President's Message

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President’s Message: Strength in Diversity

Diversity and inclusion have been guiding tenets of the ATS for many years. As an international society, we have always held that the greatest achievements in scientific discovery, education, and patient care are realized whenatsnews-juanceledon1.jpg people from diverse backgrounds and life experiences come together to pursue a common goal.  Over the years, the ATS, as one of the world’s oldest respiratory societies, has taken many steps to put those ideals into practice. For example, the Society established  the Women’s Forum in 1993 and the Diversity Forum in 1994, and we have interest groups that represent specific demographics within the national and international ATS membership.

As we continue to grapple with the fault lines of health disparities exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, there are no easy solutions. However, one step that the ATS is particularly well-suited to take is in prioritizing diversity and inclusion within our Society and our field.

We are creating a pipeline of increasingly diverse membership. We offer an annual Minority Trainee Development Scholarship that helps U.S.-based trainees who are members of under-represented minority groups (as defined by the NIH) to attend and present at the ATS International Conference. Moreover, the ATS Health Equality and Diversity Committee advocates for diversity and inclusion at all levels of our Society, including membership and leadership in our committees and assemblies. We have formally codified our commitment to diversity as a Society in a living diversity and inclusion policy.

As a result of our collective work, I am pleased to see that the current make-up of the leadership of our assemblies and committees better approaches the diversity of our membership and our society at large.

This said, we can and should do more. Indeed, we are moving ahead with efforts to identify members with diverse backgrounds, so we can invite them to participate in committees, ad hoc task forces and special projects, as they arise. We have also recently created a Diversity Research Grant to support and encourage investigators from under-represented backgrounds.

As the first Latino to have the honor to serve as ATS President since the society was founded in 1905, it is my fervent hope to inspire our minority members to aspire to lead the ATS. For having a pipeline is important, but a blocked pipeline doesn’t do anybody any good. For young people, it is important to see others like them lead. In the words of President Obama, it gives them “the audacity of hope”.

As individuals, challenges such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic seem unsurmountable. It is easy to despair, for each one of us is but a grain of sand in a vast desert: small and insignificant. Yet if strong winds move thousands of grains of sand in unison, the desert landscape is forever changed.

Each grain of sand is unique- there is no other like it. The greatest strength of our society is in our rich diversity of expertise, interests, demographics, and life experiences. Yet we all are moved by the same strong wind: a passion to serve those afflicted with diseases encountered in the practice of pulmonary, sleep, and critical care medicine.

E pluribus unum- out of many, one. Together, we can and will overcome the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and, some day, confine respiratory health disparities to the history books, where they belong.