Competency assessment of residents in surgical pathology using virtual microscopy

Hum Pathol. 2009 Aug;40(8):1122-8. doi: 10.1016/j.humpath.2009.04.009. Epub 2009 Jun 24.


Our goal was to develop an efficient and reliable performance-based virtual slide competency examination in general surgical pathology that objectively measures pathology resident's morphologic diagnostic skill. A Perl scripted MySQL database was used to develop the test editor and test interface. Virtual slides were created with the Aperio ScanScope. The examination consisted of 20 questions using 20 virtual slides. Slides were chosen to represent general surgical pathology specimens from a variety of organ systems. The examination was administered in a secure environment and was completed in 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Examination reliability, as an indicator of the test's ability to discriminate between trainee ability levels, was excellent (r = 0.84). The linear correlation coefficient of virtual slide competency examination score versus months of surgical pathology training was 0.83 (P = .0001). The learning curve was much steeper early in training. Correlation of virtual slide competency examination performance with resident's performance on the 64 item Resident In-Service Examination surgical pathology subsection was 0.70. Correlation of virtual slide competency examination performance with global end of rotation ratings was 0.28. This pilot implementation demonstrates that it is possible to create a short, reliable performance-based assessment tool for measuring morphologic diagnostic skill using a virtual slide competency examination. Furthermore, the examination as implemented in our program will be a valid measure of an individual resident's progress in morphologic competency. Virtual slide technology and computer accessibility have advanced to the point that the virtual slide competency examination model implemented in our program could have applicability across multiple residency programs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence / standards*
  • Educational Measurement / methods*
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted*
  • Internship and Residency / standards*
  • Microscopy / methods*
  • Pathology, Surgical / education*
  • Pathology, Surgical / standards
  • Reproducibility of Results