President's Message

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Make a Difference

February 2015 
Thomas Ferkol, MD, MD

Thomas Ferkol, MD

As you will read in this month’s ATS News, we are pleased to announce two terrific candidates for the 2015 Secretary-Treasurer Election, Gerard Criner, MD, professor and past-chair of the Department of Medicine at Temple University, and Polly Parsons, MD, professor and chair of medicine at the University of Vermont. Both Gerry and Polly have accomplished much in their careers, ascended to leadership positions at their respective institutions, and have been invaluable members of the Society. It should not surprise anyone that they have important insights, provocative thoughts on the issues that confront the Society, and ideas about where the future president should lead the organization. If you haven’t yet, please read their responses to the questions posed by the Nominating Committee so that you may make the most informed decision when you cast your vote in March.

With the 2015 Secretary-Treasurer Election fast approaching, I am reminded of my experience four years ago and why we pursue leadership positions in the ATS. It is the same reason that inspired many to join the Society in the first place: we want to make a difference. We want to make a difference in our respective fields to advance our understanding of diseases and change the lives of the patients we treat. We want to define the course of the next generation of physicians and health professionals in pulmonary, critical care, and sleep medicine. We want to make a difference in policies that positively impact public health. With the support of 15,000 members, staff members in our New York and Washington, D.C. offices, and our sister societies throughout the world, the ATS president is granted the ability to do all of this on a greater scale.

Now midway through my tenure, I can assure Gerry, Polly, and any future candidate that the presidency is a good gig, if you can get it. It is truly an exciting opportunity, but it does come with tremendous responsibility.

The president must also have a clear vision for the Society, as I had stated when I ran, and engage the members to implement that vision. For the good of our mission, leadership must be focused on where the Society is going and not where it has been. These efforts do take considerable effort and time, which is why I am humbled by what my predecessors have achieved, and encouraged by those who will succeed me.

Importantly, the ATS president must be a consensus builder. Our membership is diverse, and it is the strength of our Society. It is critical for the president to consider all points of view and weigh them appropriately to our mission.

I strongly encourage anyone who wishes to take even greater roles in the Society to do so, just as Polly and Gerry have done. It begins in the assemblies, through working groups, sections, and committees. I began my journey fifteen years ago when I volunteered to join the Scientific Assembly on Pediatrics Program Committee. I was subsequently elected chair of the committee and later served as chair of the Assembly. These experiences allowed me to fully appreciate the many opportunities we have in the Society, and have certainly informed my goals and decisions during my presidency.

During the ATS 2015 International Conference in Denver, assembly members have the chance to greet one another at meetings, receptions, dinners, and even in the hallways between sessions. It is the perfect time to meet with leaders and express your interest of becoming more involved in the assembly and the Society.

Who knows where it will take you. Maybe you will run for secretary-treasurer of the Society in a few years. It’s worth it.

I wish both candidates the best of luck in the upcoming election.

Last Reviewed: September 2017