President's Message

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Looking Back: My Year as ATS President

Serving as your ATS President during the 2019-2020 year has been a highlight of my professional life.  Your Executive Committee has been engaged and cohesive, helping to move ATS forward under challenging circumstances.  Our Board of Directors, assembly leadership, and committee leadership remains committed to advancing our mission.  I can’t thank the amazing ATS staff enough, as they pivoted from our International Conference to providing an amazing amount of COVID-19 aprogramming for our members.

As I reflect on my time as ATS president, the unprecedented moment in which we find ourselves threatens to overshadow the rest of the year. I am immensely proud of and inspired by the response of our Society in the last several weeks as we have risen to the challenge of the fight against COVID-19. I’ve detailed this response in my recent video message to members. Thank you again, to all our members, for your tireless work.

Even as our focus is rightfully on COVID-19, I do want to take a moment to reflect on important Society accomplishments over the course of the past year, many of which directly supported our ability to respond to this pandemic.

Our strategic framework remains strong and has helped us to focus on the pursuit of our core mission, helping the world breathe. In 2019, our first full year of implementation, we advanced all aspects of the framework, including:

  • Advancing Research and Careers by stimulating development and dissemination of basic, translational and clinical knowledge;
  • Advancing Clinical Care by translating new discoveries into clinical care;
  • Advancing Public Health by advocating for policies that will improve respiratory health and patient care; and finally, by
  • Evolving the Organization to maximize the opportunities for and engagement of our members.


Advancing Research and Careers refers to how members benefit from our conference, journals and research program. For the first time in our history, we had to cancel our International Conference, but later this summer we will be offering ATS 2020 Virtual to meet many of those educational and career-advancing needs.

I’m excited that we launched a new journal, ATS Scholar, early this year, and our other three journals remain leaders in their respective spaces, with growing Impact Factors and a clear aim at the future.

The ATS Research Program has also continued its success. This past funding cycle we awarded 25 research grants – 17 unrestricted grants, 7 partner grants and 1 MECOR grant – totaling $1,255,000. For the past 15 years this program has been supported through the ATS Foundation. However, at the end of last year, we unified the operations of the Foundation and ATS to streamline operation, improve efficiencies and amplify our fundraising abilities. We created the new Funds for the Future Committee, separate from the Scientific Advisory Committee, within the existing ATS committee structure which is responsible for overseeing fundraising to support the ATS Research Program.

Our second key area, Advancing Clinical Care refers to education, guidelines and clinical care.  This past year we continued to diversify our product portfolio, offering more opportunities for members to stay on top of new research, and to maintain their professional certifications. In 2019, we completed 20 official documents, including 8 guidelines. Both represent record highs for ATS. For patients, we published 60 patient information fact sheets, in our journals or online, with many in Spanish and other languages.

We’re also extending our reach. Our chapters have increased to 27, with another 4 in process.

Regarding our COVID-19 response, I am confident that members have noted the explosion of educational materials our members developed in just the last two months. We published ground-breaking research in our journals, and produced guidance documents, webinars, podcasts, advocacy initiatives, newsletters, fact sheets and twitter chats. Our members and staff have worked tirelessly to provide the resources needed by the respiratory and critical care communities.

Another key element in the COVID fight is the COVID-19 Crisis Fund, established to provide a mechanism for industry to support ATS activities.  I’d particularly like to thank Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals and GSK for their generous support. Additional sources of support are anticipated in the near future.

Our third area of focus, Advancing Public Health, includes global health and advocacy.  As you know, we are very active internationally through our global health programs, such as the Methods in Epidemiologic, Clinical, and Operations Research program, or MECOR, as well as membership in the Forum of International Respiratory Societies. We also collaborate closely with our peer societies from meetings to guidelines to advocacy.  In my opinion, our relationships with societies have never been stronger.

Advocacy is a key component of how we work to advance public health. Our Washington office tackles many critical issues, such as increasing federal research funding and improving patient access to care and clean air. Tobacco use, e-cigarettes and vaping also are key priorities. Clearly, COVID-19 has been an area of major focus in 2020. Also, our Board of Directors took a strong position on gun violence and I’m very proud of that.

Finally, we remain committed to Evolving the Organization to ensure that ATS remains the preeminent medical society in our space. To that end, we began this year making significant improvements to our financial, communication and technical infrastructure, all with the aim of making ATS more transparent, impactful and nimble. We have made significant progress on all fronts which will deliver real benefits to the members for years to come.

In addition, a Task Force on Governance, chaired by former ATS president Randy Curtis, is completing its work and we look forward to their recommendations.  Similarly, an ATS Task Force on International Activities, chaired by former ATS president Tom Martin, will be reporting later in 2020.

Finally, the Executive Committee is passionately devoted to improving diversity and inclusion in our society. We have made significant strides to increase the diversity of our committee leadership. We now have 15 female and 12 male chairs and 13 female and 14 male vice chairs. Moreover, we now have five under-represented minority members, as defined by the NIH, who serve as chairs or vice-chairs.

As I conclude my time as ATS president, I would again like to recognize the incredible, selfless involvement of our members.  It has been so gratifying this year to reach out to so many of you, often on short notice, and to experience your dedication to ATS first-hand. Nowhere has that been more apparent than in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been my great privilege to serve as the ATS president the past year. The ATS will move into our next year stronger than before, with the outstanding leadership of my colleague and friend, incoming President Dr. Juan C. Celedon.