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ESP: the beating heart of European pathology

Here we take a look at a brief history of the European Society of Pathology in order to understand where the future lies

Fred T Bosman MD PhD, Director, Professor of Pathology, University Institute of Pathology, Lausanne, Switzerland,
President, European Society of Pathology

In the early 1960s, pathologists in Europe started to realise that more structured exchange and a common approach of continuous medical education would favour the development of the discipline. A group of friends, one might call them the “Founding Fathers”, got together on the initiative of Prof A Giordano with enthusiastic support from Prof P Dustin on 7 November 1964 in Salzburg and founded what we now know as the European Society of Pathology (ESP). The idea was to create an open forum for all pathologists in Europe and elsewhere, fostering closer professional contact.[1-3]

The ESP has as its primary aim to promote high-quality diagnostic practice, applied translational research, under- and postgraduate education in the field of human pathology. The ESP positions itself as an organisation networking between national pathology societies in Europe, linking with EU bodies in close coordination with UEMS (Union Européenne des Médecins Spécialistes) Section of Pathology and EAPCP (European Association of Pathology Chairs and Residency Program Directors).

Activities and goals
The ESP pursues the following activities to further the cause of pathology in Europe:

  • Annual Congresses, oriented towards the practice of pathology, mechanisms of disease and translational research.
  • Subspecialty-oriented Working Groups providing the intellectual and professional infrastructure for high-quality scientific events.
  • The development of a quality assurance network for molecular pathology.
  • Postgraduate education through:
  • Courses organised by the European School of Pathology (EscoP), which includes the former EuroCellPath organisation.
  • Online educational material through the new website.
  • Accreditation and CPD validation of courses offered by national or other pathology organisations.
  • Communication facilities:
  • The society’s journal, Virchows Archiv (European Journal of Pathology).
  • The society’s website, including a websitebased newsletter (
  • Career development opportunities for trainee pathologists through exchange programmes, to increase recruitment.

To attain its goals the ESP:

  • Will develop a professional organisation with an office in Brussels, a business administrator and specific portfolios for Executive Committee members.
  • Has appointed one of its specialist pathologist members as congress coordinator , who will be assisted by an independent Scientific Advisory Committee.
  • Will bear full scientific and administrative responsibility for the Annual Congresses.
  • Will reinforce Working Groups and provide them with logistical support.
  • Has appointed an Education Committee to develop a long-term coherent educational strategy.

Does this sound ambitious? It probably does, but then who would appreciate a society without ambition? Can we do this? Yes, we can. We have to because the future of our discipline is at stake, with recruitment falling short of present needs.[4] The increasing complexity of diagnostic pathology in the era of molecular medicine and the spectacular development of our understanding of disease mechanisms should be enough to motivate young hysicians to take up the challenge.

Can we do it alone? Certainly not. We will need close links with national societies, EU structures and academic leaders. Together we can create a European identity for pathology.

1. Llombart-Bosch A. 25 years of the European Society of Pathology. Path Res Pract 1989;184:361-4.
2. Sobrinho-Simoes M. The role of the EScoP and EuroCellPath in international training. EuroPathNews 1/2003. Virchows Arch 2003;442:192-3.
3. Cardesa A. Presidential welcome address. Virchows Arch 2004;444:106-7.
4. Ruiter DJ, Roald B, Underwood J, Prat J; UEMS Section of Pathology/European Board of Pathology. Histopathology
training in Europe: a lesson for other specialties? Virchows Arch 2004;444:278-82.