Keeping pathologists connected in the time of Covid-19

Pathologists sometimes have a reputation for being solitary creatures, spending all day behind our microscopes, so you might think those of us in Disease Investigations at San Diego Zoo Global (SDZG) would hardly be affected by recent events.

But in fact, as part of the multidisciplinary team working to help protect the wildlife in our care, we are used to being in constant contact and communication with each other, with our technicians, and with the clinical veterinarians and animal care staff.

If each of us only sees one-fifth of the cases and never shares our diagnostic findings, how can we effectively recognize potential problems? Moreover, with the variety of species we see, no one person can know everything. Consultations with colleagues are often key to interpreting a difficult lesion, and continuing education/professional development is essential in these constantly changing times.

Luckily, since physical distancing guidelines went into effect, we have been able to make greater use of digital platforms, such as digital imaging and video conferencing, to stay connected.

Digital photographs taken by technicians of cases on the necropsy floor can be rapidly shared and viewed without the need for a physical presence. With a digital camera system attached to a microscope, glass tissue slides can be shown in real time to colleagues in the next office or across the country.

In simpler times, a dedicated group of local pathologists met in person every Thursday to share interesting cases. Now we host those same weekly rounds digitally for current and retired veterinary pathologists and have an even larger attendance than before! 

Continuing education seminars and professional meetings have also migrated to online platforms. Sure it’s not the same without the networking and catching up with old friends after the presentations, but the quality of the lectures and images is as good as always, all from the comfort of home or office.

And of course, we don’t just meet with other pathologists. Regular meetings with clinical veterinarians and animal care staff, now via video conferencing, have continued without interruption.

Even while being closed to the public and staying 6 feet apart, we will still provide the same quality of service to our wildlife. Now – virtual happy hour anyone?