10 August 2011 — Fenway, MA. After many years of anticipation, a killer application has finally been discovered for digital pathology, by researchers at the Fenway University in Boston, Massachussetts. "One would think that simply being able to work from anywhere, share anything, with a full audit trail of what was viewed, and the ability for the computer to assist in scoring would be enough to drive digital pathology adoption," said Dr. Mark Lowell, Professor at Fenway University. "However, the industry has been waiting for a killer application to drive adoption, and we believe we have finally found it."
"We studied pathologist patterns while at the microscope and while traveling to peer reviews, conferences, and tumor boards, and we were struck by an amazing pattern. Pathologists that regularly flew through Newark Airport, were far more likely to go digital in their work than those that did not fly through this airport. Basically, we modified an advanced pattern recognition software that was previously only used in over-training results in gene expression datasets, and applied this to pathologist commuting patterns. The trend was consistent everywhere in the United States, the more a pathologist has to travel through Newark Airport, the more likely he or she will stay home and read slides digitally."
"These results fit well with other evidence we examined in our algorithm," said Dr. Karlton Phisk, a co-author in the study. "First, a ranking of airports has Newark rated first for the most delays. Second, we noticed that pharmaceutical pathologists seem to be adopting digital slides faster than clinical anatomic pathologists, and we can attribute this directly to them having to fly more frequently through Newark for corporate pharma meetings. Third, the Cambridge area of Boston is adopting digital pathology faster than other parts of the United States. Clearly Boston pathologists hate having to travel through the New York area more than other pathologists would, given the historic rivalry between these two cities."
"Saving even one trip through Newark is well worth the purchase of multiple scanners," said Dr. Karl Yastemsky, a third author on the study. "Actually, avoiding New York City for any reason is worth spending a few additional seconds to view the images digitally versus with glass."
The results are not without controversy, on both sides of the Atlantic. In the United States, Professor R. Ruffen of Yanqui University in New York City strongly disagreed with the study's conclusions. "First, scientists in Cambridge will buy anything, and second, Newark is a beautiful airport. You can see all of New York City multiple times while circling the airport on most flights. If we applied the logic used in this study, we would expect to see British pathologists also adopting whole slide imaging faster than their peers, because Heathrow Airport is one of the worst to fly through."
The study's original authors disagreed with Dr. Ruffen's logic challenge comparing Heathrow to Newark. "Everyone knows that British pathologists will take every chance they can get to travel, in hopes of escaping bad food and bad weather, so the effect of Heathrow is a net neutral effect," said Mr. Jon Riddeck, a up and coming star and graduate student at Fenway University, and the fourth author on the study. "Although to be fair, the British breakfasts are quite good, but probably not enough to keep pathologists from traveling abroad" he added.
At a recent pathology meeting, several English pathologists first apologized for their Heathrow Airport as well as their weather and their food, but then asked why they were included in this controversy, that seemed entirely American in nature and had nothing to do with them.
Submitted anonymously to avoid reprisals from anyone and everyone