Armed Forces Institute of Pathology

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The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP) is a US government institution concerned with diagnostic consultation, education, and research. It was founded in 1862 as the Army Medical Museum and is located in Washington, DC on the grounds of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. It primarily provides second opinion diagnostic consultations on pathologic specimens, e.g. biopsies, from military, veteran, and civilian medical, dental, and veterinary sources. The unique character of the AFIP rests in the expertise of its civilian and military staff of diagnostic pathologists whose daily work consists of the study of cases that are difficult to diagnose owing to their rarity or their variation from the ordinary. The accumulation of such cases has resulted in a rich repository of lesions, numbering over three million, that have been the basis of major pathological studies. Examples are the published reports on the clinical, pathological and molecular characteristics of the relatively newly recognized gastrointestinal stromal tumors by M. Miettinen and colleagues, e.g. Miettinen M, Sobin, LH, Lasota J. Gastrointestinal stromal tumors of the stomach. A clinicopathologic, immunohistochemical, and molecular genetic study of 1765 cases with long-term follow-up. Am J Surg Pathol 2005;29:52-68.

Another special feature of the AFIP is the interaction between its departments in analyzing complex cases. The AFIP's diagnostic departments are based on organ sites, e.g. dermatological, hepatic, gastrointestinal, genitourinary, pulmonary, soft tissue, bone, hematological, neurological, endocrine and gynecological pathology. In addition, there are specialty departments dealing with infectious and parasitic diseases, molecular techniques and environmental pathology. As all of these specialties are located in one institution, rapid collaborative examination of a case is facilitated and interdepartmental collaborative research is the rule rather than the exception.

Unique to the AFIP is the Department of Radiologic Pathology pursuing the interface between diagnostic radiology and anatomic pathology. This department is responsible for a course attended by virtually all North American radiologists in their training. A by-product is an unmatched repository of medical cases having extensive radiological images and pathological slides, a great source for studies in this field, e.g. Levy AD, Taylor LD, Abbott RM, Sobin LH. Duodenal carcinoids: Imaging Features with Clinicopathologic Comparison. Radiology 2005;237:967-972.

The educational mission of the Institute consists of formal courses providing continuing medical education (CME) credits for postgraduate medical personnel. A number of these courses have microscope slide study sets for individual examination by the participants as well as authoritative lectures by the AFIP and visiting staff. One to two year fellowships are available as are one month visits to individual departments.

Reference: Henry RS. The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology - Its First Century 1862 -1962. Office of the Surgeon General, Department of the Army, Washington, DC 1964. Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 63-60060

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