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The Importance of State Pathology Membership: The Massachusetts Experience

“All politics is local.” The famous quote by Tip O’Neil, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, is commonly used to emphasize the importance of advocacy. The forceful impact of a state pathology’s collective voice is no exception. 

The Massachusetts Society of Pathologists (MSP) has a long history of representing pathologists across the state. It is an excellent example of a mid-sized state society. The MSP is continually striving to provide value to members while working hard on member recruitment. 

MSP Meeting Format

The semiannual meeting has always been one of the most important benefits of membership. Several enhancements have been made to the format to improve value. We typically invite nationally recognized speakers who speak on relevant and practical topics. Some of the recent talks have included updates on:

  • Quality and safety in pathology by Dr. Yael Heher
  • Contemporary issues in NGS by Dr. John Iafrate 
  • MOC and the ABP by Dr. Rebecca Johnson
  • Value-based care by Dr. Donald Karcher 
  • Pathology Outlines by Dr. Nat Pernick 
  • Amyloid by Dr. Maria Picken

Time is allowed at meetings for CAP updates. Examples include advocacy issues, news from the CAP Foundation, and practice management toolkits.  Most recently, all three current candidates for CAP President-Elect attended the last meeting and shared their visions with the members. 

Meetings are held just outside Boston at the Massachusetts Medical Society in Waltham. The meeting location is considered to be reasonably accessible to the majority of our members as it is located off a major interstate highway. A handful of vendors are invited, allowing for an opportunity to connect with members. In exchange, the vendors partially offset meeting costs. The MSP Executive Committee typically meets for an hour before the main event. A networking reception and dinner are held before the start of the evening program.

Why is it Important to Have a Robust State Society? 

When lobbying at the state level, constituent size matters to legislators. The larger and more representative the membership, the greater influence that organization will have in its advocacy efforts. 

One of the challenges has been difficulty attracting and retaining those in training. As an incentive to join, the MSP waives membership fees for trainees. It is an incredibly valuable experience for residents to be able to network with practicing pathologists. For those new in practice, a discount is offered for the first year of membership. 

Executive committee members are encouraged to recruit new members. Usually, a couple of new member nominations at each meeting are approved. Member recruitment remains a top priority as we work towards finding the most effective method.

The MSP advertises as the only Massachusetts state pathology organization with member advocacy as a main mission. Some of the recent advocacy activities have included the following:

  • There have been occasional targeted fundraising appeals, ie Stark loophole lobbying efforts a few years ago. 
  • The MSP hired a lobbyist to help with navigating legislation at the state level, funded jointly by the CAP and MSP.
  • Together with our lobbyist, some members have attended fundraisers for one on one face time with state legislators. 
  • The MSP with CAP are actively working on the surprise medical bill issue at the state level.

All these efforts are designed to attract and retain members by demonstrating the value of membership in the state society. The connection with CAP is strong, as many members also serve in the House of Delegates, including the current MSP President Dr. David Gang.

Advocacy begins locally, at the state level. If you are a member of your state pathology society, please make every effort to stay involved. If you have not yet joined, do so. If your society is struggling or is not already coordinating with the CAP, consider reaching out to the CAP for help with advocacy efforts and strengthening your state society.

Michael J. Misialek, MD, FCAP
Michael J. Misialek, MD, FCAP, is associate chair of pathology at Newton-Wellesley Hospital in Newton, Massachusetts. Dr. Misialek is a strong advocate for the recognition of pathologists in patient care and an early adopter of patient consults.