Anatomic pathology slide unknown conferences are usually limited to a microscopic slide, slide images, or a virtual slide that is previewed prior to a conference. The answer is provided at a conference along with the ancillary studies, such as immunohistochemistry or molecular studies, that enabled the diagnosis. In this rigid system the learner never gains experience with an appropriate workup for cases that will enable the definitive diagnosis.


To develop an interactive system in which the user can work through a difficult case, ordering stains and other special studies, ideally leading to more involvement and retention.


An online system was developed using HTML, PHP Hypertext Preprocessor, and JavaScript for ordering and result display. When the user selects a study, an image or text result is displayed. Studies include immunohistochemistry, cytogenetics, flow cytometry, molecular, and radiology. The user then selects the diagnosis and, if correct, is shown some additional didactics.


Unknown conferences were held at 3 institutions using this novel teaching method that allowed residents to work up unknown cases. Conferences are available online ( including general, soft tissue, and hematopathology cases. Evaluations were obtained that showed that residents enjoyed the system, considered it better than standard unknown sessions and lectures, and wanted more sessions.


This system was very highly received by the residents in all programs, who enjoyed getting immediate results and being able to work through interesting cases. More widespread use of this system could make for an effective learning tool.

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Author notes

The authors have no relevant financial interest in the products or companies described in this article.

Presented in part as a poster at the Association for Molecular Pathology Annual Meeting & Expo; November 17, 2017; Salt Lake City, Utah.