ASSOCIATED PATHOLOGISTS – A Look at the Past
The origins of Associated Pathologists and the St. Joseph’s Hospital Pathology Department arise from the mists of the early 1950’s and decisions made by the Sisters of St. Francis of Olean, New York. At that time the Sisters, who both owned and operated St. Joseph’s Hospital at its original downtown Tampa location, determined that laboratory and pathology workload considerations mandated a full-time pathologist. Their search yielded Dr. Robert J. Davis, a graduate of the Yale University Pathology Residency program. Dr. Davis accepted the position, becoming the first and only pathologist at St. Joseph’s Hospital for the next 15 years, his entire term of service extending to 1979.
As Tampa grew and the medical needs of the community increased, decisions were made in the 1960’s to rebuild, expand, and relocate St. Joseph’s Hospital at its current location at the corner of Habana Avenue and Martin Luther King Boulevard. Expansion of the hospital increased the demand for laboratory services and with that came the addition of two pathologists in the persons of Dr. Jeno Szakacs and Dr. James Biemer. Both Dr. Szakacs and Dr. Biemer had received their pathology training in the United States Navy. Prior to his arrival in Tampa, Dr. Szakacs had been Chief of Pathology at the St. Alban’s Naval Hospital in New York and by early 1970 he assumed that role at St. Joseph’s, a position he kept until his retirement in 1986.
The enlarged facility and expanded pathology staff – now corporately known as Szakacs, Davis, and Biemer, PA –provided the opportunity for a further elevation in the quality and quantity of laboratory services. As the new decade progressed, St. Joseph’s Hospital became home to an electron microscope. Automated instrumentation including the Coulter Counter in hematology and sequential multi-channel analyzers (SMA-6 and SMA-12) in chemistry were added to the laboratory armamentarium. Dr. Anthony Girgenti joined the staff in 1972 as full-time biochemist and increased needs in surgical pathology saw the addition of Dr. James Packer (1971) and Dr. Manuel Carta (1974) as staff pathologists.
Concurrent with the growth of St. Joseph’s Hospital in the early 1970’s was the establishment of the University of South Florida College of Medicine. In the early years of the College of Medicine, the initially sparse university faculty required the enlistment of available community physicians to provide lecture and laboratory coverage. In this regard, Dr’s Szakacs, Biemer, and Packer performed a yeoman’s job in providing the bulk of didactic pathology material for the first several classes of medical students. Additionally, the College of Medicine inaugurated a pathology residency program and enlisted the help of St. Joseph’s Hospital. Early on St. Joseph’s, with its busy clinical and anatomic pathology service and well-informed staff, became a sought-after stop on the USF pathology residency rotation. By the late 1970’s USF residency graduates became available and several – Dr. Frank Taylor (1978) and Dr. Jorge Arroyo (1980) – became full-time St. Joseph’s pathology department staff members.
Keeping up with major advances in a multiplying array of pathology sub-topics became a dominant theme of the 1980’s. Categories such as immunopathology, fine needle aspiration, immunoperoxidase staining, and flow cytometry emerged as hot topics. Members of the department were challenged to develop sub-specialty expertise and several gained board accreditation in Hematopathology, Immunology, and Cytology.
Also in the 1980’s, increased emphasis came to be placed on outpatient laboratory service capabilities. Efforts were undertaken to develop service relationships with various outpatient clinics and physicians’ offices. For a number of years the St. Joseph’s pathology group and St. Joseph’s Hospital joined forces to establish a joint outpatient laboratory endeavor designated Physicians Laboratory of Tampa (affectionately known to its participants as PLOT).
With the onset of the 1990’s major changes began to re-shape the hospital landscape of Tampa. Among the first of the changes to take place was the purchase of Women’s Hospital by St. Joseph’s Hospital. With that purchase came the transfer of Women’s Hospital laboratory services to the St. Joseph’s Hospital pathology group, now corporately known as Associated Pathologists.
On the heels of the Women’s Hospital purchase came the formation of a consortium of hospitals involving St. Joseph’s Hospital and a number of other respected hospitals within Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties, an entity which we now know as BayCare. The formation of BayCare very quickly resulted in a closer relationship between St. Joseph’s and South Florida Baptist Hospital in Plant City and the resultant assumption of pathology duties there by Associated Pathologists. Along with these changes came the retirement of number of the senior members of the pathology department and the subsequent emergence of a new generation of pathologists including Dr. Aaron Laden, Dr. Carlos Dalence, Dr. Michael Friedman, Dr. Brian Jeffrey, Dr. Dmitry Baschinsky, and Dr. Ted Ruffolo. Each of these pathologists brought a strong fund of basic pathology knowledge along with new insights and a depth of information in a variety of specialty areas.
At the outset of the new millennium, the quest for useful laboratory information had progressed to the level of the chromosome and the gene. Thus emerged a field of investigation and modes of testing collectively known as molecular pathology. The clinical demand for these technologies (e.g. polymerase chain reaction (PCR), fluorescent in-situ hybridization (FISH), and cytogenetics) resulted by the early 2000’s in the establishment of a specialized Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory. Dr. Larry Bischoff, trained in these methodologies at the University of Michigan, was recruited to oversee the performance of the Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory and to monitor the broadening of its offerings as clinical demands required.
At about the same time, in a separate laboratory-related arena, increased public interest in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer resulted in the establishment of the Breast Center at St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital. In response to the need for specialty training in this area, Dr. Nicole Esposito, having broad experience and expertise in breast pathology, was recruited to oversee examination and diagnosis of cytologic and surgical breast cases.
Also with the new millennium came demographic changes and population shifts mandating additional hospital coverage for the extreme northern and southern portions of Hillsborough County. These eventuated in the establishment of St. Joseph’s Hospital North and St. Joseph’s Hospital South and the concomitant requirement for laboratory and pathology services by Associated Pathologists. Again service requirements resulted in recruitment of three additional staff pathologists, Dr. Juli Jeffrey, Dr. Jason Savell, and Dr. Shannon Mann.
Most recently, Ridge Pathology joined with Associated Pathologists due to Baycare Health System’s acquisition of Winter Haven Hospital and Winter Haven Women’s Hospital. With the addition of Dr. Margaret Evans, Dr. Cindy Sun and Dr. Larry Botz it brings our total compliment of world class pathologists to fifteen.
From its humble beginnings as a one-man/one-microscope operation in the 1950’s to its far-flung deployment of multiple pathologists utilizing cutting-edge technologies at diverse locations, Associated Pathologists has paralleled the growth of the Tampa Bay area and the march of sophistication in laboratory medicine. The process of growth gives every indication of continuing as the needs of the community and the reach of medical science beckon. And as in the past, Associated Pathologists continues to give every indication of its readiness to answer the call.