Unifying pathology and laboratory medicine in the era of P4 medicine

Posted on: 30 September 2014
By: UP
Institution: University of Pretoria
Research Area: Life Sciences

The congress was an opportune event for the Department of Pathology because a number of different specialist fields in pathology were embedded in the name and theme of the conference, ‘Unipath: Unifying pathology and laboratory medicine in the era of P4 medicine’. P4 medicine is increasingly being embraced in the ethos of medicine, especially in diagnostic laboratory medicine. P4 medicine is a term coined by biologist Leroy Hood and is an abbreviation for ‘predictive, preventive, personalised and participatory medicine’. The premise of P4 medicine is that medical practice will be revolutionised by biotechnology over the next 20 years so that a person's health will be managed instead of a patient's disease.

The contribution of the pathology disciplines in the Faculty straddles all facets of the mission and vision of the University of Pretoria. Pathology and laboratory medicine are critical to the teaching mission of the Faculty of Health Sciences in producing medical and health sciences graduates for the country and play an indispensable service role in health care delivery to, in particular, the poor. The pathology disciplines contribute to the research output of the Faculty as the University strives to be a leading research-intensive university.

An attractive and highly stimulating scientific programme was presented by various societies, with cross-disciplinary and cross-cutting presentations from the fields of anatomical pathology, virology, immunopathology and haematopathology, clinical biochemistry/chemical pathology, medical microbiology and forensic pathology. There was a strong focus on molecular diagnostics and preventive/predictive diagnostics in keeping with the idea of P4 medicine. Postgraduate students and other trainees were given ample opportunity to present their research findings and discuss their work with peers. Several keynote speakers from across the globe, including several A rated researchers from the University of Pretoria, presented their research at the congress. Speakers included Prof Don Cowan (University of Pretoria), Prof Michael Lederman (Case Western Reserve University, USA), Prof Steven Cordner (Victoria Institute of Forensic Medicine, Australia), Prof Deenan Pillay (University College, London), Prof Joris Delanghe (University of Ghent, Belgium) and Prof Anders Kallner (Karolinska Institute, Sweden).

Congress attendees also had the opportunity to participate in a trade exhibition that showcased the latest diagnostic reagents and equipment being marketed in Africa.

As the cost of pathology services comes under increasing scrutiny, both nationally and internationally, the Unipath 2014 congress was an opportune time to share experience and expertise and to reflect on how the educational and research activities discussed can contribute to the improvement of public health in the country.