Tomorrow” – Mentoring in Cytopathology
Not everyone is as lucky as some of us are when we embarked on our journey to the cytopathology world with some of the best mentors guiding our paths to success. I plan to make mentoring a priority for this year. I urge all of you to find at least one student or trainee to exclusively mentor this year. Be a role model and help guide their journey. Motivate and encourage them and make them believe in their talent, abilities and potential to outshine in the profession. Share with them your own vision of success and remind them that the right time is right now – that the “future is today.”
At the end, I would like to thank each and everyone of you to entrust me with the distinguished honor of leading this great organization. I cannot appreciate enough, the selfless help and contributions of so many of you who chair or serve as members of various committees, Executive Board, and editorial board members/reviewers of the JASC. ASC’s present is strong and its future is bright. Let’s all make sure that we lead the profession for many decades to come. It’s time to join hands once again and take a firm step “Together Towards Tomorrow.”