Following the recent news of “The Pathologist” Magazine naming Prof. Pantanowitz in the Top 100 Power List for 2015 and more recently of UPMC choosing PathXL for their digital pathology education PathXL had the pleasure of asking Prof. Pantanowitz some questions which he gladly allowed us to share. It provides an amazing insight into the world of one of the leaders in pathology, from how he started to what the future holds.
Dr. Liron Pantanowitz is an Associate Professor in the Departments of Pathology and Biomedical Informatics at the University of Pittsburgh. He is the Director of Pathology Informatics and the Pathology Informatics Fellowship at UPMC, and also the Director of Cytopathology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Shadyside. He is Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Pathology Informatics, serves on the editorial board of several other medical journals, is past president of the Association for Pathology Informatics (API), and currently serves on several key committees for other societies. Dr. Pantanowitz has published many peer reviewed articles, book chapters, written several textbooks, and given many talks around the world.
How does it feel to be named in thepathologist.com Top 100 Power List for 2015?
It’s an honor. When I look around I am amazed at the company I am in, because some of the other pathologists mentioned on the Power List I would consider as being giants in the field. I am grateful to be included, because I have spent many years of hard work doing what I do. Therefore, it is rewarding to see that effort recognized, and the fact that the area I have chosen to work in (informatics) is valued in the field.
What first attracted you to a career in pathology?
There were several attractions. For me, pathology is more of the “science than art” in medicine. I also found pathology a great place to start addressing many of the unanswered questions in medicine. My early mentors played an influential role in my career choice. They always looked like they enjoyed what they did – and they were right! So, through a process of elimination during my medical school training I carefully chose to become a pathologist.
What area of pathology are you most interested in?
I have two passions – cytopathology and informatics. I like cytopathology because the practice of rendering cytologic diagnoses on very small samples is challenging. Cytology still allows me to have some direct patient contact (performing FNA’s). Also, cytologists are generally nice people to work with. The reason I like informatics is because it is one of the more important pillars of pathology. Physicians and patients increasingly value the importance pathology informatics, especially in this era of precision medicine.
What changes are in store for pathology in the next 5 years?
I see more widespread adoption of new technology, especially Digital Pathology, Next Generation Sequencing and Computational Pathology involving Big Data analytics. These technologies have slowly moved from the research arena into clinical practice. Armed with these tools, pathologists will start playing more of a key role in patient management and provide greater value to their healthcare systems. The medical field has gone digital (e.g. electronic records), and pathologists need to keep up in order to remain connected to the growing healthcare IT infrastructure.
Will President Obama’s final State of the Union address make a difference to the future of pathology?
I hope so. I don’t always trust Politicians. If they follow through on their promises hopefully this will lead to positive outcomes in pathology. We do need change, because I don’t think many doctors today are happy with practicing medicine anymore.
What benefits have you seen digital pathology bring?
There are pros and cons related to Digital Pathology. From my perspective, there are definitely more benefits than limitations. Digital imaging supports sub-specialization, allowing hard cases to be sent to experts for tele-consultation. It also permits consolidation of services, balancing of workloads, and makes it easier to retrieve archival cases. Digital images allow us to share our cases, such as at multidisciplinary meetings (tumor boards) and for QA. Moving to a digital platform also enables image analysis. Ultimately, by going fully digital labs should become more efficient, standardized, accurate and provide better quality services.
How will PathXL’s Education software support UPMC?
I think PathXL offers a great niche Digital Pathology product. I am hopeful that PathXL’s Educational software will allow us to leverage our large digital slide collection to better educate others and improve our research. We have a gold mine of whole slide images and PathXL will give us some of the tools needed to mine it.
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