HomeATS CommunityPresident's Message2023 ▶ Selecting a Conference Venue: Balancing Competing Priorities to Maximize the ATS’s Impact
Selecting a Conference Venue: Balancing Competing Priorities to Maximize the ATS’s Impact

For more than a century, the annual ATS International Conference has been at the heart of our Society. The conference is a revered place where basic scientists, clinicians, educators, and related health care professionals, at all career levels from throughout the world, come together to learn, network, and, most importantly, advance respiratory care.

Traditionally, selecting a venue for the conference was all about logistics. What city had the requisite number of hotel rooms, a large enough convention center, adequate airport, date availability, etc. Last November, through my President’s Message I shared the various factors that must be accounted for when selecting a venue. There is no need to repeat them here. Safe to say, finding a suitable location is a complex undertaking given the number of prerequisites that must be met and the limited number of cities that satisfy our needs.

Over the past year there has been increasing interest among the membership in our site selection process. This was especially true following the US Supreme Court’s Dobbs vs Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, which overturned Roe vs Wade and the subsequent legislative actions by many states to significantly limit access to women’s reproductive health services. Many ATS members would like to see the Society boycott any future conferences in states that adopt such restrictive policies.

Much like the abortion issue itself, some peoples’ views about our venue choice are set in stone; many will find the site selection criteria we use prudent and responsible, others will find it bereft of moral compass. Whatever your view, we ask that you keep the following points in mind:

  • The Executive Committee solicited and received significant input on this issue from others in ATS leadership, including the Board of Directors and the Ethics and Conflict of Interest (ECOI) Committee. The ECOI Committee prepared an “Ethical Framework for Strategic Positioning of Conferences” document that will be used in the site selection process moving forward. Additionally, the site selection criteria were a major topic of discussion during last fall’s Leadership Summit and Board of Directors meeting.
  • When our conference is in states that have adopted restrictive women’s health laws, ATS will work closely with the local medical community and public officials to ensure that all attendees have immediate access to the care they need. We have already engaged in such conversations with officials in New Orleans and Orlando and will put in place protocols and procedures that will help ensure that access remains unfettered. The safety and security of our attendees, exhibitors, vendors, and staff has been and will remain a top priority for everyone involved in conference planning.
  • We are strongly supportive of urging our members to respond openly and vocally with their views on abortion restrictions and the right to reproductive health. Indeed, we feel strongly that we as a professional society cannot be silent on this issue. We also are concerned that taking the conferences away from those cities would have adverse effects on those already most affected by the restrictive abortion policies. We believe that we have a better opportunity to influence the public debate on controversial public health issues by being a part of the community, not boycotting it. It is important to bear in mind that the majority of residents of a city that is a potential site for our International Conference city may not be in agreement with restrictive legislation that was decided by the state legislature. Additionally, we plan to organize significant local advocacy activities when visiting those states with restrictive laws in place. This helps give a voice to our members in those states as well as others who may feel powerless to voice their concerns.
  • Finally, the old adage “no margin, no mission” is as true at ATS as any other not-for profit organization, including academic medical centers. The cold reality is that our annual conference is a major source of revenue for the Society, without which we would be unable to support numerous programs that are vital to our mission.

Please know that leadership and staff involved in planning the International Conference will take all steps necessary to ensure everyone’s health and safety while also leveraging it to help drive the ATS mission for years to come.

Gregory Downey, MD, FRCPC, ATSF, President



Cite: article in White Journal;

Gross et al.  JAMA 2023

Harris LH. JAMA 2023