by Brian Vadasz MD, MSc, Resident, McGaw Medical Center of Northwestern University; 2021 Travel Award Recipient
My name is Dr. Brian Vadasz and I’m a second-year resident in the pathology program at Northwestern University. This year, I was fortunate enough to receive the Travel Award from the Digital Pathology Association and to participate in the PathVisions21 conference in Las Vegas. The conference was fantastic – here’s a summary of my experience.
As part of being an award recipient, I was invited to the Presidents Dinner hosted the night before the commencement of the conference to kick off the meeting. The attendees of the dinner were board members including many influential people in digital pathology, both in academics and industry. In addition to a great meal, I had the unique opportunity to informally speak with many of the leaders in the field including Dr. Anil Parwani, Dr. Marilyn Bui and Dr. Junya Fukuoka. At first, I was a bit star-struck but after speaking with them I was amazed at how genuinely kind and knowledgeable each person was in their area of expertise. At dinner, we introduced ourselves and chatted about what we were excited about at the conference and for the future of digital pathology. I was amazed at how well everyone knew each other and how welcoming they were to a newcomer.
Leading up to the conference, I was paired with a conference mentor – Dr. Daniel Gonzalez who I met at the Presidents dinner. He gave me tips and tricks to navigate and make the most of the conference. He helped me choose which talks to attend and gave me many insightful ideas about my own research. We discussed his fellowship, our interests within pathology and my career trajectory. The conference had not yet begun and I was already learning a lot and making wonderful connections.
The first day of the conference was filled with preconference workshops led by vendors including Paige AI, 10x Genomics and Visiopharm. This was followed by the opening reception and poster presentations, which was one of the highlights of the conference for me. Having the opportunity to interact with other presenters and learn from their research was rewarding. The in-person poster session generated great discussion and facilitated an interactive experience. I was able to connect with other residents, attendings and vendors in industry. I met with Dr. Sylvia Asa, who also gave me great advice, encouraged me to continue to pursue digital pathology, become involved with the DPA and continue my research in machine learning. After months of virtual learning and zoom meetings, being able to attend this conference in-person was really special – being in the same room as leaders and peers allowed for brainstorming, collaboration and formation of new partnerships. It was refreshing to see collaboration between groups with vastly diverse backgrounds come together to solve common problems.
The second day of the conference led off with a detailed and insightful keynote talk by Bob McGonnagle titled ‘Reflections on Two Decades of Digital Pathology’. I took home the message that a huge amount of work had been done to get us to where we are today in the field of digital pathology and that the field is advancing at a much faster rate today than it ever has in the past. The Plenary address by Dr. David Klimstra was also inspiring, especially hearing about the process of FDA approval of Paige AI prostate. A common misconception that was eloquently demystified is that AI will replace pathologists. He emphasized that AI has the potential to provide more information about patients which can lead to precision medicine and improve diagnostics and patient care. I agree and believe that pathologists will use computational methods as a tool to better diagnose and treat our patients.
As the conference continued, I remained fascinated by the cutting-edge research that was presented. The talks allowed me to gain insights into early research and unpublished data that is not available anywhere else. I was captivated by the computational pathology work, specifically in osteosarcoma diagnosis and in prognosis of pulmonary fibrosis. I learned that machine learning algorithms are able to combine data from digital whole slide images with clinical data to give more accurate diagnoses. I was awestruck when I learned about the colossal glass slide collections that are in the process of being scanned and made digital. Some slides are over 100 years old and are from the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. These gigantic slide sets will be made public once scanned, such as the European scanning project lead by Dr. Jeroen van der Laak, to allow for research advancement and collaboration.
I was also inspired by the clinical sessions, where I learned about hospitals that have transitioned to fully digital workflow. I learned about image analysis software that is free and can be applied to daily sign outs. I also learned about scanner validation and the push for an international digital image standard.
In addition to gaining knowledge for my research and home institution to push towards digital workflow, I feel fortunate to have connected with lots of great people. I left the conference feeling inspired and optimistic about the future of digital pathology. It is an exciting time to be involved in digital and computational pathology, especially as we see its implementation to clinical workflow and its benefits on patient care. There are many stakeholders involved in advocating for the success of digital pathology and it is ultimately up to us to determine how pathology will be practiced in the future. I look forward to what’s to come in this exciting field.
I love discussing everything pathology, especially digital pathology – if you have any questions about the conference specifically or the field in general, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.
To learn more about Pathology Visions travel awards, please click here.
Disclaimer: In seeking to foster discourse on a wide array of ideas, the Digital Pathology Association believes that it is important to share a range of prominent industry viewpoints. This article does not necessarily express the viewpoints of the DPA, however we view this as a valuable point with which to facilitate discussion.