"In the fields of observation, chance favors only the prepared mind"so
spoke Louis Pasteur in 1854. In the great game of life, chance thankfully may favor unprepared minds.
My mind was certainly unprepared for pathology when I entered medical school in 1947. I chose to
intern in pathology upon graduation because I was uncertain whether to practice medicine or surgery.
However, I found that the combined opportunities to study mechanisms of disease by analyzing their
structural manifestations, to make diagnoses in problem cases, and to teach second-year medical
students about disease were irresistible. These key attributes of pathology surely constitute the
rationale for our discipline and probably are the reasons most of us have spent our professional lives
Also by chance (and good fortune) my first mentors were Doctors Ernest Goodpasture, James Dawson, and
John Shapiro. Of the three, only Dr. Goodpasture had chosen pathology by thoughtful analysis; Dr.
Dawson fell under Dr. Goodpasture's spell as a medical student, and Dr. Shapiro, owing to a shrapnel
wound received in the Italian campaign in WWII, turned to pathology as an alternative to his original
choice of surgery. As Dr. Goodpasture's Chief Resident, I saw that he was the ideal academician,
altruistic and totally committed to research. It was not surprising in reviewing his papers many
years later to learn that he viewed universities as the most important of social institutions.
Doctors Dawson and Shapiro were exemplary models as teachers, fervent in their commitment and equally
demanding in their expectations.
After ten years on the faculty at Vanderbilt, it became apparent to me that specialization was
necessary. Hematopathology was an attractive choice, owing to my previous work on leukocytic pyrogen
with Dr. Barry Wood at Hopkins, and owing to my interest in relating structure to function in the
widespread hematopoetic system. In those not so long ago times while the microscope was king, the
kingdom was awash in ignorance. We did not know, for example, that there were subpopulations of
lymphocytes with particular functions, or that lymphocytes could transform. Accomplished
hematopathologists were also in short supply, but I felt that Bob Lukes would be an exceptional mentor
after he had come to Vanderbilt for a seminar. So Lukes and Collins began a transcontinental
collaboration in 1969, starting with a morphologic study of follicular lymphomas at Vanderbilt. This
study confirmed our hypothesis that lymphomas should obey the same laws as other cancers, that specific
lymphocyte populations should give rise to specific lymphomas, and that some lymphomas could be
diagnosed by morphologic features. This collaboration bore its first fruit in 1974 in our paper
"Immunologic Characterization of Human Malignant Lymphoma" and culminated in 1992 with the second
series Fascicle Tumors of the Hematopoetic System. In all of this work,
we were aware of the important studies of Karl Lennert. Professor Lennert and Dr. Lukes were
pioneers in hematopathology, and it was a rare privilege to become their colleague.
In 1999, I began a second career with the tripartite goals of writing, research, and organizing a
scholarship program for medical students. This career shows some promise. For these opportunities I
am most grateful to my wife of 55 years, Elizabeth Cate Collins, who has shared my enthusiasm for
A colleague writes: "Dr. Robert Collins deserves the Distinguished Pathologist Award from USCAP for
many reasons. The Lukes/Collins classification of malignant lymphomas completely changed our approach
to this complex field. Their bold suggestions were contentious at the time but are now accepted as
dogma. Who in 2005 would disregard whether a lymphoma was of B or T cell origin? Their functional
immunologic approach to lymphoid neoplasms helped pave the way for numerous studies including recent
molecular evidence dividing large transformed B-cell lymphomas into "germinal center" and
"non-germinal center" types. These gene-profiling studies have reconfirmed the basic principles of
the Lukes/Collins follicular center cell concept. Dr. Collins and his now widely dispersed "Heme
Team" were responsible for the initial or early descriptions of follicular lymphomas, splenic and
nodal marginal zone lymphomas, peripheral T-cell lymphomas and anaplastic large cell lymphoma. His
impact in the world of pathology is even greater because of his dedicated medical student and
postgraduate teaching that stressed ways of thinking rather than memorization of facts. Thousands of
former Vanderbilt medical students will never forget his lectures or "organ recitals." Each of his
fellows has been indelibly marked by a respect for the importance of accurate diagnoses, a passion for
what is yet to be discovered, absolute intellectual honesty and the type of collegiality that is
unusual now. He and his wife made many individuals, now dispersed around the world, feel that they
were an integral part of his familyanother example of what is so special about this
distinguished pathologist whom we honor today."