Ronald S. Weinstein, MD, FCAP, professor of pathology at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, professor of public health in the UA Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health and founding director of the Arizona Telemedicine Program, has been elected president of the Association for Pathology Informatics (API).
Pathology informatics involves collecting, examining, reporting and storing large complex sets of data derived from tests performed in clinical laboratories, anatomic pathology laboratories or research laboratories to improve patient care and enhance understanding of disease-related processes. Telepathology image management and workflow are pathology informatics challenges. Pathology “informaticians” seek to continuously improve existing laboratory information technology and enhance the value of existing laboratory test data and develop computational algorithms and models aimed at deriving clinical value from new data sources.
API is the only national organization dedicated exclusively to the field of service/research pathology informatics and supports wide-ranging educational efforts in the discipline. API co-sponsors the two major pathology informatics meetings in the country – APIII and Lab InfoTech Summit (formerly AIMCL) – which will be combined as “Pathology Informatics 2010” in Boston, Sept. 19-22.
Telepathology is a component of pathology informatics. Dr. Weinstein coined the term “telepathology” in 1986. He co-authored the first scientific papers on telepathology and was granted the first U.S. patents for telepathology systems and telepathology diagnostic networks. Widely known as the “father of telepathology,” Dr. Weinstein in recent years has focused his telepathology research on issues related to laboratory workflow management and “virtual slide” digital image storage and retrieval, important topics in field of pathology informatics.
Today, Tucson is an international center for the development and commercialization of pathology informatics-related products. This is, in part, a UA success story. Two major companies, founded and headquartered in Tucson, are spin-off companies of the Department of Pathology in the UA College of Medicine: Sunquest, Inc., and Ventana Medical Systems. Both have products with pathology informatics components.
Sunquest, Inc., was spun-out of University Medical Center in 1980 as a laboratory information system (LIS) company. Sunquest commercialized the laboratory information system that had been custom designed by UMC staff and faculty and initially implemented at UMC in Tucson. Today, Sunquest is the second-largest producer of laboratory information systems in the United States, with an about 20 percent LIS market share.
Ventana Medical Systems, a division of Roche, is another spin-off company of the UA Department of Pathology. Founded in 1985 by pathology department faculty member Thomas M. Grogan, MD, and acquired by Roche for $3.4 billion in 2008, Ventana has a 70 percent market share worldwide for automated immunostaining equipment and reagents. Early Ventana prototype systems were tested at the UA. Recently, Ventana (Roche) acquired BioImagene, Inc., a major producer of digital pathology imaging systems and laboratory image workflow management software. BioImagene digital imaging scanners can be used as digital imaging engines for telepathology systems. Dr. Weinstein served as chair of the UA Department of Pathology from 1990 to 2007, during the development of Ventana from a small start-up company into a major laboratory equipment and regaent company with a world-wide customer base.
Dr. Weinstein has had career-long involvement in entrepreneurship, in organized medicine and in the development of innovative health-care systems. He has been involved with six start-up companies. He also is past president of five professional societies, including the United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology (USCAP), the International Society for Urologic Pathology (ISUP) and the American Telemedicine Association (ATA). Dr. Weinstein’s presidency of the Association for Pathology Informatics is his sixth presidency in organized medicine. He also is involved in the roll-out of medical informatics, including electronic patient health records, in Arizona. He is a board member of Arizona health-e Connection, the Governor’s designated organization for the promotion and implementation of patient electronic health records in Arizona.