The Pathology Truck

| February 20, 2015

As I child growing up I spent many summers, spring breaks, and winter breaks visiting my grandparents in South Florida. In the late 1970’s the place was already full of retirees from the rust belt and other northern parts. I enjoyed golf, swimming and shuffleboard and later, a convenient place to stay during college and med school for spring break.

My grandparents and a granduncle lived closed to one another and my grandfather was very close to his brother. Both survived being orphaned at an early age, growing up in foster homes on the south and west sides of Chicago, constantly being moved from one home to the next and occasionally making do in orphanages until they were “placed” again. As young adults they had to survive the depression and despite the odds being against them, both applied for and were admitted to the University of Illinois. Both of them attended. Neither one finished.

Both served in World War II. One fought at the Battle of the Bulge. The other was at the liberation of Auschwitz. Most of this I learned from personal research as neither spoke much about the war despite multiple decades to do so.

After the war, as part of The Greatest Generation, they bought homes on the north side of Chicago and raised their families there. Both became glaziers and started a window and mirror company. Initially they grew the business through residential projects and later would work on some of Chicago’s most notable buildings including The Sears Tower (as true Chicagoans still call it), John Hancock Building and The Standard Oil Building (also renamed) among many others. In the winter months my grandfather drove a cab to make ends meet if the glazier work was slow.

After the business was sold, both retired to Broward County and complained about the humidity, bugs and bland food while enjoying their retirements. Before I was ten, my grandfather and granduncle would teach me how to drive, golf, swim and dive. The Chicago Tribune would get delivered two days late but both thought it was worth the wait. WGN on primitive cable would carry all the Chicago Cubs games and consume their summer afternoons before lights were installed at Wrigley Field and the first night game was played (and rained out) on August 8, 1988.

In the Summer of 1978, after playing golf, the three of us were having lunch and my granduncle mentioned he needed Mohs surgery on his face for one of his many basal and squamous cells from years of being a glazier working outside and golfing. My granduncle told the dermatologist he could come in next Tuesday but the dermatologist told him he couldn’t come Tuesday but could go in Wednesday.  When my granduncle asked the dermatologist why Wednesday rather than Tuesday the dermatologist told him “because the pathology truck only comes on Wednesdays”.

The pathology truck it turns out was a mobile histology laboratory in the back of a van driven by a pathologist who would go from physician office to physician office around Broward and Dade counties performing Mohs or frozen sections at each stop. The lab came to you rather than you going to the lab. Mobile pathology services. As early as 1978 and likely before that.

It is a model that exists today with capabilities of course not for the pathologist to drive the route but an experienced histotechnologist to prepare the slides and show with telepathology. The model has been extended to ambulatory surgical centers as well as for rapid onsite evaluations of fine needle aspiration.

Both my grandfather and granduncle lived into their 90s with the help of modern medicine and pathology trucks in part along for the ride.

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Category: Pathology News, Personal

Comments (1)

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  1. Antonio Alfim Malanchini Ribeiro says:

    Dr. Kaplan, do you have more details about this truck? I am pathologist at Brasil and it’s a great idea for me. Maybe a chance to do a good independent job.