Issue #130
November 2022
Celebrating 10 years of International Pathology Day

On 9th November, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of International Pathology Day (IPD), healthcare professionals gathered at the RCPA’s HQ in Surry Hills, Sydney, to discuss major advances in pathology over the last 10 years. Hosted by the ABC’s Sophie Scott and attended by over 70 people online and in person, renowned pathologists discussed advances in their respective specialties, including melanoma, lung cancer, infectious diseases and genetics.

Professor Richard Scolyer AO is arguably the world’s most published scientist in the field of melanoma pathology. During the event, he explained how advances in melanoma diagnoses and treatment types have saved the lives of thousands of Australians.

“Pathology is driving research in the melanoma field. Not only in diagnosis but also to guide the right treatment, at the right time. Pathology has enabled us to use certain drug therapies at earlier stage of disease; we have learnt that if we give drug therapy before a tumour is removed, the patients do much better. The molecular classification of tumours also allows us to provide targeted treatments to patients and, therefore, vastly improve their outcomes,” said Prof Scolyer.

During the anniversary event, the RCPA revealed research which showed that fifty five percent of Australians believe that genetic pathology will change the way that most diseases are treated in the next five years in Australia. Genetic pathologist, Dr Anja Ravine, was speaking at the event.

“There have been rapid advances in genomic technologies and genetic analyses are now an essential part of clinical practice and research. Not that long ago, a gene was a conceptual “inheritance particle.” We now know the sequences of all 20,000+ human genes. Where we used to test one gene at a time, we can now examine tens of thousands of genes from a single patient sample at a time. Genetics is a discipline defined by change and the pace of change is still accelerating. As a genetic pathologist, it’s a privilege to be part of this unfolding story and to observe these genetic advances continuing to improve day-to-day patient care,” said Dr Ravine.

The event also shone an important light on the importance of the Federal Government’s funding into stillbirth autopsies. When discussing the value that new funding to stillbirth autopsies, Dr Diane Payton, Chair of the RCPA’s Paediatric Pathology Advisory Committee said,

“The fact that perinatal autopsies are being discussed is a huge milestone. For far too long the emotional impact and effect of an intrauterine death on a family and the importance of a perinatal autopsy by a perinatal pathologist has not been fully appreciated. With increasing evidence that many stillbirths can be prevented, an increase in autopsies will assist in research to prevent further tragedies for many more Australians.”

Allie Richards, who experienced a stillbirth when she delivered her son Lenny stillborn in 2021 said,

“Having an autopsy gave me some closure. I knew what had happened. There was nothing I could have done to help him and there was nothing I did to harm him. We are glad that other parents will be able to benefit in the same way we did.”

During the event, RCPA President Dr Lawrie Bott reflected on how varied pathology is, and how it is integral to the lives of everyone.

“The value of pathology has never been more apparent to the general public; the pandemic meant that, to some extent, everyone understands the importance of a pathology test. An event such as IPD today, exemplifies just how varied the pathology profession is, what it provides the community and how it is integral to all aspects of healthcare. Our progress in the past 50 to 100 years has been incredible, more than any other specialty in medicine. We’re right in the middle of this journey and I can’t even begin to imagine what we could achieve in the next 50 years.”

Research on pathology*

The RCPA also revealed that the public perception of pathology has been positive in 2022, with over half of Australians predicting that genetic pathology will be key to the future treatment of diseases. The research also revealed that 88% of Australians think that pathologists play a vital role within the Australian medical profession and 69% think that pathologists are often under recognised. Sixty eight percent think that Australia has amongst the highest pathology standards in the world.

International Pathology Day (IPD) is an awareness day dedicated to highlighting the fundamental role of pathology in the healthcare community and in the lives of everyone. Since inception, IPD has grown in popularity within the international pathology and medical community and is now celebrated by more than 10 countries around the world, including in Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, United Kingdom, Ireland, USA, Canada and South Africa.

*The research was conducted by the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia (RCPA) in July 2022. 1,003 respondents participated, across a representative sample of the population in Australia.



Catch up and watch the event in full here.



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