U-M Pathology Alumni Society (UMPAS)

Resident Anatomic Pathology Award

The A. James French, M.D. Pathology Alumni Society (now UMPAS) established the Murray R. (Gus) Abell, MD PhD, AP resident award in 1995 which is conferred annually each academic year; to recognize and honor his many outstanding contributions in the field of Gynecological Pathology. A certificate of recognition including a stipend is provided by the society.  The annual selection process is led by the Director of the Resident Training Program or their designee including the AP Chief, AP faculty members, and the current president and past president of the society.

Murray Richardson ("Gus") Abell, MD, PhD

1920 - 2003

Murray R. Abell, MD, PhDMurray Richardson Abell, known to his friends and associates as "Gus," was admired by his students, colleagues, and associates for his outstanding skills as an academic pathologist and leader in organized pathology, he was a humble and remarkably private man.  Born on October 14, 1920, in Aylmer, Ontario, Canada, Dr. Abell grew up in London, Ontario where he attended the University of Western Ontario and received his MD in 1944 and PhD in 1951.  Following internships at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto and Westminster Hospital in London, Ontario, he returned to the University of Western Ontario for a fellowship and served as Senior Instructor.  During his medical training, he served in the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps (1943-1946).

In 1952, Dr. Abell was recruited to the University of Michigan and appointed as Instructor in Pathology by Dr. Carl V. Weller, then Chairman of the Department of Pathology.  He was rapidly promoted to Assistant Professor in 1953, Associate Professor in 1956, and full Professor in 1959.  Upon retiring from the University in 1980, he was named Professor Emeritus.  Dr. Abell was certified in Anatomic Pathology by the American Board of Pathology in 1955 and in Dermatopathology in 1975. Earlier he had become a certified pathologist and member of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (1952).  He became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1958.

Under Dr. A. James French, who succeeded Dr. Weller as departmental chairman in 1956, Dr. Abell became the de facto Director of Surgical Pathology, although his curriculum vitae does not include such a title, and he always denied to me that such a title had been bestowed upon him.  Regardless, scores of pathology residents at Michigan honed their craft under his tutelage.  Dr. Abell was the "go-to" pathologist for residents, as well as faculty, to take their difficult surgical pathology cases.  Invariably, the resident would obtain a succinct diagnostic interpretation from him, along with a set of criteria that could be put to use in the future. This broad spectrum of interests and talents seems to be a trait of many gynecologic pathologists, although it likely will diminish as academic surgical pathology departments migrate to universal subspecialty sign-out systems.  His series of publications on vulvar cancers and their precursor lesions have stood the test of time.  Decades prior to our understanding of the role of human papillomaviruses (HPV) in genital tract neoplasia, Dr. Abell had identified and characterized intraepithelial carcinoma of simplex type and distinguished it from the more common intraepithelial carcinoma of Bowen's type.  Dr. Abell and his colleagues were among the first to describe progestogen-induced adenomatous hyperplasia of the cervix (now known as microglandular endocervical glandular hyperplasia), massive edema of the ovary, iatrogenic fetal implants in the uterus and papillary adenofibroma of the cervix.  His clinical research studies on ovarian and testicular tumors in children and adolescents produced landmark articles, and his studies on cervical adenocarcinomas, extragonadal primary germ cell tumors, sarcomas and carcinosarcomas of various female genital and male genitourinary tracts, ectopic urethral prostatic tissue and vaginal adenosis (prior to the DES-era), among many others, were major contributions to the surgical pathology literature.  He authored numerous book chapters.

Due to his reputation as an outstanding diagnostic surgical pathologist, Dr. Abell developed a large consultation service, which he gladly did without remuneration, believing it was his responsibility to practicing pathologists in the state of Michigan and elsewhere as a faculty member of a public university.  He developed an excellent surgical pathology seminar series for which registrants paid only a very nominal fee to cover the costs of producing microscopical slide study sets, and he prodded his departmental colleagues to participate as he did.  He also was a visiting professor, lecturer, and prelector for seminars at pathology societies in the United States and abroad, as well as for the American Society for Clinical Pathology.

In 1979, Dr. Abell left Michigan to embark on a second career as full-time Executive Director of the American Board of Pathology (ABP) in Tampa, Florida, a position he held for 11 years.  At a departmental farewell dinner for him, he spoke of the virtues of having a second career in one's life and suggested others in attendance consider such a pathway for personal fulfillment.  He was appointed Clinical Professor of Pathology at the University of South Florida that year.  Later, he was President of the Florida West Coast Association of Pathologists (1984-85) and a member of the Board of Directors of the Southwest Florida Blood Bank.

As Executive Director of the ABP, Dr. Abell was responsible for expanding and redefining Board operations, identifying new subspecialty areas and developing credentialing processes.  Most mid-career pathologists in the United States knew Dr. Abell in this role, and he always did whatever he could to assist anxious applicants to qualify to sit for the Board examinations.  Dr. Abell held numerous other leadership positions for the ABP, including Trustee (1970-78), Chairman of several Test Committees (anatomic pathology, neuropathology, and dermatopathology), Executive Vice President, and Executive Vice President Emeritus.  He was elected Life Trustee in 1982, and also served as Executive Director of the ABP's Pathology Research Foundation (1987-92).  In addition, he chaired several other important committees in organized medicine: Residency Review Committee for Pathology of the American Medical Association (also Vice-Chairman for the Committee for Dermatopathology) and the Committee on Graduate Medical Education of the American Board of Medical Specialties.

Dr. Abell received many honors and awards during his career.  In 1997, the M. R. Abell Endowed Professorship was established at the University of Michigan to recognize his many and continued contributions to the field of Pathology and the University.  Having known Dr. Abell first as medical student professor, then as a mentor during my residency and later as a colleague when I joined the faculty of the Department of Pathology, I was fortunate to have been selected to speak on his behalf at the induction of the first Abell Professor.  Characteristically, he downplayed my plaudits as overly generous.  Two years earlier, the pathology department had established the M. R. Abell Resident Award for Academic Excellence.  Dr. Abell was the recipient of the Elizabeth C. Crosby Award of the University of Michigan Medical School (1963), the Mostofi Distinguished Service Award of the USCAP (1984), the ASCP-CAP Distinguished Service Award (1991), the Association of Pathology Chairmen Distinguished Service Award (1991), the American Academy of Oral Pathology President's Distinguished Service Award (1993), the Distinguished Service Award of the University of Michigan Medical Center Alumni (1996) and several others.  He presented numerous honored lectureships, including the Arthur Purdy Stout Memorial Lecture (1982).

Long remembered for his tremendous contributions to the art and science of pathology and for his kindness and generosity as a teacher to aspiring young pathologists.  While he was one of the most accomplished academic surgical and gynecological pathologists of his generation, as well as a leader in organizational pathology, Dr. Abell preferred the simple title of pathologist.

Written by William R. Hart, MD, The Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland, Ohio