Bulletin October 2017 Number 180

Welcome to the October 2017 Bulletin, which introduces the theme of Learning from the deceased to benefit the living

In our wonderful public engagement programme, Fellows and trainees continually explain to the public that pathology is not just cutting up dead bodies and solving crimes. However, the post-mortem examination was the root of pathological science, and we can still learn from the deceased to help both the bereaved family and the patients who follow. 

As junior doctors, my generation often attended the post-mortems of our patients, especially when the diagnosis was not clear. These were sometimes little more than a piece of theatre, with the pathologist sucking his teeth (it usually was a he), muttering “how could you possibly have missed this tiny tumour in this anatomical backwater”. 

Of course we did learn a lot, probably more than we were willing to admit. But what is the role of the non-coronial post-mortem in this era of advanced imaging and genomics? What is the added value to clinicians and grieving relatives? How can future patients benefit? In this and the January 2018 issue of The Bulletin, we review the status of the consented post-mortem, the move to a system of Medical Examiners, the challenges in providing a post-mortem service to coroners and the criminal justice system, and the role of the post-mortem in clinical governance. The articles on pages 222–239 should be read by all of us, whatever our specialty – they provide a good deal of food for thought.

Our Small is Beautiful feature returns, showcasing microbiology, along with a trainee’s account of time spent as a clinical fellow responsible for anti-microbial stewardship – another governance issue for us all. Although microbiology is the third-largest pathology specialty, it only represents around an eighth of our members. 

We also report on production of an innovative video to help clinical teams get the best out of their local microbiology service. Continuing the infection theme, we have an update on Zika more than a year after the Rio Olympics, which (according to some) were going to spread Zika to all parts of the planet. You can now read what actually happened.

We have comprehensively covered the explosion in genomics in previous issues; our Working Smarter section includes a workshop report on the very practical question of how to handle surgical specimens if genomic analysis might be performed. We also report a plethora of scientific meetings on a range of topics across the UK, demonstrating our commitment to continuous learning and improvement. 

The work of the College would not be possible without the hard work of the over 50 staff behind the scenes. This year has seen a major change in the Communications team structure and staffing, aiming to make our various windows to the world more coherent. The new team is featured on page 254; please get to know who’s who, and how to work with them to promote pathology. We will feature other staff teams in future issues of The Bulletin. Our public engagement activity in this issue covers events at two primary schools and a nursery – there seems to be no lower age limit for fascination with pathology! 

Of course, the other major change for the College in 2017 will be to welcome our new President, Professor Jo Martin, at our Annual General Meeting on 16 November. Jo will be well known to many of you already, but I had the privilege of an informal interview with her, which is reported on pages 252–254. We covered Jo’s life-long passion for pathology, her aspirations as our next President, and how she relaxes – rarely, it seems!   
Finally, I’m delighted to give advance notice of the launch, in January 2018, of a new open publishing platform for pathologists in conjunction with Faculty of 1000. Scientific papers and case reports/series, along with posters and audits, can be submitted for rapid publication followed by open refereeing. Funded by the College as a two-year pilot, the platform is particularly intended to provide a means for trainees to cut their teeth in the art of writing scientific papers. Guidance for authors, along with details of how the platform will operate, will be circulated widely and added to our website. A longer article will follow in the January issue. 
 
Dr Lorna Williamson
Bulletin Editor
Lorna.Williamson@rcpath.org