Recap of the Strategies in Cytopathology Education at the 2019 ASC Annual Scientific Meeting:  “Toward a Competency Based Cytopathology Curriculum: What to Teach, How to Teach, and How to Assess”

Paul N. Staats, MD, Israh Aktar, MD,  Kamal Khurana, MD,  Roxanne Florence, MD, and Sara Monaco, MD


The Strategies in Cytopathology Education Session at the 2019 American Society of Cytopathology (ASC) Annual Scientific Meeting was entitled “Toward a Competency Based Cytopathology Curriculum: What to Teach, How to Teach, and How to Assess.”

Dr. Ritu Nayar, Trustee of the American Board of Pathology (ABPath) and member of the ACGME Pathology Residency Review Committee (RRC) and ACGME Cytopathology Milestones 2.0 Committee, discussed the results of ABPath surveys of graduates, which ask graduates to rank areas according to relevance to their practice, and how sufficient their training in these areas was. These surveys demonstrate certain areas, particularly related to laboratory administration, leadership, and informatics, for which graduates feel their training was insufficient.  She also discussed the upcoming changes to the ACGME Cytopathology program requirements and the second edition of the ACGME Milestones for cytopathology, both of which are expected to take effect in July 2020, after a public comment period in early 2020.  This is one year after the revised Pathology Residency Milestones 2.0 went live in July 2019, so programs could be familiar with some of the changes.  Please see the link to the open comment period for the ACGME’s proposed program requirement revisions, which will close on January 17, 2020.

Dr. Miriam Post, Vice Chair for Education at University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, presented on Entrustable Professional Activities (EPA).  This is the term used for discrete medical skills or tasks that are observable and measurable, and that could be executed with indirect supervision once obtaining competence.  Some examples in cytopathology would include ROSE or performing an FNA, since they can be entrusted to a trainee to perform without direct supervision once an acceptable level of competency has been demonstrated by the trainee.  She discussed the related concept of formative assessments, or frequent, low-stakes assessments of trainee competency.

Dr. Robert Goulart discussed the effort he participated in at the American Society of Clinical Pathology (ASCP) to create a curriculum outline, tag their educational offerings, and map them to the curriculum outline. This intensive process allowed them to better assess areas that were over- and underrepresented, in addition to finding gaps that required filling.

Sean McNair, MPH, CT(ASCP), discussed the Cytology Education Learning Lab (CELL), an effort to provide a centralized repository of teaching tools for cytotechnology training programs, and the logistics of creating an effective website to house that material.

Whereas the first segment of the program was focused on what to teach, the second part was focused on how to teach and assess.  A variety of creative ideas already in practice along with recent updates to existing teaching and assessment tools was presented.  Dr. Paul Staats, outgoing chair of the ASC Cytopathology Program Directors Committee (CPDC), provided an overview of ASC offerings relevant to program directors and their fellows.  Roseann Wu, MD, MPH discussed interactive teaching initiatives in the University of Pennsylvania residency and fellowship programs, and encouraged those in attendance to share some of their innovative and interactive methods.  Dr. Sara Jiang, Cytopathology Program Director at Duke University, discussed using social media, particularly Twitter, to reach a larger audience than one’s own trainees.  Finally, Dr. Abberly Lott Limbach, incoming chair of the ASC Progressive Evaluation of Competency (PEC) Committee, discussed improvements in the PEC exam and the structure and functionality of the exam on the new CytoCE site.

Lengthy discussion periods after each segment allowed for a robust exchange among attendees and the speakers, and attendees learned about a variety of innovative practices at different institutions.  Feedback from the attendees was extremely positive, praising the speakers and session content, and stating that more of these sessions would be appreciated.  Electronic copies of the presentations will be posted on the program directors page at the ASC website for those who were unable to attend. Please see the webpage for the handouts:

Stay tuned for the announcement about the 2020 ASC Strategies in Cytopathology Education Session at the 2020 ASC Annual Scientific Meeting in Orlando, Florida in November 2020.