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The first chairman of Pathology was Medical Center founder and Medical School Dean, George H. Whipple (shown at right). Under the leadership of Drs. Whipple, Lowell Orbison, Roger Terry, Stanley Patten, Thomas Bonfiglio, Steven Spitalnik, Dean Arvan, and Daniel Ryan, the Department grew from a small (but distinguished) academic and research department into a multi-faceted basic science and clinical enterprise.
The accelerated development of modern patient care laboratories began in the late 1970’s, when testing that was traditionally performed in many different clinical areas was brought under the umbrella of a centralized hospital laboratory. At this point, the name of the department was changed from “Pathology” to “Pathology and Laboratory Medicine." The decades since have seen increasing consolidation, standardization, automation, and utilization of diagnostic tests. The Clinical Laboratories now serve a wide-spread physician population, manage some 30 patient service centers, and perform more than 6.2 million tests per year.
A separate unit within the clinical laboratories, Point of Care Testing, was established as standard tests evolved into methods and kits that could be used for bedside testing with immediate results. POCT is responsible for ensuring the effective and regulatory-compliant use of these tests at URMC.
At the same time, the department has concentrated on maintaining its excellence in the traditional areas of Pathology:
We perform about 200 autopsies per year, using the autopsy as a valuable investigative and teaching resource.
Cytopathology faculty were involved in the development of automated screening for cervical cancer and the identification of the papilloma virus. They examine more than 51,000 cellular specimens annually, and are exploring new methods for obtaining diagnostic information with smaller samples, requiring less invasive procedures, and for a wider variety of tissue types.
Surgical pathologists, organized along subspecialty lines, examine about 72,000 specimens each year. With patient consent, some of these become part of a tissue bank to be used for future research.
For the future: advancing research
Dr. Whipple shared the 1934 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for discoveries concerning liver therapy in cases of anemia. Today, investigators are working to emulate his talent for careful, critical, and insightful observation, although, with increased understanding of the human genome, there has been a decided shift towards examining disease processes at the molecular level. More than half the faculty currently receive extramural research funding for projects ranging from basic studies of cancer biology to the clinical utility of specific drugs.
The past decade has also seen an increased emphasis on translating learnings from the research laboratory into more effective and more individualized therapies and diagnostic tests. This has fueled an increased demand for laboratory services related to clinical trials testing, and the establishment of a separate organization - UR Central Labs - exclusively devoted to investigator needs and regulatory requirements of clinical trials.
Developments in clinical and research laboratories must be shared with the next generation. Faculty teaching includes the residency training program, post-residency fellowships, the Ph.D. program, postdoctoral fellowships, and medical student required courses and electives. The department also maintains a long-standing year-out medical student fellowship, with the first student completing the fellowship in 1928, and four students currently participating.