President's Message

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Helping the World Breathe

Since 1905, the American Thoracic Society’s mission and goals have been framed in a global context. Focusing atsnews-juanceledon1.jpginitially on tuberculosis (TB) and then encompassing pediatric and adult pulmonary diseases, critical care illness, and sleep disorders, the ATS has always remained true to its mission statement “We help the world breathe”.


Reflecting its international scope, one third of ATS members represent 129 countries other than the U.S. In recognition of this and the ATS’s broad international role, the ATS’s international activities extend across several domains, including global health policy, collaborations with peer societies and international organizations, global health education and research, and provision of technical assistance. For example, the ATS helps shape global health policy through advocacy within the U.S. for international programs, as well as in its role as a founding partner of the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS); collaborates with peer societies through joint publications and educational efforts such as a series of recent joint webinars to address the COVID-19 pandemic; disseminates scientific knowledge and state-of-the art practices through its International Conference and journals; provides research training to colleagues in low- and middle-income countries through its highly successful Methods in Epidemiologic, Clinical, and Operations Research (MECOR) program; and assists a number of TB programs in low- and middle-income countries.


Since the only constant at the ATS is change, in 2019 our Immediate Past-President, James Beck, MD, ATSF and the ATS Executive Committee charged a Task Force on International Activities with articulating a 5- to 10-year vision of the ATS’s international activities and providing a set of recommendations aligned with the society’s overall Strategic Framework. Led by Past-President Thomas Martin, MD, and including ATS President-Elect Lynn Schnapp, MD, ATSF and me, this task force met regularly between July 2019 and September 2020, when its final report was reviewed and approved by the society’s Board of Directors.


While recognizing the ATS’s success as an international organization, the Task Force provided specific objectives and recommendations to further strengthen the areas of governance and finance, programs and policies, membership engagement, and external relationships. Such recommendations include, but are not limited to, expanding the role of our International Health Committee in coordinating international activities through improved communication with other committees and assemblies, as well as devising a five-year Global Lung Health agenda; enhancing membership value for our international members through increased engagement, year-round virtual and in-person educational and networking activities, and a Global Health Track at our International Conference; and strengthening advocacy for global respiratory health through continued partnerships with peer societies and international organizations such as FIRS.  


On behalf of the ATS Executive Committee, I extend my profound gratitude to Dr. Martin and all members of the Task Force on International Activities for a thorough and comprehensive report. In the coming weeks and months, the ATS leadership and staff will continue to review this report, in order to identify and prioritize its thoughtful recommendations. Recognizing that improving global respiratory health requires major efforts by stakeholders worldwide, the ATS of today remains true to its core mission: “We Help the World Breathe”.