President's Message

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President's Message: September 2018

Pursuing the ATS Mission on the Global Stage

ATS’s mission is to improve lung health on a global scale as highlighted by our tag line:  We help the world breathe. To achieve this, the Society administers a number of robust programs aimed at bolstering research and clinical resources throughout the world, with a special focus on low- and middle-income countries.

When thinking about ATS and its international footprint, the first thing that comes to mind may be the International Conference. After all, approximately 39 percent of attendees at ATS 2018 were from outside the United States, and just over a third of our membership is international. However, ATS involvement in global public health goes far beyond the conference.

Let’s start with where it all started for ATS – tuberculosis. The Society’s initial mission was the elimination of TB. Continuing that mission, the ATS publishes research and clinical practice guidelines for elimination of the disease worldwide. We also actively advocate for U.S. and international funding for TB control as well as related research and development projects. In 2017 alone, ATS and partners secured an 8 percent funding increase for the US Agency for International Development’s global TB control program, as well as stable funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for TB elimination activities.  ATS members provide training assistance in Tanzania, Mozambique, and Indonesia as part of those activities.

We also are very focused on expanding the overall research capacity among doctors, researchers and related health care professionals in low and middle income countries. Celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2019, the ATS Methods in Epidemiologic, Clinical, and Operations Research (MECOR) is an intensive course for physicians and related health care professionals that aims to increase research capacity and leadership in pulmonary, critical care, and sleep medicine research. Since 1994, the scope of the ATS MECOR program has grown tremendously, and in 2017, ATS launched a redesign of the curriculum with an eye to measuring outcomes, MECOR 2.0. The 2018-2019 program includes partnerships with local organizations to host courses in China, India, Indonesia, Latin America (Colombia), Africa (Tanzania), Turkey, and Vietnam.  Since its inception more than 1,800 students have graduated from the program.

Education takes many forms. In addition to MECOR, ATS is active in a number of other venues to help expand global understanding and treatment of various respiratory diseases and critical care conditions. Just this month, for example, the ATS, the Brazil Thoracic Society (BTS), and Latin American Thoracic Society (ALAT) are hosting the second South American Critical Care Conference  in recognition of the need for greater critical care expertise throughout the region.  

The philosophy at ATS has always been that cooperation and collaboration at the international level helps expand everyone’s capabilities, thus helping to improve patient care on a broad level.  That is why we also work extensively with many sister societies around the world. ATS leadership and subject matter experts who are ATS members attend conferences hosted by sister societies, addressing general sessions and sharing knowledge. We also collaborate on clinical practice guidelines.

Finally, ATS believes advocacy is a core tenet of our mission, and that is why ATS is a founding member of the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS). A formal codification of our collaboration, FIRS is composed of the world’s leading international respiratory societies and seeks to elevate attention to lung diseases in global public health activities.  Such efforts include the 2017 “Global Impact of Respiratory Disease” report which reviews the tremendous impact that respiratory disease has on world health.

The work to be done in addressing global health challenges is significant, and so remains the ATS’s commitment to helping the world breathe. We look forward to continuing and sustaining our global impact through these and future programs.