About Professor Semir Vranić
Dr. Semir Vranić is a Doctor of Medicine and Medical Sciences, and a specialist in pathology, currently employed as a Professor of Pathology at the Medical Faculty of the University of Qatar in Doha. His academic and professional career includes numerous positions, including work in the United States, Italy, Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Dr. Vranić was elected as a Corresponding Member of the Academy of Sciences and Arts of Bosnia and Herzegovina (ANUBiH) in December 2022.
He specialized in pathology at the Clinical Center of the University of Sarajevo. Dr. Vranić earned his doctorate at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Zagreb, and then completed postdoctoral training at Creighton University in Omaha (Nebraska, USA) and the University of Turin (Italy). His research interests include breast cancer pathology, precision medicine, molecular pathology of rare tumors, genitourinary pathology, and surgical pathology. He is also involved in scientific publishing and ethics, and the editing of biomedical journals.
Dr. Vranić was the president of the Association of Pathologists and Cytologists of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina from 2015 to 2017, and the organizer and coordinator of the Bryan Warren School of Pathology since 2007. He is a member of numerous scientific and professional associations, including the European Association for Cancer Research, the European Association of Pathologists (EAP), the United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology (USCAP) and the Association of Basic Medical Sciences of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. His membership in these associations allows him to maintain connections with top experts in his field, exchange knowledge, and contribute to the advancement of pathology on a global level.
His achievements have been recognized through various awards and recognitions, including scholarships, research awards, and inclusion in the top 2% of scientists according to a study by Stanford University in 2021 and 2022.
Dr. Semir Vranić is active in the academic and research environment, where he has contributed to many scientific publications and reviews. As a guest editor of a special issue of the journal Acta Medica Academica, together with Professor Ivan Damjanov, he covered the topic of advances in diagnostic and molecular pathology (issue published in April 2021). In addition, Dr. Vranić is a reviewer for more than 100 biomedical journals, including BMC Cancer, Journal of Clinical Pathology, Histopathology, PLoS One, and many others.
He is also an active member of various editorial boards, including the Editor-in-Chief of the Bosnian Journal of Basic Medical Sciences (now Biomolecules and Biomedicine), Academic Editor of PLOS One, Assistant Editor-in-Chief of Cancer Cell International (until August 2020), and a member of the Editorial Board of Acta Medica Academica, Central European Journal of Paediatrics, and Liječnički Vjesnik.
Throughout his career, Dr. Vranić has gained significant teaching experience at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Some of the subjects he has taught to medical students include genetic and developmental diseases, basic principles of biology and cancer pathology, lung and mediastinum pathology, endocrine pathology, breast pathology, gynecological pathology, and genitourinary pathology. At the postgraduate level, Dr. Vranić has lectured on microscopic methods in cancer research, the role of pathology in cancer research, the role of pathology in precision medicine, and advances in molecular pathology of breast cancer.
Dr. Vranić has also received numerous scholarships and awards throughout his career, including training in the breast cancer program at the European Breast Unit (under the auspices of the European Society for Mastology) (2007), a scholarship from the American Cancer Society for initial researchers (ACSBI) (2008), and a visitation scholarship to Guy’s and St. Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust / King’s College London in the field of breast pathology (2012), as well as an ERASMUS scholarship for a one-year postdoctoral specialization at the University of Turin (2012-2013).
He continues to actively contribute to the development of pathology and medical science through his research efforts, teaching, mentoring, and editorial work, while simultaneously spreading knowledge and advancing the field of pathology in Bosnia and Herzegovina and around the world.
As a lecturer, Dr. Vranić has developed a wide range of lectures for postgraduate students of medicine and biomedicine. Some of these subjects include the role of pathology in precision medicine, advances in molecular pathology of breast cancer, and scientific fraud in the form of “predatory journals”. This broad spectrum of topics reflects his expertise in pathology and medicine, as well as his commitment to the education and mentoring of young professionals.
Dr. Vranić also invests efforts in improving scientific publishing and ethics. As a member of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), he is active in promoting high standards of ethics in scientific publishing.
His membership in the Academy of Sciences and Arts of Bosnia and Herzegovina (ANUBiH) since 2022 highlights his contributions and achievements in the field of pathology and medicine, as well as his commitment to advancing science and arts in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
With all his accomplishments, Dr. Semir Vranić is a true leader and ambassador of pathology and medicine, both in Bosnia and Herzegovina and on the international scene. His work in cancer research, pathology, and medical education continues to have a significant impact on patient health worldwide and shape the future of pathology as a discipline.
Part 1: Career Motivation, Field Advancement, and Pathology Achievements
How did you decide on a career in pathology and what motivates you most in this field?
I decided on pathology in the third year of medical studies, more than 20 years ago. I was fascinated by the complexity of human diseases, especially tumors. That time was somewhat the beginning of the revolution of molecular pathology, which was thoroughly explained in the fundamental pathology textbook Robbins Pathologic Basis of Disease. This textbook still fascinates me with its content and the way human diseases are explained, especially the molecular basis of tumors. I believe that some chapters in Robbins’ pathology textbook are still among the best explained and described chapters on tumors (e.g., the chapter on deregulation of the cell cycle in tumors). After mastering the basic principles of pathology, I started researching tumors early on, especially breast cancer, with Dr. Nurija Bilalović, and after graduating and during specialization, I developed a rich international research network that allows me to be actively involved in relevant tumor research. The topics and methods of cancer research are changing and improving rapidly, some of the advanced molecular methods are already in routine clinical use and are used in making decisions about patient treatment (e.g., “Next-generation sequencing” technique).
How would you describe your role in promoting and advancing pathology in Bosnia and Herzegovina, especially within the Academy of Sciences and Arts of Bosnia and Herzegovina (ANUBiH)?
Membership in ANUBiH is a special honor and pleasure for me, and a kind of recognition that comes from the BH academic community for my efforts and achievements so far. Of course, membership in ANUBiH also represents an additional incentive and challenge, especially since pathology within the medical department of ANUBiH has not been represented for a long time. I believe that with my activities and engagement I will contribute to the further promotion of the Academy, but also the overall academic medical community in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Can you share some key moments or achievements in your career that have made the deepest impression on you?
First of all, these are researches related to apocrine carcinoma of the breast, a rare, special form of breast cancer, which has its morphological, molecular, and clinical specificities. This subtype of breast cancer was also the subject of my doctorate in 2012 at the Medical Faculty of the University of Zagreb, and before that, it was thoroughly researched during my stay in the USA in 2008-2010 under the mentorship of Prof. Dr. Zoran Gatalica, with whom I still actively cooperate on several research projects including apocrine breast carcinoma. Our joint efforts in researching apocrine breast carcinoma have also resulted in an expanded (clearer) definition and classification of this subtype of breast carcinoma in the last series of breast tumors published by the World Health Organization (WHO Classification of Tumours, Breast Tumours, Lyon, 2019). So far, I have published about 20 papers on apocrine carcinoma of the breast, including three review articles that systematize the overall knowledge of this subtype of breast carcinoma (articles were published in 2013, 2017, and 2022).
Another important group of achievements are the studies of predictive biomarkers for precision oncology. I have been publishing in this field since 2014, with over 30 papers, some of which have significantly contributed to the identification of new biomarkers and potentially better treatment of cancer patients (e.g., PD-L1, NTRK1-3, MSI-H, Trop2), including those with some rare, but very aggressive tumors (e.g., cancer of unknown primary origin, metaplastic, neuroendocrine, pleomorphic, and light cell breast carcinoma, malignant phyllodes tumor of the breast, salivary gland carcinoma, neuroendocrine cervical carcinoma, olfactory neuroblastoma).
What are the most important trends and challenges in pathology today, especially in the diagnosis of breast cancer and genitourinary pathology?
Pathology has largely transformed into molecular pathology, although morphological foundations remain the basis of pathological diagnostics. Molecular pathology will certainly predominate, and the role of new biomarkers in precision medicine and oncology will be the basis of all branches of pathology, including breast and genitourinary pathology. Along with this, modern technologies such as digital pathology, and the use of artificial intelligence and “deep learning” will not replace pathologists, but will become indispensable and complementary tools in everyday work for pathologists. Digital pathology and the use of artificial intelligence will also facilitate the work of pathologists, enable remote work, and quick and quality exchange of images and other diagnostic data.
How did you get involved in the fight against “predatory journals” and why do you think it’s important to raise awareness about this problem in the academic community?
Trust in academic research and science is the basis of further development of humanity. This trust is partly shaken by the “blossoming” of predatory journals, whose only goal is to make a profit, endangering the foundations of academic research and publishing, primarily by disrespecting peer review as a fundamental process in evaluating scientific work. We are daily bombarded with invitations from predatory journals to publish papers in them, without review, without respecting the minimum academic standards. No field of medicine, and other sciences are spared from predatory journals, and this is particularly pronounced in developing countries like BiH. Publishing in such journals can be particularly devastating and harmful for young researchers, at the beginning of their academic careers. That’s why it’s very important to continuously raise awareness within the academic community to combat the harmful influence of predatory journals.
How have you managed to balance your obligations as a researcher, lecturer, and editor, and what are your priorities in these different roles?
I think the balance of different daily obligations is very beneficial, as it allows for dynamism in work, and frees you from saturation with the same job or monotony. Of course, this comes with its corresponding burden, in terms of a large number of obligations, which sometimes overlap, and respect for given time frames. In all of this, good organization, continuous work, motivation, and dedication are very important. As for priorities, they change on a daily basis, according to the assessment of the current situation and needs.
How do you see the role of pathology in the development of precision medicine and how does this reflect on your research?
Precision (personalized) medicine is one of the greatest achievements of modern medicine, and in many aspects, precision medicine has significantly advanced modern oncology. A significant contribution to this was made by molecular pathology, or the study of various biomarkers, as predictors of response or resistance to a specific targeted therapy, and biomarkers that have prognostic value.
My research in the field of precision medicine and molecular pathology within it is among the priorities of my research work and will continue to be so in the future.
What do you think about the current state of medical education, especially in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and how would you improve it?
The state of medical education in Bosnia and Herzegovina is not the best and there is plenty of room for improvement in both undergraduate and postgraduate education, i.e., doctoral studies. Teaching must be as practical as possible, methods of education and knowledge testing must be modernized so that future doctors or specialists (experts) can gain practical knowledge and skills necessary for work, and student evaluation must be maximally objectified. Mentoring in work with students of all levels is also poor and needs to be worked on. It is also necessary to open medical faculties in terms of regional and international exchange so that students have the opportunity to hear and gain knowledge and skills from top experts and specialists. Specialization students and doctoral students must spend part of their education outside of BiH, without this the state of the profession and science can hardly be improved in the foreseeable future. I try to pass on some of my knowledge and experience to doctoral students of medical faculties in Tuzla and Mostar.
What are your plans for the future, both in terms of research and in education and mentoring of young professionals?
As for the plans for research, part of the answer to that question is given in the previous answer. As for education, I will continue to invest efforts in the education of pathologists in BiH through the organization of two schools of pathology or cytopathology, which are continuously held in Bosnia and Herzegovina (the first since 2007, and the second since 2016), in cooperation with BDIAP (British Division of the International Academy of Pathology) or TDIAP (Turkish Division of the International Academy of Pathology) and Turkish Society of Cytopathology. Part of the effort for education and professional education will be channeled through professional and academic gatherings within the Committee for Malignant Diseases ANUBiH.
As for mentoring in BiH, this segment also represents one of the important priorities in the next period, but also great challenges given the state of science in BiH. I currently have one doctoral student in BiH (Faculty of Medicine, University of Mostar), but also several active collaborators in Sarajevo and Mostar with whom I am working on research projects.
What advice would you give to young doctors and scientists thinking about a career in pathology or cancer research?
Pathology is an ideal basic and clinical discipline for all those interested in cancer research. In addition, pathologists have direct insight into morphology, but also the biology of tumors, and access to samples on which all cancer research is based today. Through work in routine diagnostics, pathologists directly help sick patients with precise diagnostics.
Part 2: Semir and Sevdalinka (Bosnia’s Timeless Musical Treasure)
How did you find your passion for sevdalinka and how did you decide to actively participate in the preservation and promotion of this traditional Bosnian music?
The love for sevdalinka comes from childhood when I listened and unconsciously absorbed some of the most beautiful gems of sevdah that were listened to in my home in Trebinje. Later, during exile, I began to collect all written and audio material related to sevdalinka, first impulsively in 1993, and then systematically from 1995 onwards. During 30 years of my collecting work, this archive has greatly multiplied by my own efforts, but also with the support of friends, acquaintances, lovers, and researchers of sevdalinka, so I started to systematically store a large part of that material on my blog (www.sevdalinke.com) and audio channel Sevdah Treasure (https://soundcloud.com/semir-vranic). These two sites probably represent the largest sources of written and audio material about sevdalinka currently available on the internet. In the summer of 2021, together with the young ethnomusicologist and interpreter of sevdalinka Zanin Berbić, I published the anthology “Zaboravljeno blago” with a hundred rarely sung Bosnian folk songs (Buybook, 2021). This year, we prepared a continuation with another hundred forgotten and rarely sung Bosnian folk songs, which we intend to publish under the title “Zaboravljeno blago 2”. In addition, I strive to make my active contribution through organized work like that done by the Omer Pobrić Foundation “Institut sevdaha”, and today by Damir Galijašević’s “Fondacija sevdah”.
How would you describe the significance of sevdalinka in the cultural heritage of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and how does it affect the identity and community of people in the region?
Sevdalinka is certainly a gem of Bosnian-Herzegovinian cultural heritage and one of the recognizable elements of our identity. However, its influence has long reached beyond the borders of today’s Bosnia and Herzegovina, and it enjoys a respectable status and respect in neighboring countries of the former Yugoslavia, and beyond. There is almost no connoisseur of oral song and folklore focused on the Balkans and Southeast Europe who is unfamiliar with sevdalinka. In that sense, sevdalinka as a sound and lyrical-poetic phenomenon can be a significant connector among people.
What are your favorite sevdalinkas and can you share some of your personal experiences or memories associated with this music genre?
It is really hard to say which sevdalinka is my favorite, because there are really many of them. The sevdah opus is huge (thousands of songs and variants are in question), lyrical motifs and melodies are very colorful and diverse, but often, especially nowadays, the number of songs you hear is greatly reduced and you get the impression that the same songs are constantly being played. As for the selection, I could possibly make a list of favorites, but that list is also changeable and often depends on my own current mood or impression.