The three coequal missions of the UNC Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine are to 1) provide exceptional, comprehensive pathology and laboratory medicine clinical services; 2) teach clinical and scientific concepts of pathology and laboratory medicine, and mechanisms of disease to a wide variety of learners; and 3) advance the practice of pathology and laboratory medicine, and the knowledge of diseases and disease mechanisms through innovative research spanning the spectrum from basic to translational to clinical. Our approximately 90 faculty are roughly divided into a third who focus predominantly on clinical service, a third who focus predominantly on research, and a third who have substantial involvement with both. In addition to multiple faculty who hold endowed distinguished professorships, the Department has one Nobel laureate, Oliver Smithies. The academic accomplishments of the faculty during 2011 included >300 published articles and chapters (not counting published abstracts), ~150 national/international invited lectures, ~100 national/international leadership positions in professional societies, and 75 appointments as editors or editorial board members for professional journals.
Clinical Services: In partnership with McLendon Clinical Laboratories of UNC Hospitals, the goals of the clinical mission of the Department are to provide state of the art pathology and laboratory medicine services that are optimum for patient care and disease prevention, to facilitate operations by other clinical units, and to contribute to the financial integrity of the UNC Health Care System. McLendon Clinical Laboratories perform >6M laboratory tests per year. Clinical services include all standard anatomic and clinical pathology services, as well as more specialized services such as molecular genetic pathology, cytogenetics, human progenitor cell harvesting, histocompatibility testing, and apheresis services. Many opportunities exist at UNC for interdisciplinary clinical and translational research, some facilitated by the North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences (NC TraCS) Institute that is funded through an NIH Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA).
Teaching: As the only Department at UNC that is both a basic science and a clinical department, the teaching mission is complex and serves an extremely diverse spectrum of learners, including but not limited to medical students, dental students, clinical residents and fellows, postdoctoral research fellows, predoctoral students in the Graduate Program in Molecular and Cellular Pathology and other graduate programs, and a variety of undergraduate students in multiple Health Affairs and Academic Affairs courses and programs. The teaching mission also includes very active participation in continuing medical education at the local, regional, national and international levels.
Research: The combined basic science and clinical expertise in the Department results in an extremely eclectic array of research ranging from fundamental basic discovery research to translational research to applied clinical research. To sustain the research mission the faculty are successful in pursuing extramural funding. Current total annual extramural research grant funding is ~$13M including ~$8M from NIH. Departmental expertise in evaluating diseases and mechanisms of disease is in ever increasing demand by clinical and basic science faculty in other departments and centers, and collaborative contributions to multidisciplinary research at UNC is considered to be an important component of the overall research mission. As custodians of fluid, cell and tissue samples utilized in the Department’s clinical mission, another element of the research mission is to facilitate the proper and authorized use of this invaluable resource for research in order to benefit patients in the future. Individual projects span the breath of biomedical sciences from mechanistic studies of essential cellular processes, using model systems in vitro as well as animal models, to clinical intervention studies in human populations. Examples of some but not all areas of research are mutagenesis and carcinogenesis, thrombosis and hemostasis, cardiovascular pathobiology, pathophysiology of renal glomerular diseases, renal transplant pathophysiology, molecular genetics, tissue differentiation and regeneration, animal models of human disease, discovery of new drugs against infectious agents, and development of new diagnostic methods. Many of these investigations involve collaborations with members of other departments and centers on campus, as well as investigators at other national and international institutions. Pathology and laboratory medicine faculty are active in many of the more than 30 research centers at UNC, including the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, Carolina Center for Genome Sciences, McAllister Heart Institute, Neuroscience Center, Center for Environmental Health and Susceptibility, and Kidney Center. The UNC Chapel Hill campus provides truly extraordinary opportunities for biomedical research.
Chapel Hill: The School of Medicine and UNC Hospitals adjoin the beautiful campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which allows faculty to take advantage of numerous academic opportunities to collaborate with multiple University schools and departments, including outstanding departments of biology, chemistry and physics in the College of Arts and Sciences, as well as departments in the Schools of Pharmacy, Public Health and many others. Chapel Hill, which has been honored with many “best places to live” awards, is a small but cosmopolitan town within 30 minutes of RDU International Airport and is part of the “Research Triangle” region delimited by three research universities: UNC, Duke (10 miles from UNC) and NC State (30 miles from UNC). At the center is the Research Triangle Park, which is home to more than 170 global companies that foster a culture of scientific advancement and competitive excellence. Chapel Hill is a quintessential college town with numerous cultural activities that are attractive for faculty and their families. It has an excellent public school system, reasonably affordable housing, a climate that allows outdoor activities year-around, and a commitment to local culture, music and food (rated “foodiest small town in America” by Bon Appetit magazine).
History of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
The Early Years (1896-1946)
Pathology has over a century of distinguished history at UNC. A medical faculty and curriculum came into existence at UNC in 1879. Dr. Richard Whitehead, as Professor of Anatomy and Pathology, gave the first course in pathology beginning in 1896. After Whitehead left in 1905, Dr. David Dolley was recruited from Western Reserve in Cleveland to be Professor of Pathology and Histology. He served from 1906-1910, and was succeeded by Dr. Wade Brown, a Johns Hopkins graduate, whose tenure was from 1911-1913.
The Brinkhous Years (1946-1973)
Dean W. Reece Berryhill recruited Kenneth M. Brinkhous, M.D., to be Chair of the Department of Pathology in 1946. During his long and illustrious career as Professor and Chair from 1946 to 1973, Professor from 1973 to 1980 and active Emeritus Professor from 1981 to 1998, Dr. Brinkhous not only brought international renown to the Department of Pathology, but also made enormous contributions to the transformation of the UNC Medical School from a rather provincial school to a world class medical institution. Dr. Brinkhous created a major research program in thrombosis and hemostasis that established UNC as an international center of excellence for the study and treatment of hemophilia. One of many notable accomplishments during this time was the invention of the partial thromboplastin time test.
The Grisham Years
Joe W. Grisham, M.D., was recruited from Washington University by Dean Fordham in 1973 as Professor and Chair of the Department of Pathology, succeeding Dr. Brinkhous. Dr. Grisham’s leadership fostered substantial expansions in the breadth of research, teaching and service provided by the Department. In line with his own research interests, Dr. Grisham recruited outstanding cancer research faculty, including Dr. David Kaufman. He also strengthened or created a variety of other research areas in the Department. For example, his recruitment of Dr. Nobuyo Maeda and Dr. Oliver Smithies in 1988 markedly enhanced research using genetically modified mouse models of disease in the Department and at UNC, and greatly facilitated the growth of vascular biology and genomic research at UNC.
The Current Era
Dr. Grisham stepped down as Chair in 1999 and was succeeded by J. Charles Jennette, M.D., Brinkhous Distinguished Professor, an accomplished renal pathologist. Dr. Folds retired in 2006 and was succeed as Director of McLendon Clinical Laboratories by Mark Brecher, MD, an internationally renowned leader in transfusion medicine. Dr. Brecher left UNC in 2009 and was succeeded as Director of McLendon Clinical Laboratories by Herb Whinna, MD, PhD, an expert in coagulation and laboratory informatics. As documented on the pages of this web site, the Department continues to fulfill its primary missions to 1) provide outstanding, comprehensive, clinically effective and cost effective pathology and laboratory medicine services; 2) teach clinical and scientific concepts of pathology and laboratory medicine, and mechanisms of disease to a wide variety of learners; and 3) advance the practice of pathology and laboratory medicine, and the knowledge of diseases and disease mechanisms through innovative research spanning the spectrum from basic to translational to clinical research.