A Brief History of the Society for Ultrastructural Pathology

Our society has a very unusual developmental history. Generally a group of like-minded individuals first gather themselves into a society, then start organizing conferences, and finally begin publishing a journal. We did things completely backwards. We started with the journal Ultrastructural Pathology (created by Jan Vincents Johannessen, Victor Gould and Jahn Nesland), from which we borrowed the subscriber list to advertise a conference, and from which then ultimately sprang the Society.

It all began in the Ship Tavern at The Brown Palace Hotel in Denver with the journal’s associate editor, Victor Gould, attempting to teach me all that might be known about the finer points of drinking Cognac. Being a slow learner the evening went long, and in a resultant diminished state of consciousness I unwittingly let slip an unguarded remark about there being a need for someone to organize a conference relating to diagnostic ultrastructural pathology. As those who knew Victor will attest, the man had an uncanny ability to push people into doing things that they really did not want to be doing. And so, in the summer of 1982, I ended up hosting a week-long conference in Aspen, Colorado.

This initial offering, entitled “Current Concepts in Ultrastructural Pathology: Diagnosis of Human Tumors” was presented as a structured course, with a faculty consisting of Hector Battifora, Robert Erlandson, Feroze Ghadially, Victor Gould, Jan Vincents Johannessen, Bruce Mackay, Gary Mierau and Hubert Wolfe. This turned out to be a delightful Woodstockian sort of event, where people from distant parts of the world who had previously only known of each other came truly to know one another. We had so much fun, and learned so much from each other, that we wanted to do it again. And, so we did... two years later in Seattle, Washington with Sam Hammar and John Bolen this time serving as hosts. And then again, in 1986, in Ottawa, Ontario, where conference host Irv Dardick invited a group of us over to his home for a meal and to begin discussing the possibility of forming some sort of an organization. The memory that I retain most vividly of that evening is of the Bundt cake that was served by Irv’s wife Grace. I do seem to retain also some foggy recollection of us deciding then to form a “Diagnostic Ultrastructural Pathology Club.” And, being at the time in a state of hypercaloric stupor and unable to properly defend myself, I ended up being chosen to serve as its leader. The Club did however recover from this stumbling start and, with the more capable leadership of a succession of later presidents and other fine executive officers, went on eventually to evolve into the well run organization that it is today. In 1994, it became more formally organized and underwent incorporation with a name change to the Society for Ultrastructural Pathology. An affiliation with the USCAP followed soon thereafter, and an annual half-day Companion Meeting and poster display session has since been held in association with that organization’s spring meeting.

The distribution of a newsletter was initiated in 1986 and, with the creation of a website in 1996, switched from hardcopy to an electronic format.

At the 1988 Ultrapath conference in Ullensvang, Norway, hosted by Jan Vincents Johannessen and Jahn Nesland, the content of the program was broadened to include topics additional to neoplastic disease and the “…: Diagnosis of Human Tumors” dropped from the title of the biennial conference. Also, although its fundamental design was maintained, the program was at this time modified to enable non-faculty attendees to make some presentations. Developing from this arrangement, and persisting for a number of years thereafter, was a hybrid organizational scheme, wherein a recognized authority would make a formal presentation and then moderate a session of proffered presentations relating to the topic. Programs in more recent years have further evolved towards the standard format utilized by other pathology conferences, offering a generally eclectic mix of technically sophisticated proffered presentations serving principally the needs of experienced practitioners. The venues have been magnificent… Aspen, Seattle, Ottawa, Ullensvang, Park City, Jackson, Steamboat Springs, Oaxaca, Asheville, Florence, Aspen again, Barcelona, Rapid City, Aghia Pelaghia, Richmond, Regensburg, Asheville again, and now Lisbon. The next will be in Newport, Rhode Island. These offerings have, unfortunately, grown now to be too expensive to enable attendance by many existing and most potential new members.

Recognizing a need for programs aimed more toward addressing the needs and means of less experienced practitioners, a one-day session touching upon the fundamentals of diagnostic ultrastructural pathology was held in conjunction with the 2004 Ultrapath conference in Barcelona, and reprised here in Lisbon. Something of a return to the beginning was made in 2015, with the offering of a four-day structured course in Estes Park, Colorado, entitled “Ultrastructural Pathology101: Fundamentals of Diagnostic Electron Microscopy”. The future of the Society obviously lies with the continuing success of such endeavors in engaging new people and enlarging the membership.

The closing of a circle, perhaps symbolically heralding an opportunity for the Society to reinvent itself, has come with the recent transfer of the Journal’s management from Jan Vincents Johannessen and Jahn Nesland (following 35 years of dedicated service) to full control of the Society. A return to offering programs suited to the needs of less experienced practitioners has already been initiated. Will this be followed by a successful transfer of ownership to a younger generation, and the rebirth of an aging Society? A fresh history may be in the making… but this will happen only if we, the “old guard”, display the willingness and courage required to make it happen!

Gary Mierau, PhD
Department of Pathology
Children's Hospital Colorado
Aurora, Colorado USA

Past Presidents of the Society
1986-1990 Gary Mierau
1990-1992 Irving Dardick
1992-1994 Elizabeth Hammond
1994-1996 G. Richard Dickersin
1996-1998 Bruce Mackay
1998-2000 Robert Erlandson
2000-2002 Marco Santucci
2002-2004 J. Allan Tucker
2004-2006 M. John Hicks
2006-2008 Josep Lloreta-Trull
2008-2010 Guillermo Herrera
2010-2012 David Howell
2012-2014 Victor Roggli
2014-2016 Sara Miller
2016 Antonio Pedro Alves de Matos
2016-2018 Sara Miller

Ultrapath Conference Venues
1982 Aspen, Colorado
1984 Seattle, Washington
1986 Ottawa, Ontario
1988 Ullensvang, Norway
1990 Park City, Utah
1992 Jackson, New Hampshire
1994 Steamboat Springs, Colorado
1996 Oaxaca, Mexico
1998 Asheville, North Carolina
2000 Florence, Italy
2002 Aspen, Colorado
2004 Barcelona, Spain
2006 Rapid City, South Dakota
2008 Aghia Pelaghia, Crete
2010 Richmond, Virginia
2012 Regensburg, Germany
2014 Asheville, North Carolina
2016 Lisbon, Portugal
2018 Newport, Rhode Island
2020 To Be Determined