President's Message

HomeATS CommunityPresident's Message ▶ Facing the Unexpected: The ATS Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic
Facing the Unexpected: The ATS Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

“When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait.” Paulo Coelho.

Last spring, we faced the first COVID-19 global surge. As the world struggled to address this disease, thousands of our members rushed into action to treat patients, slow transmission, and contribute to the research that has madeatsnews-juanceledon1.jpg vaccines possible in a short time. Moreover, our members created, disseminated, and updated didactic resources while collaborating with peer societies to educate our colleagues worldwide.

Early in 2020, the ATS developed a COVID-19 resource center as well as a weekly COVID-19 round-up email with the newest journal articles, events, and resources for our members. Such resources include ongoing virtual events like the COVID-19 Critical Care Training Forum, which covers topics of interest for those looking to refresh critical care skills or learn new information. A complete archive of all of the forums from April – December 2020 can be found for free on the program’s main page. Other resources were geared toward clinicians, for use with their patients and address topics such as COVID-19 itself, managing the ICU as a caretaker, strategies for staying safe while trying to socialize, and more. Many of those were translated into multiple languages and are available in an audio format for easy access.

In parallel with our members’ efforts on clinical care, research, and education, the ATS strongly advocated for effective public health measures (i.e. mask use, hand hygiene, testing, tracing contacts, and social distancing), adequate distribution of personal protective equipment to health care workers,  ensuring that hospitals were stocked with the supplies and equipment needed to face the pandemic. In response to the marked racial and ethnic disparities in COVID-19 infection rates in the U.S., the society co-led a public health campaign targeted to under-represented minorities ( and outlined actionable steps to address COVID-19 and other disparities in respiratory health. Moreover, the ATS funded new research grants on COVID-19 in general and on its impact on minority groups in particular.

As 2020 is behind us, the ATS will now advocate for vaccines, immunization, and vaccine research while continuing to support vigorous public health measures. Indeed, the Society has already formed a Vaccines and Immunization Working Group including U.S.-based and international members. Moreover, we created a Vaccine Resource Center on the ATS website, which contains data on relevant scientific research and information to be shared with our patients. In coordination with the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS), the ATS recently released a statement advocating for widespread vaccine access.

The year 2020 will long be remembered as the year in which a once-in-a-century public health catastrophe changed our lives. In the absence of strong and coordinated governmental responses, ATS members have been asked to work long hours, face health risks, and make great sacrifices impacting them and their families. In so doing, this band of sisters and brothers have honored their chosen profession while showcasing the best virtues of humankind. I am profoundly grateful and proud to be a member serving our society.

As we continue to work together to end the COVID-19 pandemic, we wish you and your family a happy, healthy, and safe new year!