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Semin Diagn Pathol. 2008 Aug;25(3):178-89.

Surgical pathology in the 20th century at the Mount Sinai Hospital, New York.

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Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, California, USA.


How did the education of surgical pathology, and pathology in general, differ at Mount Sinai? Passing the examination of the American Board of Pathology was never the focus of the department. Learning criteria or quoting references was de-emphasized, but mastery of macroscopic pathology was required, supported in both word and action by two brilliant surgical pathologists, Otani and Kaneko, and by two extraordinary medical pathologists, Klemperer and Popper. Meticulous microscopy emphasized pattern rather than reliance on lists of discrete features. Otani developed a regular "problem case" meeting for a community of pathologists, made up of alumni and other interested pathologists, as well as active department members. These monthly sessions provided the highest level of "continuing medical education." Otani and Kaneko unequivocally believed in learning from cases, and Mount Sinai residents were fortunate both in the one-to-one teaching and in the wealth of material, in all systems, that came to surgical pathology. Outstanding pathologists who came from Mount Sinai settled throughout the country and provided the highest level of diagnoses, but, with the exception of Bernard Wagner, Emanuel Rubin, Fiorenzo Paronetto, Richard Horowitz, Michael Gerber, Marc Rosenblum, Bruce Wenig, Jaishree Jagirdar, Swan Thung, Cesar Moran, Hideko Kamino, Philip LeBoit, Alberto Marchevsky, and others, there were relatively few academic leaders. Otani and Kaneko did not have national reputations. Klemperer, although world renowned, was relatively unassuming, and his disciples numbered almost as many nonpathologists as pathologists. Popper did establish a major center for liver pathology, with students coming from around the world, but did not particularly promote general surgical pathology. Can the Mount Sinai approach still be applied? The decline in the numbers of autopsies performed, the demands for rapid turnaround time, the de-emphasis of gross pathology as newer technologies (eg, immunohistochemistry, cytogenetics, molecular pathology) gain place, the increasing tendency to select investigators, including basic scientists, as teaching department chairs and the financial constraints requiring increasing use of nonphysician workers all speak to the relegation of the Otani-Kaneko era to history. Is this a loss to Pathology? It is certainly a style of practice that has been lost. However, there is no reason to bemoan the state of Pathology in the beginning years of the 21st century. Pathology practice is outstanding at many medical centers throughout the world, including at Mount Sinai under the very able and creative leadership of Alan Schiller, who has presided over great enhancements of the department in both anatomic and clinical pathology, including significant advances in the study of diseases by molecular methods. Surgical Pathology at Mount Sinai has been led by James Strauchen, a renowned hematopathologist recruited by Schiller's predecessor, Jerome Kleinerman, and is currently directed by Ira Bleiweiss, a student of Kaneko. Other techniques and technologies have, to a degree, compensated for some of the changes since the Otani-Kaneko years and it is almost certain that advances in molecular pathology will allow for increasing sophistication in establishing diagnoses, and likely even grading and staging, probably even on blood, rather than tissue, samples. The science of Pathology will advance, as the art declines. Those who learned at Mount Sinai during the Otani-Kaneko years will, however, very likely tell you that they were privileged to have learned Pathology there and, especially, to have learned a distinct philosophy of Pathology under the guidance of caring, thoughtful, and especially gifted pathologists.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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