Challenging Cases and Collaboration

By Lynn McCain | November 8 2019

Early on the morning of October 31, 2019, the conference organizers and others began assembling at the Graduate Ann Arbor in preparation for the New Frontiers in Pathology Conference hosted by Michigan Medicine’s Department of Pathology.  Organized by Drs. Jeffrey Myers, Lauren Smith, and Maria Westerhoff, this annual event is an opportunity for not only the brightest and best in Pathology to present unique cases but a chance to catch up/meet with our friends and partner pathologists in the nation. The 2019 conference, designed to reflect Michigan Medicine’s commitment to personalized attention, was one of our best conferences yet, with standing-room-only attendance. We caught up with not only our partners from Michigan, but met new ones from a number of other states including New Jersey, Minnesota and Florida.

Attendees ranged from medical students, residents and potential future fellows, to seasoned practicing pathologists including some who confessed they have been attending from the very first New Frontiers Conference.

The conference kicked off with several attendees in costume, a nod to the day’s holiday.  Some picking traditional characters, such as Disney’s Snow White, Indiana Jones, and Waldo from the “Where’s Waldo” book series; while others put a new spin to classic characters such as “Corporate” witch, “Kentucky Derby” witch, “Day of the Dead” skeleton, and “Caveman in a tie.” This was not in vain considering there was a Halloween Costume Contest hosted by the department organizers, with voting results announcing Snow White (Shirley Hoffman), Corporate Witch (Catherine Perez), Panda (Emile Pinarbasi), Waldo (Dave McClintock) and Day of the Dead Skeleton (Amanda Kitson) as the winning costumes.

Dr. L. Priya Kunju began with the first of twenty-one case presentations by discussing plasmacytoid urothelial cancers and differential diagnoses.  Thursday’s and Friday’s attendees enjoyed eight case presentations and chose from three breakout sessions each day, with the final five cases presented on Saturday morning. Many of the department’s faculty presented cases, which led to stimulating discussions during break times about the research being done in collaboration with their colleagues.

Two of our newest faculty, Dr. Sara Abbott, a new assistant professor specializing in breast pathology, and Dr. Carol Farver, the new Director of the Division of Education Programs and the Godfrey D. Stobbe Professor of Pathology Education, made their debut at this year’s conference.  Dr. Abbott’s engaging presentation focused on reporting post-neoadjuvant breast specimens, highlighting the differences between pathologic complete response (pCR), residual cancer burden (RCB) and the American Joint Committee on Cancer staging methodology (yAJCC). Dr. Farver, a nationally renowned educator, presented an important case study focused on carcinoid tumors of the lung, discussing diagnostic criteria and prognosis of variants at multiple stages of disease.

Breakout sessions include hearing from (clock-wise)Drs. Tao Huang, Douglas Fullen, Anamarija Perry, and Scott Owens.The three break-out sessions held on both Thursday and Friday were dynamic, interactive opportunities for participants to engage and discuss how they approach the cases at their institutions.  Thursday’s breakout sessions focused on breast pathology, led by a perennial favorite, Dr. Andrew Sciallis, teamed up with Dr. Abbott; thoracic pathology, led by Dr. Jeffrey Myers; and gastrointestinal pathology, led by award-winning educator, Dr. Scott Owens.  On Friday, attendees were able to select from dermatopathology, led by Dr. Doug Fullen; hematopathology, led by Drs. Lauren Smith and Anamarija Perry; and gynecologic pathology, led by Dr. Tao Huang

From the trainee perspective, the conference gave medical students a taste into “an intriguing specialty in medicine” that “makes a great impact on patients,” as the course website specified. One resident, attending for the first time from St. John’s Hospital, appreciated the “chance to preview what kind of cases and presentations will be presented” in advance of the conference. As she is not sure what she wants to do in the future, the conference “has everything” to help expose her to the field.

Jay, a fifth-year MD-PhD student, indicated that he sees pathology as an “excellent field for physician-scientists and people interested in pursuing both research and patient care (clinical practice).”

Even seasoned faculty learned what is new and important in areas outside their specialties. Dr. Ul Balis, the Director of Pathology Informatics Division, lauded Dr. Julia Dahl for her presentation on transient abnormal myelopoiesis of Down syndrome, which Dr. Balis found to be “particularly impactful, as it underscored the importance for clinically communicating this diagnostic finding in the time window where fully curative solutions are available to the patient.  At present, there is a relative under-appreciation for this diagnostic entity and her presentation helps by directly addressing that shortfall.”

The works of two plenary speakers were highlighted with Dr. Celina Kleer, a Harold A. Oberman Collegiate Professor of Pathology at Michigan Medicine, presenting Metaplastic Carcinomas of the Breast: Pathology, Proteomics, and Mouse Models on Thursday, and Dr. Lori Lowe, Professor of Pathology specializing in Dermatopathology at Michigan Medicine, presented Friday's lecture, Pathologic Prognostic Factors in Cutaneous Melanomas:  The What, The Why, The Pitfalls, The Pearls.

The University of Michigan a cappella group, Amaizin’ Blue performed for attendees during Friday night's reception dinner.On Friday evening, conference attendees enjoyed a reception at The Greyline Restaurant in Ann Arbor, partaking in a delicious dinner and entertainment by a University of Michigan a cappella group, “Amaizin’ Blue.” 

A special thank you to all of our faculty who presented case studies, research and led our break-out sessions in the midst of their heavy service schedules.

With the gracious support of our beloved Alumni society A. James French/UMPAS, this year’s A James French honored lecturer was Dr. Robert H Young, a Robert E. Scully Professor of Pathology from Harvard Medical School. His lecture provided a fascinating history of and differential diagnoses for granulosa cell tumors, Sertoli cell tumors, yolk sac tumors, and dysgerminoma. 

As conference organizers left on Saturday, there was a sense of accomplishment. Everyone has returned to their usual schedules, and anticipation begins to build for next year’s conference as there will be a duplication; first in Split, Croatia, in September 2020, before returning again to Ann Arbor in November.  As preparations move forward, Dr. Jeffrey Myers believes “it will no doubt be something special built on a foundation of experience that includes over a decade of successes.”

For a visual recap of the event, watch our New Frontiers in Pathology 2019 Video.

All available case studies, break-out sessions, plenary lectures, and the A. James French Lecture can be viewed within the conference program, here.  Plan now to attend the New Frontiers in Pathology Conference in Ann Arbor, Michigan, November 12-14, 2020!