UHN’s first ever Surgical Pathology Conference sets the bar high

PA sponsor image v2On the last weekend of January, Laboratory Medicine Program Pathologists’ Assistants (PA) held the University Health Network’s (UHN) first ever Surgical Pathology Education Day, which brought together students and lab professionals alike for a mix of conference style lectures and in-lab presentations.

“The day really gave us a chance to fill a con-ed need specific to pathologists’ assistants,” says Martin Grealish, PA and project organizer, “but it also allowed us to reach other lab professionals and show them our process for handling and examining specimens in the lab.”

The one day event brought together 65 guests for a variety of lectures and four different in-lab presentations, where attendees could examine physical pathology specimens up close and hands-on.

“UHN is one of few local hospitals to test and diagnose rare specimens such as liver and whipple, so it was a unique opportunity for conference attendees,” says Martin. “We had a great group come out for the day, and having our in-lab presentations spread across different labs meant guests stayed engaged and were able to share their own personal experiences.”


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The conference lectures took place the first half of the day, and were delivered by a diverse group of lab professionals, who brought insights from several organizations. Talks included:

  • “Ischemic Time Compliance in a Multisite Facility”- Jessica Swain, Pathologists’ Assistant, Lakeridge Health
  • “The Importance of Pathology in Organ and Tissue Donation”-Edwin Poon, Hospital Development Coordinator, Trillium Gift of Life Network
  • “Lung Cancer Update”- Dr. David Hwang, Thoracic Pathologist, LMP
  • “How the immune system causes insulin resistance”- Dr. Dan Winer, Endocrine Pathologist, LMP and;
  • “Photographic issues in modern surgical pathology”- David Larraguibel, Forensic Photography Technologist


The lab presentations separated attendees into four small groups and allowed each group a more involved experience in the lab. Groups rotated from one presentation to the next, able to touch and feel certain tissue samples and learn characteristics of different diseases. The in-lab component of the day took place in the surgical pathology lab and autopsy suite of Toronto General Hospital, and also at neighboring hospital, SickKids. Topics included:

  • Liver, hosted by Martin.
  • Gastrointestinal specimens, hosted by Amanda Chan, Pathologists’ Assistant, LMP.
  • Paediatric pathology, hosted by Sue Cromwell, Senior Pathologists’ Assistant, SickKids and;
  • Biospecimen sciences and rapid autopsy, hosted by UHN’s Biobank team.



20160130_103438“Combining practical and theoretical components to the day really showed how the work of pathologists’ assistants can influence the research of others,” says Laurie Mason, Manager of Pathology, LMP and Project Sponsor for the conference. Adding, “it’s the appropriate handling of tissue specimen that leads to meaningful, archival material downstream.”


For LMP, this will likely be the first of many Surgical Pathology Education Days organized by Pathologists’ Assistants –  and rest assured Martin is already looking for ways to make next year’s conference even better. Stay tuned as it will likely sell out fast.

Also, a big thank you to  Leica Biosystems for making UHN’s first ever Surgical Pathology Conference possible!


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