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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2014  |  Volume : 1  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 63-67

Preparing for a dermatopathology quiz

1 Department of Dermatology, INHS Asvini, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
2 Department of Dermatology, Command Hospital (Eastern Command), Kolkata, West Bengal, India
3 Department of Pathology, Command Hospital (Northern Command), Udhampur, Jammu and Kashmir, India

Date of Web Publication18-Dec-2014

Correspondence Address:
Biju Vasudevan
Department of Dermatology, INHS Asvini, Mumbai - 400 005, Maharashtra
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2349-6029.147285

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Dermatopathology is one of the key aspects in dermatological diagnosis and is of immense value to the practicing dermatologist as well as residents pursuing dermatology as a career. It is a visual medium of understanding the subject, and is therefore ideal to be tested similarly. Dermatopathology quiz has become a part and parcel of most scientific deliberations, and is therefore an essential requirement of the postgraduate curriculum. Preparing for a dermatopathology quiz is tougher than preparing for a normal clinical quiz because of the lesser importance given for it in the syllabus of postgraduation and also due to the lack of resources either in getting microscopic sessions arranged or due to lack of flair of the subject compared to cosmetology or dermatosurgery. This review was done with the purpose of educating both the students and quizmasters as to how to prepare for a dermatopathology quiz. It is a unique proposal and, therefore, is gathered from more of personal experience, experience gained from watching quizzes conducted by experienced quizmasters, and also from the advice gained from masters of the subject in relation to the quiz.

Keywords: Histopathology, prepare, quiz, quizmaster

How to cite this article:
Vasudevan B, Chatterjee M, Moorchung N, Neema S. Preparing for a dermatopathology quiz. Indian J Dermatopathol Diagn Dermatol 2014;1:63-7

How to cite this URL:
Vasudevan B, Chatterjee M, Moorchung N, Neema S. Preparing for a dermatopathology quiz. Indian J Dermatopathol Diagn Dermatol [serial online] 2014 [cited 2023 Mar 22];1:63-7. Available from: https://www.ijdpdd.com/text.asp?2014/1/2/63/147285

  Introduction Top

Quiz has become an important academic event in postgraduate training, and it has become one of the most interesting events in many conferences. Quizzes now-a-days are fiercely fought, as the winners bring not only good name to themselves but also laurels to the institution they belong to. Participating in quiz helps the postgraduate students in preparing for their exams, and also helps them to remember and recall interesting facts about various disorders and improve their clinical judgment. Dermatology is a visual specialty and many a times, diagnosis can be made by visual impression, remembering patterns, and recalling previous similar patients seen by self or even by others and discussed with the help of images. Quizzing helps in doing so by aiding memory recall of interesting facts about diseases in an interesting manner and utilizing the knowledge in clinical practice. The interest generated in a quiz environment ensures that students are more eager to learn the nuances of the specialty.

  Quiz In Dermatopathology Top

Dermatopathology is a subspecialty of dermatology, and it has similar attributes wherein visual impression and pattern recognition remain very important. To recognize patterns at a microscopic level, however, requires a trained eye and many a times, dermatology postgraduates do not get adequate exposure in dermatopathology due to lack of resources which results in inadequate understanding of the subject. Dermatopathology quiz gives an impetus to the postgraduate students to learn and understand this subspecialty in an interactive manner. Dermatopathology is the cornerstone of dermatological diagnosis and is one of the most important aspects of dermatology that every postgraduate should have a detailed knowledge about. This review is a guide to postgraduates as to how they can prepare for a dermatopathology quiz.

  Important Aspects Involved in Preparation for A Dermatopathology Quiz Top

Syllabus and resources

The first question that comes to the mind of a postgraduate student when challenged with any exam is to find out what the syllabus is and which are the books one should refer to. Quiz preparation is also no different in this matter. Dermatopathology is a vast subject and setting a syllabus will be out of context of this review. The important resources available are:

  1. Books and journals
  2. Internet resources

    • Website of ISD: The Dermatopathology Society of India has a quiz section and a separate mindbender section which is uploaded every month, and is a good way to challenge oneself and helps in preparation
    • Dermnetz: The website of New Zealand Society of Dermatology is a good resource for photomicrographs
    • DermOID: Online Interactive Dermatopathology is an excellent clinical resource by University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). It has a quiz section where new photomicrographs are uploaded along with clinical scenario. On registration, it notifies the user when a new image is available for viewing
    • ETAS Dermatology in Review: It has a Kodachrome section where one can quiz oneself on dermatopathology. It is an excellent resource material which is regularly updated
    • MDLinx Smartest Dermatologist Quizzes on Dermatopathology: This monthly quiz is interesting and goes in a step-wise fashion with different images toward the diagnosis
    • Derm101: This quiz and educational resource started by Dr. Bernard Ackermann also has a step-wise approach with several histopathology images in sequence to help with the diagnosis. Resources "e" and "f" enable clinicopathological correlation
    • Online discussion groups: There are many online discussion groups including acad_iadvl where one can be a member and learn about interesting as well as complicated cases with their clinicopathological correlations. The Dermatopathology Society of India in association with IADVL Special Interest Group on Dermatopathology has been active in posting mindbenders and dermatopathology quizzes regularly
    • ocial media: Social media has opened new realms in learning where likeminded people can get together, discuss the subject of dermatopathology, and learn interesting aspects. Facebook pages and Yahoo groups are examples of such learning.

  3. Dermatopathology conferences: These conferences are a treasure trove of learning where microscopy sessions are arranged in DERMACONs, the Dermatopathology Society of India national conferences, and the conferences organized by IADVL Special Interest Group on Dermatopathology.

General questions which may be asked in a dermatopathology quiz

To prepare for a dermatopathology quiz, the first requirement is to have a sound clinical knowledge. These are the different types of questions which may be commonly asked:

  1. Based on topic
    • Questions based on H and E stained slides only: Self-explanatory
    • Questions based on clinicopathological correlation
    • Questions based on clinical syndromes
    • Questions based on special stains
    • Questions based on special investigations
    • Others.
    1. Questions based on clinicopathological correlation- Here, the sequence of events would include an initial brief clinical history followed by a photomicrograph/series of photomicrographs of the lesion at different magnifications. Then, the quizmaster may ask for a diagnosis; alternatively, he may provide a few differential diagnoses and ask the participants for a firm diagnosis based upon the differentials
    2. Questions based on clinical syndromes- The quizmaster may throw a question like, "What is the other name for the clinical syndrome which presents with a triage of recurrent oral aphthous ulcers, genital ulcers, and uveitis and shows this characteristic histopathological picture?" The histopathological picture flashed would be of vasculitis. The diagnosis in this case is Behηet disease. The quizmaster may also choose to ask the participants about a relatively obscure clinical syndrome. An example of an uncommon syndrome is Wells syndrome or eosinophilic cellulitis which is an uncommon condition of unknown etiology. [1] The presentation usually involves a mildly pruritic or tender cellulitis-like eruption with typical histologic features characterized by edema, flame figures, and a marked infiltrate of eosinophils in the dermis. [2] The clinical picture may be shown along with the typical histopathology; a question like this could be a real trap for the unwary
    3. Questions based on special stains- There are innumerable special stains which may be used in pathology. Stains which are used in dermatopathology may be classified as histochemical stains, immunohistochemical stains, and immunofluorescent stains. Histochemical stains include stains like the periodic acid-Schiff (PAS) stain for neutral mucin, the Alcian blue stain for acid mucin, and the Masson's Fontana stain for melanin. There are a large number of other special stains which may be used in dermatopathology. The quizmaster may flash a slide of a slit skin smear stained using a modified Ziehl-Neelsen (ZN) stain and the question may be something like "identify the stain and the organism." Alternatively, the quizmaster may flash a slide of melanin stained using a stain like Masson's Fontana and ask the participants to identify the stain and what it has stained
    4. Immunohistochemical stains are more difficult to interpret. They are used to stain a specific protein. The quizmaster may flash the slide of a lesion like a melanoma stained with the specific antibody HMB45. The question asked by the quizmaster to the participants could be to name the other lesions HMB45 may be positive in. The diagnosis of cutaneous lymphomas may be corroborated by immunohistochemical stains and the same may be shown/asked for diagnosis Direct immunofluorescence staining is used to detect the presence of immunoglobulins and complement in the skin. Fluorescein isothiocyanate-labeled antibodies against IgG, IgM, IgA, fibrin, and C3 are applied to frozen sections of fresh tissue and examined by fluorescence microscopy. Characteristic staining patterns are seen in the immunobullous diseases, lupus erythematosus, and vasculitis. There are other conditions where these immunofluorescence stains are positive and which may sometimes corroborate the diagnosis, such as in lichen planus. The quizmaster could flash a photomicrograph of a case of pemphigus and show the characteristic IgG linear staining of the epidermal intercellular spaces.
    5. Questions based on special investigations- Electron microscopy (EM) is rarely required for routine diagnosis and management of skin diseases. However, it may be used for the specific diagnosis of mechanobullous disorders such as epidermolysis bullosa and for the diagnosis of poxviruses in the skin. The quizmaster could flash a slide of a poxvirus in the skin and ask the participants to identify the organism. Scanning EM can be used to identify certain mineral deposits, photographs of which can be flashed on the screen for identification. Photographs of fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) in cases of melanoma may also be shown and the use of FISH in dermatopathology may be asked. FISH can be used to discriminate nevus from melanoma so that ambiguous melanocytic lesions could be more accurately classified or prognostication could be improved in melanoma patients. [3]
    6. Others- Special histopathological features, characteristic appearances like "Splendore-Hoeppli," named bodies like "copper penny bodies," and history of disorders are some of the other favorites
  2. Type of question format
    • Direct- Direct theoretical questions with short answers or explanations required
    • Visual clues- Histopathology alone, clinical and histopathology combined
    • Connects- Could be clinical or histopathological or combined short or long visual/theoretical connects
    • Problem solving- A clinico-histopathological question is posed and the teams are asked as to how best it can be tackled
    • Abstract linking questions- An abstract picture may be shown and the teams are asked to correlate with a histopathological finding
    • Rapid fire questions- Here, few easy questions are to be answered in a short specified duration of time. They will have very short answers and have to be answered rapidly. It tests the reflex mental action of the teams.

  Strategies For Winning A Quiz Top

Quiz is like an exam and requires strategy for preparation as it is difficult for anyone to read the entire depth and breadth of a subject. One should first know one's weaknesses and strengths and concentrate on improving them.

  1. It is important to know the level of questions asked in a particular quiz for knowing what to study for a particular quiz
  2. Quizzing is like a team sport where contribution from both partners is important for success. It is important to have good communication with your partner and one should decide beforehand as to who is going to answer as it can result in confusion and one can lose precious marks
  3. uiz is generally multistep which includes a preliminary round and a final round. Different strategies are required for both the rounds. The preliminary round generally has multiple choice questions and favors those who are better at remembering difficult facts, while the mains is more likely to be helpful to those who have good visual recall and presence of mind. A successful team is prepared for both and the partners should complement each other in different rounds
  4. To qualify in the preliminary round is the first step and one should resist the temptation of attempting more questions by guessing, as most of the quiz formats have negative marking and one can lose a large number of marks because of wrongly attempted questions
  5. The main quiz is conducted on stage in the presence of a learned audience and it is very important to maintain composure and presence of mind. In contrast to the preliminary round, there are no negative marks for attempting wrongly and unanswered questions are passed to the next team. It is important to make intelligent guesses as one can get precious marks by doing so. However, there is a tendency of some students to attempt more questions in the preliminary round and end up accumulating negative marks, and not answering in the main quiz for fear of being ridiculed if a wrong answer is given. This tendency is to be curbed to enjoy success.

  How Should a Quizmaster Prepare a Dermatopathology Quiz? Top

The aim of any quiz is to make it as interesting and competitive as possible. To achieve that, the quizmaster has to think of two different sets of people when he is conducting the quiz - the audience and the participating teams. If the questions are too technical, the audience will feel alienated and bored. On the other hand, if they are too easy, the quiz becomes a farce as teams bag points quickly. In most cases, the participants are better prepared for the quiz than the crowd, and hence, a fine balance must be struck. The conduct of a dermatopathology quiz is far more difficult because dermatopathology encompasses two separate subjects which are inexorably linked together.

Rules for the quiz

Make a set of rules and announce them in the beginning of the quiz. Few guidelines for this are:

  1. The number of people in the team must be specified. As a general rule, it is best to keep the teams down to two to a maximum of three participants
  2. The decision of the quizmaster will be final and will not be subjected to any change
  3. Numbers of rounds have to be specified. They could range from 4 to 8. The questions will be asked in the form of definite sequences like
    1. Simple forward and reverse sequence- The first round starts from team A, second from team B, and so on. After the half-way stage, the sequence is reversed
    2. Infinite rebound- This means that if team A is asked a question and is unable to answer the question, the question passes to team B. If team B answers the question correctly, the next question is directed at team C and not team B. This way, the questions are evenly distributed and there is no chance of any sequence-induced bias.
  4. The participants shall not be allowed to use mobile or other electronic instruments
  5. Audience shall not give any hints or clues to the competitors
  6. Replacement of any participant of a team is not allowed after registration
  7. It is important to remember that if a large number of teams are registering, a preliminary round can be held before the teams are selected for the finals. The preliminary round can be in the form of multiple choice questions which can be corrected easily. The top four or six teams can be selected for the final round. It is advisable not to have more than six teams on the stage
  8. It is a good practice to call all the teams few minutes prior to the quiz and give them a short briefing regarding the quiz and its rules, especially on the time available to answer the questions, before it is actually announced on stage. This will help in calming down the participants, make the quiz more user-friendly, and thus helps in better performances.

Keep the audience entertained

  1. Include questions that the audience can understand, but which may be difficult to answer. The audience must be able to comprehend the question, but only the participants and few expert audiences may be able to answer
  2. Include visually compelling content. Photomicrographs keep the crowd interested without compromising on the quality of questions
  3. Reserve few questions for the audience. Also, the unanswered questions by the teams can be passed to the audience.

Ensure smooth conduct

The quizmaster should tie up with the organizers of the quiz and ensure that the following requirements are met by them:

  1. Prelims
    1. Adequate answer sheets and question papers
    2. Projector if required

  2. Finals
    1. Projector
    2. Appropriate stage arrangement- For seating of teams, so that all teams can have good visual access to the screens and they are visible to the audience also. It is best to keep a separate monitor for each team so that they do not need to look back at the screen and can look toward the audience and vice versa
    3. Scorer
    4. Timekeeper.

In addition, the teams need to be communicated regarding the timings of the prelims and finals, and hence, their contact numbers, institution names, and participant names should be available.

  Conclusion Top

Quiz has the dual benefit of learning a subject while keeping the interest alive. It is not a difficult arena and with interest in the subject and guidance, one can achieve good results. Dermatopathology is a subject specially suited for quizzing as it is mainly dependent on visual pattern recognition, and quizzing provides a good platform for the postgraduate students to improve their knowledge in this important subspecialty of dermatology.


The list of resources provided is by no means exhaustive and one can find other resources on the net as these are only guidelines. We also do not intend to promote any particular resource, and it has been discussed with the sole view of increasing usage of such resources for the benefit of postgraduate students.

  References Top

Wells GC. Recurrent granulomatous dermatitis with eosinophilia. Trans St Johns Hosp Dermatol Soc 1971;57:46-56.  Back to cited text no. 1
Brehmer-Andersson E, Kaaman T, Skog E, Frithz A. The histopathogenesis of the flame figure in Wells' syndrome based on five cases. Acta Derm Venereol 1986;66:213-9.  Back to cited text no. 2
Bangash HK, Romegialli A, Dadras SS. What's new in prognostication of melanoma in the dermatopathology laboratory? Clin Dermatol 2013;31:317-23.  Back to cited text no. 3


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