Five Questions With: Dr. Robert M. Najarian

Dr. Robert M. Najarian, recently named the medical director of University Gastroenterology’s new Pathology Center in Portsmouth, has more than 13 years of experience as a surgical pathologist with expertise in gastrointestinal and liver pathology.

Najarian was recruited from Harvard Hospital System, where he served for eight years, to help University Gastroenterology improve patient care by minimizing the turnaround time needed to deliver critical diagnoses.

Najarian also served as a consultant in gastrointestinal, liver and pancreatic pathology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston prior to joining University Gastroenterology.

Najarian earned his Bachelor of Science from Brown University and a medical degree from Boston University School of Medicine. His postdoctoral training includes a residency in anatomic and clinical pathology and a specialized fellowship in gastrointestinal and liver pathology.

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PBN: You have worked for 13 years in Boston at a major medical center, why did you decide to come to Rhode Island?

NAJARIAN: Accepting a role as the medical director for the Pathology Center at University Gastroenterology was an easy choice because of the dedication, expertise and commitment of all of the gastroenterologists in this practice and how clear it was to me how much they valued bringing on a dedicated pathology team for optimization of their patients’ care.

I am a firm believer that the best medical care is delivered locally and University Gastroenterology has the resources to provide the best general GI and subspecialty GI [inflammatory bowel disease, liver disease, pancreatobiliary diseases] care for patients across Rhode Island.

Finally, I also have a strong affinity for the area. Multiple generations of both sides of my family have called Rhode Island home, currently cousins in South Kingstown, and I have fond memories of my days as a Brown undergraduate.

PBN: Pathology plays a role in every form of medicine, what is your specialty?

NAJARIAN: It is true that the specialty of pathology and pathologists touch the medical world in diverse ways from diagnosing cancer and inflammatory conditions under the microscope [surgical pathology] or serving as a medical director of a clinical or molecular laboratory [clinical pathology].

Additionally, with increased complexity of diseases and associated treatment implications of pathologic diagnoses, numerous subspecialties have grown in our specialty, including one in gastrointestinal and liver pathology, which I chose nine years ago as my diagnostic and research area of expertise.

PBN: How does having a pathology center in-house improve patient care?

NAJARIAN: As I mentioned before, the best patient care is delivered locally, and ideally delivered by experts in the field who are an integrated part of the patient care team. The Pathology Center at University Gastroenterology is a model of this concept, where the practice gastroenterologists, nurse practitioners and care team really know their pathologists and know that they are dedicated to delivering the best patient care around.

Corporate influences in medicine threaten to disrupt such an effective model as this and take the personal touch out of patient care. We at the Pathology Center are dedicated to being not just the names but the faces behind patient diagnoses at University Gastroenterology.

PBN: You are an active member of the College of American Pathologists as the current vice chair of the Curriculum Committee. What do you do in this role and how does it improve the role of pathologists?

NAJARIAN: In my role as the current vice chair of the College of American Pathologists Curriculum Committee, I oversee the organization and development of continuing medical education activities for practicing pathologists.

The committee’s work entails annually approving educational course offerings for the college’s annual meeting, which occurs every fall, as well as online and publication-based learning tools, including self-assessment modules, which are required for board certification and renewal.

Additionally, I serve as an active member of the Pathology and Laboratory Quality Center Committee, which issues guidelines for evidence-based pathology practice.

These activities allow me to give back to the specialty and one of its premier professional organizations, and learn from leaders in the specialty from all of North America.

PBN: What are some of the new innovations or technologies in your field that you are excited about?

NAJARIAN: Certainly, the explosion of molecular testing modalities and the incorporation of personalized medicine in the everyday practice of surgical pathology and laboratory medicine excites me very much.

Specifically, these tools have allowed pathologists to better predict a patient’s outcome living with a particular disease or cancer and have ensured that patients receive appropriate treatments for such diseases.

Few patients realize the role that pathologists play in both the performance and interpretation of such tests, and we as diagnostic specialists owe it to patients to be their advocates and caregivers when questions about these tests arise.

Rob Borkowski is a PBN staff writer. Email him at