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Prof Alison Rich

NZDA23 Alison Rich

Alison has recently retired as Professor of Oral Pathology at the Faculty of Dentistry and Head of the Pathology Department, Dunedin School of Medicine, University of Otago, New Zealand. She is a registered specialist in oral pathology and was Head of the Oral Pathology Centre, the University’s oral pathology diagnostic service and the Leader of the Oral Immunopathology Research Group. She is a previous Chief Examiner and Chair of the Faculty of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology of the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia. Alison was elected as a Fellow of the New Zealand Dental Association in 2019. She is President-Elect of the International Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathologists.

Dentist scientific programme

Digital Advances in Oral Pathology

Digital pathology has changed the practice of pathology. This particularly relates to diagnostic pathology processing and reporting, but it has dramatically changed pathology teaching and opened research opportunities. Whole slide imaging (WSI), where glass slides are scanned and stored at high resolution, has set the scene for digital pathology. The scanned images can be sent electronically to colleagues for further opinion; this can facilitate discussions between pathologists working at various sites locally, nationally or internationally and can be used at conferences, workshops and for quality assurance exercises.

WSI serves as an enabling platform for the use of artificial intelligence (AI). The complex information stored in the scanned images allows for the development of algorithms of much greater sophistication than conventional pattern recognition used by humans. Artificial intelligence allows for pathologists to identify specific markers associated with disease, improving early detection and assisting with the prediction of prognosis. This has moved beyond a research tool and is already used in diagnostic practice.

While some pathology teachers were loathe to move away from the style of teaching where students used monocular microscopes to attempt to identify tissues and cells, there is little doubt that digital pathology has enhanced learning about pathology, including oral pathology. We teach students using WSI, where students access the histology images on their laptops, along with the clinical history, photographs and radiology images. Whether they are in a room with the teacher or accessing the class remotely from anywhere in the world, the students can view the images at the same time the teacher is explaining the details and immediately relate the histology to what they see on the clinical images.

This talk will show how digital pathology is being used at the Oral Pathology Centre, University of Otago, for the diagnosis of oral and maxillofacial lesions, for teaching and for research.