Welcome to this edition of the FSP member spotlight. Every month we will highlight a different FSP member who is doing exciting things in the field of pathology. This month we are excited to feature Brett Cantrell, MD, who has been a long time member of FSP. Dr. Cantrell currently serves as the Chair of the FSP’s Legislative Committee and is an At-Large Member of the FSP Board of Directors. He currently serves as Chief of Pathology at Ascension Health in Jacksonville, FL.
Brett Cantrell MD, MBA
Chief Of Pathology and Lab Director
What is your current role?
At an age where most of my friends ask if or why I am still working, I continue to be a full-time community pathologist. I am the Chief of Pathology and Laboratory Director of a six pathologists three campus hospital system, despite being an Anatomic Pathologist only.
What is the best part of your occupation?
I can’t believe I had the good fortune to stumble into the perfect profession for me. I was first attracted to pathology during medical school when I did a rotation with a community pathologist in my hometown. Although I originally intended to be an internist, I was fascinated at how this man dealt with a wide range of patients, and the specialists seemed to have great respect for his opinion. I was hooked. I remain a hospital junkie. I regard the ability to interact with highly intelligent individuals from six continents as an incredible privilege. Each day brings a fresh problem to be answered. I continue to remind my younger colleagues that they are physicians with a microscope, not a microscope technician
How did you become interested in pathology?
I originally went to college majoring in naval architecture. Midway through my junior year I realized I was not enjoying engineering and that I wanted to own a sailboat rather than design them. I now have that 36-foot boat growing barnacles at a marina. I was a college dropout in the middle of Vietnam, but returned to college within 4 weeks at my local liberal arts college majoring in biology. I had previously regarded it as a soft science without precise mathematical answers. Biology became my religion.
How did you become involved with the FSP?
By nature I am not business-oriented, but 40 years of practice have taught me that doing a good job is not enough; one has to fight to be rewarded for doing a good job. Passively relying on the CAP to represent my interests is insufficient. So much of insurance and healthcare regulation occurs at the state level. We as a profession must engage in Tallahassee with the knowledgeable support of health care attorneys and lobbyists to educate the legislature as to who we are and why we matter. This is what makes the FSP vital to my practice.
Explain how you benefit from being a member of FSP
The education and friendships I have developed throughout the state is a tremendous added value. Pathologists come in many forms, but they are always interesting.
What would you like to see occur in the field of pathology (i.e., scientific advances, greater awareness of the field, etc.) during your career?
Pathology’s biggest challenges for the future are to be recognized for our continued relevance and integrating our practices with the transformative technologies occurring. It is unclear if future pathologists will regard my microscope with the same condescension engineers now hold toward a slide rule. Yet we will continue to be involved in diagnosis of all types. Will this remain at the hospital level or will we be forced to migrate into larger corporate situations? The small size of our specialty and relative invisibility of pathologists to patients, makes it a challenge to have our interests represented as healthcare’s future. It is developed by insurance companies and government agencies. The CAP and FSP have to shoulder efforts to secure the future of tomorrow’s local pathologists.
What are your hobbies outside of the office?
I am privileged to be married to my wife of 47 years with three children and four grandchildren. Aside from paying dockage at a marina, I enjoy golf and remain a voracious reader. I gave up tennis as the legs failed me but at one time was known at my club as “Dr Dirt” because of my willingness to eat clay trying to return a tennis ball. I spent many vacations scuba diving the Caribbean with my son and friends and hiking the Appalachian Trail.
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