By Timothy J. O'Leary, MD, PhD
The Association for Molecular Pathology (AMP) begins 2011 stronger than ever as a result of a diverse, committed and hard-working membership comprised of physicians, other doctoral laboratory scientists, and technologists all committed to improving public health by improving the practice of molecular diagnosis. Our members include those from the diagnostic products industry, commercial laboratories, community hospitals, academic institutions, the nonprofit sector, and government, all of whom seek a reimbursement framework that facilitates best clinical practice, a regulatory framework that promotes innovative and effective use of increasingly complex diagnostic strategies, and an educational experience that facilitates optimal use of molecular diagnostic methods to help our patients. The breadth and commitment of this membership has given the Association a disproportionate influence advancing our field, because they have given rise to effective annual meetings, effective advocacy, and a willingness to tackle important but controversial issues, such as gene patenting.
The growth in both AMP membership and in meeting attendance shows that AMP is doing something right. Nevertheless, our membership faces substantial challenges that arise, in part, from our very success. Those who pay for health care expenses challenge us to show that patient outcomes justify the cost of molecular testing, and regulators are placing the practice of molecular diagnostic medicine under increased scrutiny as its public health impact grows. Reimbursement is not always obviously linked to either patient outcomes or to the cost of performing molecular diagnosis. Legislators hear from their constituents that “something must be done,” but are not hearing a common voice on what that “something” should be. The demand for AMP to play a leadership role not only in educating the practitioner, but also in shaping the reimbursement and regulatory framework, has led AMP in directions that were truly unanticipated when its governance and operating structure were developed nearly twenty years ago. Additional challenges are posed by membership growth; AMP has had a membership doubling time of approximately six years. As a result, the AMP Council has directed a strategic planning process that has been ongoing for the last four months under the able direction of Past-President Karen Mann. This process, which has included input from the membership in the form of both surveys and interviews, will result in a plan that addresses not only strategic objectives for AMP, but also defines resource requirements, governance, and management necessary to achieve of those goals. The active participation of Mark Sobel, Mary Williams and President-elect Iris Schrijver will assure commitment to these goals continues after my presidency ends.
Although this strategic plan is not yet complete, it is clear that the ambitious goals which the membership is setting for AMP will require a membership that is, if anything, even more active than it is now. Someone once said that “the best way to predict the future is to invent it.” I urge each member to work with your elected representatives to create the future for AMP, and for molecular pathology, which the public expects to help transform the way medicine is practiced. Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes our entire community to develop AMP into a mature and effective advocate for our profession and for our patients.
Finally, I challenge you to let us know how we, the elected leadership, are doing. I am looking forward to being an effective President of AMP. I have some rather large shoes to fill. The year 2011 brings with it numerous challenges for molecular pathology and the membership of AMP. While the increased use of molecular testing to guide treatment decisions has brought about additional scrutiny from payors and government regulators, it has not been accompanied by reimbursement systems that recognize costs associated with compliance.