President's Message

HomeATS CommunityPresident's Message ▶ Creating a Fairer, More Equitable Future for the Global Respiratory Community
Creating a Fairer, More Equitable Future for the Global Respiratory Community

Embracing diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) is a moral imperative and a strategic business decision. Organizations prioritizing DEIB benefit from increased creativity, better decision-making, a competitive edge, and a positive impact on their employees and the broader community. As such, the American Thoracic Society is starting the New Year with papers on race in our flagship journal, the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. This includes an editorial by our CEO Karen Collishaw, past chair of the ATS Health Equalities and Diversity Committee Neeta Thakur, MD, and other colleagues entitled Historical Reflection as the American Thoracic Society Moves to Combat Racism in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine.

This article examines our history of exclusionary actions and their subsequent impact on perpetuating health inequities, from as far back as the Society’s inception 120 years ago to more contemporary steps taken to create a more diverse and inclusive organization. This introspection aligns with our evolving moral conscience and the increasing demand of our members and the community for accountability, transparency, and social responsibility.

In the issue, readers will also find a Viewpoint on strategies to classify lung function by ATS members Marilyn Foreman, MD, David M. Mannino, MD, and other colleagues, as well as an original contribution that addresses race in pulmonary function testing from Amjad N. Kanj, MD, MPH, and other colleagues. By scrutinizing our historical practices as an organization and examining how the respiratory community has contributed to disparities in health care more broadly, we aim to demonstrate our ongoing commitment to ethical conduct and hope to set the stage for meaningful change.

This self-reflection is essential for building trust in the communities we serve and emphasizes our role as a catalyst for positive global change. Last September, all participants at the ATS Leadership Summit participated in a full-day training on DEIB, facilitated by Wendy Amengual Wark, founding partner of Inclusion Strategy Solutions.

We also demonstrate our commitment to DEIB each year during our annual ATS International Conference, which will take place in San Diego on May 17-22 (early registration has just opened, so be sure to register soon!). Our International Conference Committee (ICC) is committed to diversity and inclusion at all levels within conference programming across race, ethnicity, age, geography, gender, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, ability, economic status, career stage (early-, mid-, and senior-), and other identity markers.

To ensure that all aspects of the conference reflect the diversity of the ATS membership, the ICC has taken several steps: first, it has established a DEIB subcommittee whose goal is to formalize the approach to measure diversity across sessions and define a process for the use of these methods/tools. For example, the demographics intake form for conference registration has been updated to explain the rationale for collecting the data. The ICC uses this data to benchmark its goals for diversity across committee members, conference speakers, and moderators.

Second, to ensure that diverse perspectives are included when reviewing and grading conference proposals, the ICC has created and distributed a survey for use by all programming committee chairs so that the metrics can be used to inform their decision-making about rotating off and adding new committee members. Lastly, all forms for calls for conference programming reiterate the importance of representative inclusion of speakers and moderators; committee chairs are asked to consider these aspects of proposals during the review.

We will once again proudly host the ATS Diversity Forum during ATS 2024, an event that is open to all ATS members. This year’s forum will feature speaker Tyra Byrant-Stephens, MD, a board-certified pediatrician nationally recognized for her work in community-driven, evidence-based research in asthma and environmental asthma triggers. In 1997, Dr. Bryant-Stephens founded the Community Asthma Prevention Program (CAPP) of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). This program utilizes community health workers and residents to implement asthma interventions in underserved, poorly resourced, inner-city communities, among other professional achievements.

During the forum, the ATS will also be awarding its Underrepresented Trainee Development Scholarship (formerly the Minority Trainee Development Scholarships), which recognizes trainees who are members of underrepresented minority groups, as well as present its 2024 Diversity Fellowship recipients.

To ensure global representation from our diverse membership, ATS 2024 is once again offering a 30 percent discount to attendees living in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

On a final note, it is with enormous gratitude that I recognize the dedicated employees of the ATS who have made this laudable work possible. Internally, the human resources department has recently undergone a name change to People and Culture to underscore its mighty role in ensuring a diverse and engaged workforce and an inclusive culture to which all employees can truly belong.

While we have made great strides over the past decades to diversify our workforce and leadership, it is still a work in progress. The ATS must reflect the demographics of its membership. People and Culture will recruit a Director of DEI and Chapter Relations to achieve that. It is also working closely with an external DEI partner, Inclusion Strategy Solutions, this year to conduct baseline assessments and implement DEI best practices and strategies throughout the organization in 2024.

When it comes to leading the global respiratory community in creating a fairer, more equitable future for all, the ATS continues to identify areas for improvement and set new goals for itself. This iterative process of self-assessment ensures that our Society will remain dynamic, responsive, and continuously evolving in our noble mission of helping the world to breathe.

Patricia Rivera, MD, ATSF
President, American Thoracic Society