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BAC Chair Report 2023 from Dr Anthony Maddox

As I was preparing last year’s report, temperatures were approaching the unprecedented (for the UK) early 40’s Celsius. 

This year the UK summer is slow to arrive but the global effects of climate change are a daily feature of our news. Although the restrictions of the Covid-19 pandemic are behind us, the substantial shift to online events and meetings remains and the hopeful version of the future includes regular but infrequent face-to-face meetings interspersed with online webinars.

The BAC has embraced this shift and our annual scientific meeting was held online in early September 2022, getting us off to a great start with excellent presentations from Dr Louise Smart and Dr Martina Munonyara dealing with pitfalls in urinary and head and neck cytopathology respectively as well as Dr Tanya Levine dealing with difficult cases in cervical cytology. 

Earlier this year, Sheri Scott delivered a very timely reminder regarding embedding sustainability in laboratory practice and Sheri’s presentation contained both important messages and practical steps that laboratories can take.

We had hoped to hold our Spring tutorial in March this year as a face-to-face workshop in London but train strikes made this impossible. 

Therefore, we converted to an online slide seminar using both glass slides of challenging peritoneal cytology expertly demonstrated and discussed from Croatia by Professor Danijela Vrdoljak-Mozetič, General Secretary of the European Federation of Cytology Societies (EFCS) followed by Dr Maria Buttice from St Thomas’s Hospital in London who used whole slide scans of pancreato-biliary cases to illustrate pitfalls in this area of diagnosis with pertinent references to the recently published WHO “blue book” or, to give it its proper title, “WHO Reporting System for Pancreaticobiliary Cytopathology”.

The use of whole slide digital scans in a workshop was a first for the BAC and we will endeavour to use this technology whenever appropriate and available for future online workshops. 

The feedback from this meeting suggested that the participants found the seminar very valuable. In fact, in July this year, the Royal College of Pathologists held an online Cytopathology Study Day, primarily for medical and non-medical trainees, with presentations formatted as a short 15 minute talk followed by whole slide images. Although not a formal BAC meeting, most of the presenters were BAC members and the structure again proved popular as another way of doing “remote double heading”.

Just to prove we haven’t forgotten about face-to-face meetings and how to do them, a day of talks with a hands-on microscope workshop was held on the subject of (cervical) invasive cancer audit in June 2023 at NEPSEC in Wakefield. The feedback, again, has been excellent and a follow-up is planned in the near future so watch this space, as they say.

Of course, the space to watch is the BAC website, where you will be the first to hear about upcoming BAC events (both online and in person) as well as many other events of interest from the EFCS, International Academy of Cytology (IAC), RCPath and others. Past BAC webinars are also available, free of charge (for members and non-members), on the BAC’s YouTube channel which you can get to by following links from the website.

This brings me to the BAC’s major development this year which is the construction of our new website. Together with our chosen website builders, Moresoda, the BAC media group and, in particular the media group chair, Leonie Wheeldon, and our IBMS administrative support, Christian Burt, have designed and unleashed a much more interactive and, hopefully, useful resource for BAC members. It has been designed to be as “future-proof” as possible and provides a sound basis for further developments in the coming years.

The first phase has involved transferring the historical data following extensive review and editing. 

In addition, there are new features, such as monthly case studies and blogs which we are always looking for, so please consider contributing either an interesting case with pictures and a few explanatory slides or a short blog, the equivalent of a couple of pages, on a topic which you think would be of interest. 

We already have an excellent collection of blogs on topics ranging from self-sampling in cervical cytology to technical aspects of cytospins and an ultra sonographer's view of Rapid Onsite Evaluation (ROSE). The case studies are all fascinating and showcase both unusual scenarios and lesions as well as unusual variants of common conditions. Blogs and case studies can be found under the “Education” tab and are visible only to BAC members.

There is also “Image of the Month” which can be quirky, topical, educational, artistic – whatever you think is appropriate, as long as it has some connection to cytopathology. 

One of the pictures is of a carpet beetle hair in a urine sample and, just days before writing, there was a worldwide news story of a worm found in the brain of an Australian person so I think that our “Image of the Month” sits entirely appropriately under our “News” tab.

You will have noticed, as well, that there is now a seamless link to the BAC journal “Cytopathology” which can be fund under “Publications” where, above an excellent summary of the month’s contents, the button “Read Cytopathology” takes you directly to the journal’s website.

In the next few months, we will be rolling out phase 2, the main thrust of which is online booking for BAC events and webinars as well as the ability to manage BAC personal subscriptions online. 

We will update the membership as these developments proceed although it is likely that, for 2023-24, subscriptions will be processed in the same way as in previous years.

This is my last year as BAC Chair, having served three years and, at the AGM this year, I will move on to being President. 

Sue Mehew, for many years our Secretary, will become Chair and Helen Burrell our new Secretary. By an odd quirk of scheduling, there are nine seats up for re-election on the Executive but, happily, we are over oversubscribed with candidates and we will have a full complement. 

Kay Ellis, our stalwart Treasurer for many years, and Alison Malkin, who has so ably led on the arrangements for our many meetings and webinars are formally stepping down and we are very much in their debt for their hard work and diligence which has meant that the BAC is both financially secure and educationally relevant.

Our president, Alison Cropper, retires from the BAC Executive after serving since the BAC’s inception in 2011 and I would like to pay tribute to her energy, practicality, endless dedication and unfailing commitment to the BAC and the wider field of cytopathology, particularly as applied to the cervical screening programme. 

We wish her many happy and relaxed years of retirement and I would personally like to thank her for her help and advice over the last few years.

Finally, I’d like to thank you all, medics, biomedical scientists and screeners, for being BAC members and contributing to the only British national organisation dedicated to cytopathology. 

The BAC will continue to engage with new developments in cytopathology as they occur and hope that we are able to provide a place and a route for wider education and training in the years to come.