Last December I wrote a post called “Notice of Death”. I spoke about finding out about people who had passed on my Facebook stream. This week there were more notices of people younger than I who had passed from metastatic cancer. Their walls were full of updates of the last weeks and days. Then a post comes along among the Christmas tree and skiing pictures from the American Society of Cytopathology that mentioned “It is with great sadness that we report that Brian T. Collins, MD passed away on Friday, December 23rd.” This one hits hard.
I was fortunate to serve on the College of American Pathologists Cytopathology Committee with Brian for a short time. While all the veteran members were mentors to us “younger” members, Brian was a mentor to me, on and off the Committee. He was gentlemen and a scholar, the rare mix of intelligence, calm, modesty, patience, wit, sense and a willingness to do more for you than you could return for him.
A person of integrity and honor. A mensch among mensch.
I assumed one day, not so far from today, that I would own a two-volume textbook on Cytopathology, its practices and principles, edited by Dr. Collins. He had the passion, fortitude, skill, strength and political savvy a multi-author textbook editor takes to get published. And he would have been the first one to volunteer to edit the second edition without hesitation.
I just saw Brian last month at the annual American Society of Cytopathology meeting in New Orleans where he and I presented on the use of real-time video technology for cytopathology, an area of interest we shared and a topic I considered Brian an expert in, a longtime advocate of rapid on-site evaluations for fine needle aspirations (ROSE FNA) to provide high quality patient care at the bedside. I think he recognized the importance of this before many of his contemporaries, fully recognizing it would take additional time, resources and costs to do so, but it was the right thing to do by patients. He practiced what he preached and taught his fellows and residents to do the same as head of cytopathology and fellowship director at Washington University School of Medicine and medical director of cytopathology at Barnes-Jewish hospital in St. Louis.
When we saw each other in New Orleans last month, just days after the World Series, Brian reminded me that his Cardinals still had more World Series victories than my Cubs. We talked about seeing a Cubs-Cardinals game this Spring or Summer. Or perhaps a playoff game between our teams this Fall.
To my favorite Cardinals fan, you will be missed by those of us who were fortunate to know you.
Brian leaves behind a wife and 5 children.