After serving the College of American Pathologists in a variety of capacities for more than a decade, including a tenure in the House of Delegates and an active position on the Board of Governors, Dr. Timothy Allen, M.D., J.D., believes he has a firm grasp of the issues facing the profession of pathology.
“Pathologists’ role in the new world of molecular medicine is threatened as others eye the services we perform as potentially their own,” Allen says, adding that the commodification of pathology has led to a weakening of the concept of it as a profession. “And with so many fast changes in medicine, successfully educating residents to meet future challenges, and engaging medical students to join us in our great profession, are becoming increasingly difficult.”
But while some other industry forecasters may have identified these ills as well, Allen says what separates his vision is that he is identifying solutions to these problems.
“Pathologists must absolutely have a seat at all of the legislative tables, including with CMS and the FDA,” Allen says. “Our advocacy efforts are directly tied to appropriate payment for our pathology services. Reduced payment is an ongoing threat and it is not hyperbole to say that it is a clear risk to the existence of our profession.”
Allen has traveled the country speaking to colleagues about these issues as he vies to become the CAP’s next President-Elect. Although the position has traditionally only attracted one or two candidates each election cycle, Allen finds himself in a contested three-way race alongside Dr. James Richard, D.O., FCAP, and Dr. Emily Volk, M.D., FCAP. The three will face off in the upcoming CAP election that runs from July 23 to August 22.
The winner will serve a five-year term consisting of two years as President-Elect, followed by an additional two years in the role of President and one final year as the Immediate-Past President.
As Allen sees it, the fact that three highly qualified candidates are seeking the position speaks to the reality that the CAP needs more than just a caretaker in the face of the uncertainties facing pathologists.
“It makes me proud of the team to have people stepping up because we need this diversity of thought and diversity of individuals,” Allen says.
In terms of a diverse perspective, Allen, a Tenured Professor and Chair of Pathology in the Department of Pathology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, and Director of the Center for Pulmonary Pathology, feels he separates himself because of his unique background as both a pathologist and attorney.
“Being an attorney gives me a different perspective on the business and legal side of the profession,” says Allen, who received his J.D. from the University of Chicago. “It helps me to assess risks and look at our future in a different way.”
Allen is also a past-President of the Texas Society of Pathologists and the former Deputy Medical Examiner for Galveston County, Texas.
Allen understands serving in this leadership role would be a significant undertaking, which is why he is glad to have the support of his Dean, Dr. LouAnn Woodward, and University of Mississippi Medical Center.
“You can’t jump into a race without the support of your team back home,” Allen says. “Fortunately, Dr. Woodward’s response was, ‘absolutely, it’s good for the institution, it’s good for Mississippi.’”
Asked what he’s taken away from his conversations and travels during his campaign, Allen says the experience has made him more passionate and driven in his decision to seek the office of CAP President-Elect.
“I see more and more from my interactions with my colleagues that if we do not address issues that impact our profession, including payment, education, professionalism, communication, and a host of other important aspects of our profession, in order to meet the changing and growing demands of molecular medicine and a more diverse society, the profession of pathology is at significant risk of being absorbed by our colleagues and going away.”
However, even if he isn’t elected as the next head of the CAP once the votes are totaled, Allen says he’s proud to have been able to help drive the conversation in a direction for future progress in addressing these concerns.
“Anytime one puts oneself out there and works to further the profession is good for me,” he says. “One of the main things any of us can do is to join the CAP and donate to PathPAC and the CAP foundation, be a member of your state society, and donate to your state legal fund. That’s the minimum we should be doing to serve our profession.”
A significant strength Allen sees in pathology is its diversity.
“While we are an extremely diverse profession, we must continue to strive for inclusion, ensuring that the CAP is a comfortable, safe place for all pathologists to thrive. Specifically, we need a significantly stronger African American and Native American presence”, Allen says.
Allen points out that regardless of who is elected, the decisions and advocacy efforts made in the near future will likely shape the profession of pathology for years to come.
“Pathologists must prevail! As stated by our colleague Sharon Bihlmeyer in a CAP Foundation See, Test and Treat video, ‘We are the answer, so it has to be the right answer.’ This awesome responsibility of ours requires solid leadership focused on fully engaging the team.”