Message from the ASC President – Welcome to the Garden

Barbara A. Crothers, DO, ASC President Joint Pathology Center Silver Spring, MD

I aspire to be a farmer. I’m already a gardener who enjoys the fruits and flowers of my labors and now you, the members of the American Society of Cytopathology, have entrusted me with a great landscape to sow the seeds of change. It is a great privilege! I am honored to serve you, the profession of cytopathology, and our patients. I am sincerely grateful for your vote of confidence. But I will need your help.

Farming and gardening are cooperative activities that rely on an interconnected ecosystem for success, so I will use that analogy this year to chart our way. New gardeners and farmers plan for the future, but also evaluate the present and reflect on the past. The ASC grows stronger and more stable each year; a thick trunk springing from a strong root system.

During my 30 years as an ASC member, I have been constantly amazed at how the Annual Scientific Meeting improves every year, and at the growth and outreach of our organization. Most of all, I am  impressed with the welcoming warmth of the members and the Executive Board. Our organization is like a family that continues to embrace new members and get them involved. Without the encouragement and opportunities provided to me as a member, I would never be standing in these shoes as your President. You are the organization, and each of you has a significant role to play.

 

THEME: Grow Your Garden with 100 Years of Color 

Every incoming President selects a theme or focus for the year, and I chose “Grow Your Garden.” Gardeners focus on their own habitat, their own little worlds of color; a patchwork of gardens endows the world with beauty. Gardeners tend to work alone (aren’t most pathologists and cytotechnologists introverts?), looking at the big picture, but also getting down in the dirt and details. You are gardeners every day; we all influence things in our environment and impact outcomes, no matter how small our actions or how small our sphere. When you are a gardener, you go around looking at what is in your garden, what is doing well, what is not, and make some changes:  Weed-pull it out! Flourishing- plant more! Languishing- relocate! I ask each of you to work within your sphere of influence – whether that is in your workplace, on an ASC committee, in your community or internationally – to forward our goals as a profession.

This year we celebrate “100 years of color,” George Papanicolaou’s research based on Papanicolaou staining to color cervical epithelial cells. Without color, Dr. Papanicolaou would not have been able to differentiate between cellular changes. The foundation of cytopathology is morphology, the examination of colored cells. Our gardens thrive on color, and there are innumerable cell blossoms that we view daily. It works well with a garden theme, don’t you think?

The ASC has already laid the groundwork for many changes we’ll be working this year. We have a strategic plan in alignment with the quality and safe practice principles of the Institute of Medicine, thanks to Dr. Eva Wojcik. I can’t say enough good things about the ASC/ASCP Working Group for the Future of Cytopathology spearheaded by Kalyani Naik, MS, SCT(ASCP), Maria Friedlander, MPA, CT(ASCP)CMIAC, Lynnette Pineault, SCT(ASCP), Amy Wendel-Spiczka, MS, SCT, MP, HLT(ASCP)CM, Sandra Giroux, MS, SCT(ASCP)CFIAC, and A. Janie Roberson, BS, SCT(ASCP)CMIAC, focused on emerging cytopathology roles and re-invention of the profession, particularly the transformation of cytotechnology. They’ve done a lot of heavy lifting to move us forward towards team-based cytopathology practice. Most importantly, we continue to collaborate with our sister organizations towards common goals: the College of American Pathologists, the American Society for Clinical Pathology, the American Society of Cytotechnology, the Papanicolaou Society of Cytopathology, the International Academy of Cytopathology, and the United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology.

But sometimes you have to do some weeding. Looking at our committee list, I “pulled up” the Continuing Education Oversight Committee, Position Statements and Guidelines Review Committee, Website Committee, and the Paris System Website Task Force to make room in the garden for some new initiatives. Committees should have a lifespan too – that’s a good thing; it means they have achieved their purpose. Two other committees are soon to see a shovel come their way – The ASC/IAC Milan System for Salivary Terminology and the Milan System Website Atlas Committee, but they still have a bit of work to do this year.

PLANTING NEW SEEDS

Once you make a space in the garden, you are inspired to fill it in. The ASC/ASCP Working Group will be restructuring to work through some of their recommendations for future growth. I’ve transplanted many members of the Website Committee to the Product Innovation Committee to conceptualize and design new products to help sustain us financially. There are two new Task Forces – CELL and CLIA – to work on special projects I’ve chosen to focus on this year. There are 69 new committee member “seeds” to help with these efforts. After you appoint and plant, it’s important to nurture the seeds, so… I have maintained or appointed seasoned leaders to act as advisors for these efforts. They include Mohidean Ghofrani, MD for the Product Innovation Committee; Kara Hansing, BS, SCT(ASCP) and Robert Goulart, MD for the CELL Resources Committee; David Wilbur, MD, George Birdsong, MD, Carol Filomena, MD and Swati Mehrotra, MD  for the Government Affairs and Economic Policy Committee; Lydia Howell, MD for the Public Affairs and Advocacy Committee; and Patricia Wasserman, MD for the Social Media Committee. I want to recognize, in particular, the critical work that they have all done in the past and continue to do for the Society. It doesn’t happen without all of you; all of you who volunteer, who attend Annual Scientific  Meetings, or even who advocate for cytology on a daily basis at your places of work – your sphere. YOU make the difference.

What is this meant to grow? Every President can only accomplish a few things during his or her year, and I chose the following areas of emphasis.

Transform, Re-energize and Recruit for New Cytology Professional(s)

I am deeply concerned about our dwindling cytotechnology schools and workforce. We cannot function effectively without cytotechnologists. They are the canaries in the coal mines – where they go, cytopathologists follow. We all must reinvent ourselves, and help each other do it. I’m asking the ASC to consider sponsoring an ASC University to develop a Master’s Program in Cytology for a new Mid-level Practitioner. It may involve a consortium of universities. In addition, we’ll double our contributions to the Cytopathology Education and Learning Laboratory (CELL) Website through the CELL Task Force to provide on-line education both nationally and abroad. The Cytotechnology Programs Review Committee (CPRC) and the Cytopathology Program Director’s Committee will collaborate on curriculum for a mid-level pathology professional Master’s program. The Social Media Committee and others have been charged to invent new ways to recruit and retain individuals in our profession.

Improve underserved US population access to cervical cancer screening with Pap tests

To this day, it is still primarily unscreened and under-screened women who get cervical cancer. We’re in a climate where healthcare is becoming unaffordable, more confusing, and less accessible, while at the same time we are advocating less screening with a molecular test that doesn’t detect dysplasia. We have to reach these women with an understandable message of the importance of screening, and preserve the Pap test as a scientifically valid screening test. The Public Affairs and Advocacy Committee is charged with coordinating with local patient advocacy groups and other organizations to create and investigate ways to make the messages clearer, and the ASC has begun discussions with the College of American Pathologist’s See, Test and Treat program to become a sponsor.

Prepare for changes in government regulations for cytology laboratories

We currently have a President, Donald Trump, who has stated that for every regulation passed, two must go, and we should be prepared. I’ve created a CLIA Task Force under the Government Affairs and Economic Policy Committee to partner with sister organizations and to examine current regulations for scientific validity and draft “ideal” regulations that consider the changes in cytology and technology.

Ensure financial solvency of the ASC through development of new products

The new Product Innovations Committee is charged with taking ideas from an ASC Executive Board Task Force, headed by Dr. Liron Pantanowitz, and coming up with new products that can help boost our revenue. In addition, the Budget and Finance Committee will be performing a 5-year review of the financial health of our organization and determine future projections for solvency.

Support cytopathology research through continued grants

The Scientific Program Committee, ASC Foundation, and Research and Current Concepts Committees will collaborate to foment new research in cytopathology.  That may include perpetuating the Shark Tank or finding other inventive ways of encouraging new investigators.

Not everything in the garden is beneficial–we are faced with many threats, primarily our diminishing workforce, the changing medical climate, and currently, loss of our vote at the AMA in the House of Delegates. We require 20% of our medical members to be AMA members to have a seat, and we rely solely on this position for influence in billing and reimbursement in Congress, so it is a critical position. I urge you, as a member, become an AMA member as well.

However, we are a strong organization, and we are capable of anything. What did President Barack Obama say? Yes, we CAN. And next year in Washington, DC, at this time, I hope to be able to tell you about the fruits of your labor and dedication. So the theme, “Grow Your Garden,” is an appeal for each of you to work within your garden, your sphere of influence; to grow your garden. Look around you. Evaluate your garden, your environment. That means capitalizing on what works, avoiding what doesn’t, and planting new ideas into the soil. You are a little dot, a grain of soil, in a large garden called the ASC. We are your support network- your soil, your nutrients, and your opportunity for growth. It’s easy to start small, coming to the ASC Annual Meeting, volunteering to sit on a Committee, posting to the blogosphere. I’m going to call on you, in the words of President John F. Kennedy, to ask not what ASC can do for you, rather ask what you can do for ASC!

You have my heartfelt thanks for all you have done in the past, present and future. GARDENING IS A HAPPY EXPERIMENT. This is your garden – go and play in it!

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When Worlds Collide or What’s Music Got to Do With It?

This blog is for everyone who is passionate about Cytology but knows that our work doesn’t entirely define us. This blog is also confessional: I’m revealing something about myself that many of you don’t know. During high school and college, I dreamed of a career as a classical pianist. My parents arranged for piano lessons for me and my sister when we were young, and from my earliest years I loved playing. I performed extensively and loved it (mostly), but when push came to shove I realized that the life of a musician was not for me. Even though I ended up studying medicine, I never stopped playing. And to this day one of my favorite things is getting together with friends for an evening of chamber music.

Sometimes, my two worlds collide in surprising and delightful ways. In May 2013, I was invited to play a short program of music for piano four hands at the International Congress of Cytology in Paris. My partner in crime was Dr. Felipe Andreiuolo, a Brazilian pathologist living in Paris and a superb musician. An evening I’ll never forget!

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And now, surprisingly, my two worlds are colliding again: a few months ago I was at a retreat with the ASC Foundation, the purpose of which was to brainstorm about fundraising. During the retreat, to facilitate bonding among the participants, we all shared something personal about ourselves. Of course, I brought up my passion for music. I mentioned to the group that some live recordings of concert performances from my college and medical school years had been recently transferred from cassette to CD format to preserve them from extinction. Aha – a fundraising idea was born!

If you enjoy classical music, and if you’re at all curious to see this other side of me, you can own a copy of the CD by simply making a $50 (or greater) contribution to the ASC Foundation. Your contribution will go towards furthering the mission of the ASC – its commitment to education, research, and advocacy. The CD includes live performances of the Chopin Ballade in g minor and a couple of pieces by Brahms (from Op.118), all from my college years, as well as Jeux d’eaux by Ravel, recorded when I was a medical student.

A big thank you, in advance, for considering making a contribution to our very precious and worthy ASC!

Cytology Shark Tank Finalists Announced!

Cytology Shark Tank – ASC Young Investigator Grant
Saturday, November 11, 2017
5:30 PM – 6:30 PM

I’m pleased to announce that the members of the Research and Current Concepts Committee have reviewed 12 highly meritorious proposals and selected the three finalists for the ASC Cytology Shark Tank:


Eric Huang, MD, PhD
University of California, Davis
Sacramento, CA

Proposal: Diagnostic Utility of Raman Spectroscopy in Differentiating Thyroid Nodules and Identifying Thyroid Cancers


Sinchita Roy-Chowdhuri, MD, PhD
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
Houston, TX

Proposal: Mutational Profiling of Centrifuged Supernatant Fluid from Fine Needle Aspiration of Thyroid Nodules


Vivian Weiss, MD, PhD
Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Nashville, TN

Proposal: The Use of Next Generation Sequencing to Identify the Molecular and Immunologic Mechanisms of Thyroid Cancer Invasion to Develop Improved FNA-based Testing


With 3 minutes for their pitch, followed by questions from four judges (“sharks”), each finalist will do his/her best to convince the judges (and the audience) that their proposal is the most deserving of the $50,000 grant.

The Cytology Shark Tank Aquarist (moderator) for the evening will be Dr. Liron Pantanowitz (University of Pittsburgh), and the Sharks (judges) will be Dr. Douglas Clark (University of New Mexico), Dr. Martha Pitman (Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School), Dr. Celeste Powers (Virginia Commonwealth University), and Dr. David Rimm (Yale University).

Mark your calendars now (Saturday, November 11 at 5:30 PM). Be there to support and encourage our three finalists as they dive into the ASC Cytology Shark Tank!

Cytology Shark Tank Comes to Phoenix!

As many of you know, one of my goals as your President is to encourage and support our talented young members who want to do research in cytology. This is a crucial investment: they’re the ones who will lead the profession forward, finding new applications for the cytologic method. Along with education and advocacy, research is one of the key missions of our Society.

In this regard, I’m delighted to announce that we’ve received 12 proposals for the $50,000 research grant that will be awarded at the Annual Scientific Meeting in Phoenix this November. This first-ever “Cytology Shark Tank” event, modeled after competitions like “Project Runway” and “Shark Tank,” will feature three finalists. The members of the ASC Research and Current Concepts Committee, chaired by Dr. Liron Pantanowitz (University of Pittsburgh), are currently reviewing the proposals to select the three finalists, who will make their pitch to a panel of judges on Saturday, November 11th from 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm. The judges will be Drs. Douglas Clark (University of New Mexico), Martha Pitman (Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School), Celeste Powers (Virginia Commonwealth University), and David Rimm (Yale University).

The 12 proposals have come from across the United States: California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas.

The three finalists will be offered an additional benefit: a weekend workshop in Chicago a month or so prior to the Phoenix meeting. The workshop will be coordinated by Ms. Heather Barnes, whom some of you saw at the New Orleans meeting last year. She gave a delightful and instructive presentation entitled “Taking a Stand: Using Improv to Teach Science and Medicine.” Ms. Barnes will spend a day with the finalists, helping them develop their presentation skills using improv methods – skills like responding in the moment, connecting with others, and managing questions. For all three finalists, this will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and they will leave Chicago with a toolkit of resources for further professional development.

I look forward to seeing many of you at the first-ever “Cytology Shark Tank” event in Phoenix in November. Come and support our three finalists and help shape the future of our profession!

The Search for New Knowledge

cibas_2012_headshot_color

Edmund S. Cibas, MD

It’s a privilege to serve as your President: The ASC has been MY Society since my fellowship year (don’t ask how long ago…), and I’m eager to do my best for all of you. One of my goals is to encourage and support our talented young members who want to do research in cytology. This is a crucial investment:  they’re the ones who will lead the profession forward, finding new applications for the cytologic method.

I’m grateful to the ASC Foundation for sharing this goal and offering a $50,000 Young Investigator Grant for a research proposal related to cytopathology. I hope you’ve all seen the announcement that was sent out via the ASC Listserv. It’s also highlighted on the ASC website. To qualify, you have to be an ASC member and no more than 10 years out from training. Cytotechnologists and cytopathologists are eligible. (See link above for detailed eligibility requirements and application information.) The deadline for applications is April 15th.

If you qualify, I encourage you to apply! If not, please encourage your eligible colleagues to sharktank_300submit a proposal. The proposals will be carefully reviewed and three finalists will be selected by the Research and Current Concepts Committee.  To add to the excitement, the winner will be selected at a live event during our Annual Scientific Meeting in Phoenix this November – the new “Cytology Shark Tank” event, modeled after competitions like “Project Runway” and “Shark Tank,” with the finalists presenting their proposals to a panel of judges.

The finalists will be offered an additional benefit: a weekend workshop in Chicago prior to the Annual Scientific Meeting. The workshop will be coordinated by Heather Barnes, of the Museum of Science and Industry and Second City, whom some of you saw at the New Orleans meeting. She gave a delightful and instructive presentation entitled “Taking a Stand: Using Improv to Teach Science and Medicine.” Ms. Barnes will spend a day with the finalists, helping them develop their presentation skills using improv methods – skills like responding in the moment, connecting with others, and managing questions.  Are you shy, afraid of improv and workshops like this in general? Have no fear!  Ms. Barnes’ workshop will be conducted in a supportive environment. She’s designed exercises that help participants develop increased confidence presenting in front of large scale audiences.  For all three finalists, this will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and they will leave Chicago with a toolkit of resources to use for their own further development.

Do you have questions about the proposal requirements and expectations? You can email them to: sharktank@cytopathology.org.

Spread the word, and please come to the first-ever “Cytology Shark Tank” event to cheer on our three finalists!

An Opportunity for You to Tell Your Favorite Cytology Story

An Opportunity for You to Tell Your Favorite Cytology Story
Guest Blogger – Rosemary Tambouret, MD
Co-Chair, Public Affairs and Advocacy Committee

We need your help in spreading the word on the value of cytology to the general public and Tambouret Phototo our colleagues in other medical specialties; therefore, we have begun a new program that we hope you will embrace enthusiastically.

In January 2016, each ASC Committee was tasked by Dr. Wojick with selection of an initiative to focus on during the year. Since one of the Public Affairs and Advocacy Committee charges is to provide information on cytopathology to the public, we decided to ask each committee member to write an essay on some aspect of cytology important to them. On reflection, we thought why not open this creative challenge to all ASC members. And to really get your creative side revved up, in lieu of an essay, submit a poem, a slide show or a short video about you and cytology. A haiku verse might work for you, or how about a short animated movie? The piece can be serious or light hearted, you be the judge. Here are some topics just to get you thinking:

• Experiences with even an oblique tie to cytology
• How being a cytologist has expanded your world
• Interactions with patients and/or clinicians linked your work as a cytologist
• Episodes in the FNA clinic
• How your career in cytology began and developed.

Here is an example of a Haiku verse:

Switch on the light bulb
Swirl the knob to focus so the
Cells can tell their story

We will publish the works in print or on the Web site for professionals and for the general public. Wouldn’t it be great to do a Google search on cytology and have your creation pop up?

We urge you to submit your creations by August 15, 2016, using the button below.
submit your creation button

All entries will be displayed on the ASC Web site and the best will be honored at the Annual Scientific Meeting in New Orleans. The very best will be awarded 1st, 2nd and 3rd place prizes.

We look forward to your creation!

Value adds. . .

Kristin Atkins, MD, Scientific Program Committee, ChairAtkins, Kristen 6-2015
Guest Blogger

Value adds positive outcome to an experience. Part of my personal mission of being Scientific Program Committee, Chair is to recognize what we do as individuals for patients, coworkers, and trainees and add components to the Annual Scientific Meeting that provide venues to make all of these aspects even better.  The 2016 Meeting is being constructed and aims to:

  1. Provide hands- on training and group discussions to encourage diagnosis at a high standard,
  2. Give individuals confidence in their abilities, and
  3. Provide opportunities that allow for reflection and camaraderie.

The majority of us still love the beauty of cells and you could see the joy in morphology last year at the microscopic workshops and virtual microscopy sessions.  They were filled to capacity and ended with attendees still viewing slides.   This year, we have increased the number of sessions and the time in each workshop to accommodate this popular learning venue.  The workshops on communication and leadership received the highest scores last year and we are bringing them back and adding to them this year.  We are sprinkling these opportunities throughout the meeting so that more members can participate.  We are adding mini workshops to some of the evenings.  These are one-hour discussions on focused topics that will be an after-dinner treat.

In 1999, I attended my first ASC Meeting by myself as a resident.  At that time, there were not that many trainees and, to tell you the truth, it was a rather lonely experience.  This is in stark contrast to one year later when I attended under the wing of my fellowship director.  I met so many cytotechnologists and cytopathologists in Kansas City.  What was apparent was the mutual appreciation between technologists and pathologists and the support given to me to get involved in the Society.  The difference in the two meetings was impactful.  Last year we strived to provide more venues for trainees by creating Trainee Enrichments sessions.  These free sessions covered a variety of topics given in a casual setting so that trainees could connect with ASC members and each other.  My favorite evaluation from these stated, “The trainee enrichment sessions gave me a home.  The faculty was so kind and encouraging.  Best part of the meeting.”  We value the young members and want to encourage more attendance.  For our cytotechnology students and cytotechnologists in their first 3 years, we are also offering a free session of hands-on rapid onsite adequacy practice.

I was listening to an actress give tips to an acting class and she kept saying, “It’s not about you, it’s about your audience.”  I think this has to be the mantra of the Scientific Program Committee.

  • What do our attendees need?
  • What venues work best?
  • What will encourage more participation
  • What will bring value to their meeting experience?

One focus this year is to increase the number of sessions included in the general registration fee.  Every session has been scrutinized as to whether it is broadly informational and therefore pertinent to the entire cohort (and; therefore, rolled into the registration cost).  We have more panel updates on nomenclature and practice such as with head and neck squamous cell carcinomas and breast cytology, as well as free sessions on FNA technique and practical molecular information all in rooms that can accommodate large audiences.  We sometimes have multiple free offerings so that members may choose which topic is most relevant to their practice.  Our guest speakers will cover topics ranging from genomics and personalized medicine to social health issues.

There are small break out sessions aimed to highlight us as individuals and what value we each bring to our profession (how nice to focus on what you are doing right and what you are doing well).

Of course, one of the nicest parts about the ASC Annual Scientific Meeting is connecting with friends and expanding our cytology family.  We are expanding the time allocated for the Exhibitor Hall and working with the ASC Foundation for the showing of a movie on the HPV epidemic.  The Hyatt Regency Hotel in New Orleans will be the headquarters is well thought out and the meeting rooms, exhibit hall, and meeting rooms are all close together making for extremely easy navigation.

I would like to highlight the value I am experiencing from the Scientific Program Committee to bring an incredible Meeting to you this November.  This group has already put in over 100 volunteer hours and they are approaching this Meeting with such excitement and thoughtfulness.  My job is simple as they are all invested in bringing you value in 2016 in hopes that you leave eager for the 2017 Meeting!