Sylvia Asa was born in New York City and was raised in Windsor, Ontario. Her exposure to medicine was early and intense, and with a strong family history of medical careers, she entered the medical school at the University of Toronto. She pursued an internship in internal medicine at Toronto General Hospital where she developed her interest in Endocrinology. However, the full potential of a career in Pathology became rapidly evident, and she switched into a residency in pathology that gave her exposure to laboratories of several hospitals affiliated with the University of Toronto. She carried out a research fellowship in the Department of Pathology at St. Michaelís Hospital and the University of Toronto where, under the mentorship of Kalman Kovacs, she obtained a PhD.
As a faculty member in the Department of Pathology at the University of Toronto, she has spent the last 25 years studying structure-function correlations and pathogenetic mechanisms underlying endocrine disorders. She held staff positions at St. Michaelís Hospital and Mount Sinai Hospital, and an investigator appointment at the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute. In 2000, she became Pathologist-in-Chief at the University Health Network, the largest teaching institution of the University of Toronto that encompasses the Toronto General Hospital, the Toronto Western Hospital and the Princess Margaret Hospital. She is also a Senior Scientist at the Ontario Cancer Institute. Her position has evolved to Medical Director of a priority program in Laboratory Medicine of the institution, with medical directorship of laboratories in 18 hospitals across the province of Ontario.
Extremely active in endocrine pathology, Dr. Asa is affiliated with numerous professional organizations, including The US-Canadian Academy of Pathology, The Endocrine Society, The Pituitary Society, the Pituitary Pathology Club and the Endocrine Pathology Society, of which she is a founding member. She has presented more than 300 papers at international meetings and has been an invited lecturer for the National Institutes of Health, the Japan Endocrine Society, the Endocrine Society and the International Academy of Pathology, among others. To ensure public knowledge of the role of Pathology and to maintain a direct connection with patients, Dr. Asa is a consultant to several patient support groups, including the Pituitary Network Association, the Canadian Thyroid Cancer Support Group (Thryívors) and the Carcinoid Neuroendocrine Tumour Society.
Dr. Asa is a founding editor of the journal Endocrine Pathology, a Senior Editor of Laboratory Investigation and Endocrine-Related Cancer, and has served as an editorial board member for several publications, including the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, Endocrinology, the American Journal of Surgical Pathology, Advances in Anatomic Pathology, the Journal of Clinical Pathology, and The Archives of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, and Modern Pathology. She is a reviewer for 35 major medical journals and participates in grant panel reviews for major funding organizations in Canada and internationally. Extensively published, Dr. Asa has co-authored more than 300 articles in high impact journals. She has co-authored four books and more than 50 chapters on endocrinology and related pathology, and is the author of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology Atlas of Tumor Pathology Third Series and Fourth Series Fascicles on Tumors of the Pituitary Gland.
She has been the recipient of many awards and honors, including the Arthur Purdy Stout Society of Surgical Pathologists (1998), the Novartis Canada Senior Scientist Award (2001), the Professor C.F.A. Culling Memorial Lecture Award of the National Society for Histotechnology (2004), the ICRF Woman of Action Award (2009) and several teaching awards from the University of Toronto. She has served as President of the Endocrine Pathology Society (1997 Ė 1998) and the US-Canadian Academy of Pathology (2005-6).
As head of one of the largest pathology departments in Canada, Dr. Asa has made innovative changes to the practice of the discipline, with an emphasis on automation, electronic initiatives and telepathology. The department takes a highly subspecialized approach to diagnostic activities, education and research in cytopathology, surgical and autopsy pathology. The understanding of mechanisms of disease and translation to diagnostic and prognostic information for patient care requires integration of conventional histology with immunohistochemistry, electron microscopy, flow cytometry, cytogenetics and molecular diagnostics, all of which are utilized for advanced diagnostic approaches. Her department also embodies strong primary research programs and collaborative clinical research based on tissue procurement with pathologist interpretation.
Her dedication to timely and innovative change has been the platform she has applied to her own work, her department and the organizations she supports. As a member of the USCAP education committee she ensured a progressive approach, always questioning accepted process and actively participating in and leading change. She co-organized the Long Course for the annual meeting in 2000 with Allan Gown to inform and prepare Pathologists for the molecular era ahead. As a mother of four children, she recognizes the need to integrate career and family, therefore she restructured the annual summer course, Diagnostic Pathology, to accommodate colleagues and their families, study and leisure, work and play. She has served on numerous committees, on Council and Executive, and as President of this prestigious organization that provides educational activities for Pathologists throughout the world. She is honored to be recognized for her contributions to the Academy with the F.K. Mostofi Distinguished Service Award.