Member Spotlight | Get to Know Stephen E. Vernon, MD

   Stephen E. Vernon, MD
   Associate Professor of Pathology, Emeritus, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine
   Associate Professor of Pathology, NOVA Southeastern College of Allopathic Medicine (Voluntary)
   Attending Pathologist at Mercy Hospital, Kendall Regional Medical Center, and Aventura Medical Center
  Staff Pathologist at Mariner’s Hospital, Fisherman’s Hospital, and Lower Keys Medical Center, the three              hospitals located in the Florida Key




What is your current role?
I am currently a member of the FSP Executive Committee, a past president (1988-89), and have served in every capacity in the leadership of the FSP, including Executive Vice President.  I am also the Chair of the Florida Medical Association's Committee on Accreditation and Continuing Medical Education and have served on the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education in Chicago.

What is the best part of your occupation?
Without any doubt, being a hospital-based Pathologist is one of the best jobs in all of the Healthcare field.  We never know exactly what our day will hold, but it is sure to full of questions, surprises, and opportunities to help our fellow physician/clinicians with the care of their patients. Pathologist have a unique role in the hospital setting, as a result of their many responsibilities as laboratory director, consultant, diagnostician, and committee work.

How did you become involved with the FSP? How do you benefit from being a member of FSP?
When I left residency at UCLA and returned to my home state of Florida in 1979, one of the first things I did was join the Florida Society of Pathologists and the Florida and Dade County Medical Association.  I was already a member of the CAP and ASCP, and was a member of the AMA since my time in Medical School.  Since I was new to the organization, I was placed on the Education Committee and steadily moved up the ranks to the Presidency in 1988.  Those were terrific years as I got to know all the workings of the FSP (at the time, still a “young” organization) and met and became friends with the leadership, people like Frank Coleman, Jerry Benson, Tom Wood, Glenn Hooper, and many others too numerous to list here. In that framework I learned the value of participating in the process rather than being an outside observer.  There were plenty of challenges then, just as there are now, and these things don’t just take care of themselves, they require the attention and efforts of the organization’s leadership, all of whom freely donate their time and energies.  The results benefit all of Florida’s pathologists, not just the FSP members, so increasing our membership has to be one of our highest priorities. I would also like to say how much I have enjoyed meeting and interacting with other members of the FSP and their families at our meetings.

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?
Well, my Pathology career is nearing the finish line, and I will say now that it hardly resembles that of 1979.  Vast changes, largely for the better, have resulted in improved Pathology practice at all levels.  These were largely the result of determined efforts by individuals and Pathology professional groups, working in conjunction with research scientists and other laboratory professionals.  None of this was by accident (well, almost none of it).  Our Pathology professional organizations, and I include FSP in this, have been significantly involved in these improvements.  I do not expect the pace of change to slow, in fact it will likely continue unabated.  Digital Pathology is here, molecular pathology is a daily reality, and nanotechnology is still in its infancy.  All of these technologies will probably coalesce to completely revolutionize future Pathology practice.

What are your hobbies outside of the office?
How much time do we have?  Seriously, I have a wealth of interests outside of pathology practice.  Being raised in Central Florida, I had a lot of interaction with the natural world and still enjoy fishing, hiking, swimming, and exploring new places.  We have been fortunate to travel quite a bit, and hope to continue this in the future.  Some of the members also may know that I am a member of the Rare Fruit Council International in Miami, and I am constantly learning new things (and experimenting) about sub-tropical and tropical fruits from around the world.  By its very nature this hobby intersects with ornamental plants, and I have for some time been interested in the relationships of humans and certain traditional ornamental/medicinal plants. There is so much to learn and so little time!

What is something surprising that most people do not know about you?
Well, where to start.  I am triple certified as a scuba diver (L.A. County, N.A.U.I., PADI), owned and operated my own lobster and stone crab business in Marathon, Florida for 13 years, I started my Pathology career in private practice, and after 22 years joined the U.M. faculty as an academic pathologist.  Along the way I worked in just about every practice setting out there.  And I am a U.S. Coast Guard licensed Captain.  I am the only Pathologist with privileges at all three hospitals in the Florida Keys (Mariner’s in Tavernier, Fisherman’s in Marathon, and Lower Keys Medical Center in Key West).

Final thoughts?
I strongly encourage that all young Pathologists (and the not so young) become involved with the Florida Society of Pathologists.  This is YOUR organization, the only one specifically addressing issues related to YOUR practice.  Participation in change is a valuable defense against physician burnout and so is association with like-minded individuals facing the same or similar challenges.  The time to become involved is early in your career.  And do not neglect your state and local medical associations, you might be surprised by the quality and enthusiasm of the other physicians in your community.  We are all in this together!