Every day at the U of M, faculty pathologists, residents and fellows gather to review surgical pathology cases in a consensus conference. Led by Mahmoud Khalifa, director of Anatomic Pathology (AP), the consensus conference is a time-honored tradition in AP where pathologists review difficult and problem cases and, through their collective thinking, form a consensus around the most appropriate interpretation of a given case. Over the past year, more than 600 cases have been discussed in this consensus setting.
"We really want to open up our consensus conference to the larger community (metro and upper midwest), “ Khalifa said, stressing that sharing knowledge and experiences is more important for pathology than ever before. "The best way, of course, is for the pathologist to attend in person and bring their slides along," he said. "If a pathologist cannot attend, they can send their slides to be reviewed and discussed. Or they can scan their slides and send us the images to discuss. We would provide feedback by phone or email on the same day based on the discussion.” It is also possible to establish a video link between the consensus conference and a pathologist presenter at a different location, provided that the presenter has a microscope equipped with a video camera.
The consensus conference is especially important for bringing together surgical pathology subspecialties. It is "an opportunity for us in different subspecialties to sharpen each other's perspective in areas that may be outside the scope of their practice," he said.
Quality assurance is key in formulating pathology reports. Consensus conferences are not only valuable for harmonizing criteria and thresholds for diagnosis but also for providing prospective reviews when needed or when it would be helpful.
Among other benefits for community pathologists are the discussion and possible resolution of unusual or complicated cases in a forum that encourages the open exchange of information and ideas, Khalifa said. Building a sense of community, "that we are all here together within the department and with our partners outside," is Khalifa's ultimate goal. "We care about each other, care for each other, and this is the one occasion where we all sit in the same room" with the goal to provide the highest quality of clinical care as assessed by various pathologists, fellows, and residents.
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