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A leader in the field of cytopathology, the study of disease on the cellular level, R. Marshall Austin ’71 was recently elected to vice president of American Society of Cytopathology. The oldest cytology organization in the world, ASC was founded by George Papanicolaou and his followers in 1951 as the Intersociety Cytology Council. Papanicolaou, after whom the Pap smear test for cervical cancer was named, was an early president.

Austin is the medical director and director of cytopathology and gynecological pathology services for Coastal Pathology Laboratories in Charleston, S.C. His main work deals with cervical cancer screening and the role of the human papilloma virus, which causes cervical cancer.

A biology major at Lafayette, Austin got his start in research while working with Bernard Fried, professor emeritus of biology. “He was my mentor in terms of scientific problem solving and research,” says Austin. “I identified him as a gifted research scholar and I was fortunate to work with him throughout my Lafayette career. It was just a wonderful experience to work with Bernie. He was fabulous.”

“I’ve always enjoyed tackling scientific problems like I did with Dr. Fried at Lafayette,” he adds. “This is a real world challenge that is very rewarding, because you are saving lives.”

Austin’s main challenge is to improve the effectiveness of the Pap smear from “very good to nearly perfect. The public’s expectations are extremely high,” he explains. “They’re looking for 100 percent effectiveness.”

The American Society of Cytopathology is interested in making new technology more widely available to women. Austin says that availability is often hindered by incomplete insurance coverage or incomplete knowledge by doctors of new technology that is also cost effective. He also cites an international shortage of cytopathologists, those who address the results of Pap smears. The explosion of valuable information in the field is also overwhelming the end user, he says. Austin hopes that his organization can find a way to combat this trend, making the information available in a convenient, useful way.

Because Austin is the only member of the executive board in private practice, he feels that he has a unique and important voice in his field. “Generally people at this level have been exclusively full-time academic physicians,” he explains. “People in private practice [such as myself] are in a position to bring attention to the real problems in the field. That’s an opportunity I have. It’s a useful perspective.”

Elected to “Best Doctors in America” in 2002, Austin won the 2001 CAP William L. Kuehn, Ph.D., Outstanding Communicator Award presented at the American Society of Clinical Pathologists/College of American Pathologists Annual Meeting and Exhibits. The award is given to a member who has made outstanding communications contributions strengthening the image of pathology. Austin was honored for his achievements in advocating optimal Pap testing for all women.

Austin is also involved with the American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology, which has created evidence-based guidelines on abnormal Pap smear tests. He is on the Cytopathology Resource Committee, which establishes guidelines for the practice of cytopathology and develops programs to ensure the quality of cytopathologic services for CAP. He volunteered with his local American Cancer Society chapter from 1989-1994, serving as a board member. He was a credentialed pathologist in the departments of gynecologic and breast pathology and cellular pathology for the Armed Forces of Pathology from 1983-1986.

Austin earned both his M.D. and Ph.D. at Duke University in Durham, N.C. He served his internship and residency at National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. Austin is certified by the American Board of Pathology in anatomic and clinical pathology, medical microbiology, and cytopathology.

Categorized in: Alumni Profiles