Medical Professional Publications

A Tribute: Dr. Qualman and the Creation of VIPER

Stephen J. Qualman, MD initiated the VIPER system, which was initially the Virtual Imaging Pilot Endeavor, in January 2005. As a pilot project it was created to evaluate an automated pathology review process of both normal and diseased tissues for quality control purposes. The Biopathology Center located at The Research Institute currently acts as the biospecimen bank for the Children’s Oncology Group (COG) and the Gynecologic Oncology Group (GOG). The Biopathology Center receives and processes specimens from over 500 institutions in multiple countries and distributes specimens to approved investigators.

As described in this article, VIPER has now evolved into the Virtual Imaging for Pathology, Education & Research application to introduce imaging to other areas of emphasis at the Biopathology Center.

Virtual Imaging
By utilizing two Aperio XT Scanners the VIPER Team is able to generate high quality virtual slides and make these images available via the VIPER application over the Internet. These “virtual” slides have virtually the same image quality and resolution as the same slide viewed through an optical microscope. Once the digital slide is available on VIPER a common personal computer becomes the microscope. To facilitate the long-term storage and viewing of digital images, the VIPER Team has partnered with the Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC). As a leader in computing and networking, the OSC provides a reliable high performance computing and communications infrastructure and has allocated 10 terabytes of storage capacity for VIPER.

The VIPER Team currently works with over twenty pathologists representing the Children’s Oncology Group, Gynecologic Oncology Group, and Nationwide Children’s Hospital on multiple projects related to both pediatric and gyneocologic cancers as well as non-cancerous diseases.

Many teaching sets are now available digitally via VIPER. Many of these teaching sets are focused on rare pediatric and adult tumors and have been generated at the request of leading cancer researchers in both the COG and GOG.

The Biopathology Center receives and processes over 25,000 specimens annually. Many of these specimens are processed into glass slides and evaluated digitally for quality control purposes.

An outstanding pathologist, Dr. Qualman dedicated his life to improving the lives of patients diagnosed with cancer through research. In addition to initiating the VIPER system, he was a world leader in biopathology of pediatric sarcoma. Dr. Qualman established the Biopathology Center (BPC) at Nationwide Children’s 24 years ago, making the program facility a prototype upon which other national biorepositories have been built.

Dr. Qualman’s academic pursuits focused on pediatric cancers, especially rhabdomyosarcoma and other soft tissue sarcomas. He was awarded the Lotte Strauss Prize from the Society of Pediatric Pathology in 1993 for an outstanding research paper (Qualman SJ, O’Dorisio MS, Fleshman D, Shimada H, O’Dorisio TM. Neuroblastoma: correlation of neuropeptide contents in tumor tissue with other prognostic factors. Cancer, 70:2005-2012, 1992). He was the first pediatric pathology liaison for the Cancer Committee of the College of American Pathology. In 2004, Dr. Qualman was named Director of the Center for Childhood Cancer at The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the Richard M. and M. Elizabeth Ross Endowed Chair in Pediatric Research. He was also co-director of the emerging Pediatric Oncology Program in the Comprehensive Cancer Center and showed great passion and leadership throughout its development.

Ironically, the very disease that Dr. Qualman devoted his life to defeating to improve the quality of life for others, took his life on August 30, 2008. After a 13-month battle with pancreatic cancer Dr. Qualman, director of the Center for Childhood Cancer at Nationwide Children’s Hospital passed away. He retired in 2007, his honors included: elected an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Fellow in October of 2007; elected member in the Johns Hopkins Society of Scholars in February of 2008; Society for Pediatric Pathology President Award (2008); and received the American Cancer Society Hero of Hope award (Ohio Chapter) in August 2008.


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