President's Message

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May 2018 President's Message

In my first ATS News article, I wrote about some fundamental lessons that I was taught as a young child.  Among those was, “family is the greatest gift. Family members are the ones that you trust implicitly, that you protect, and that you love.” The ATS provides such a home and family for our pulmonary, critical care, and sleep community. It connects us to one another through our assemblies, sections, working groups, editorial boards, committees, and task forces. For over a quarter of a century, the ATS has been my academic home, and has played a pivotal role in my career and provided me with an academic family. However, for me, the ATS is more than just a professional family. It has actually been a part of my own extended family for over 50 years.

Many of you may not know that my father-in-law was also a pulmonary and critical care doctor. In the late 1960s, he completed his pulmonary fellowship at the University of Colorado under the direction of Roger S. Mitchell, MD. During his fellowship, my father-in-law performed some of the early research on ARDS and mechanical ventilation. Tom Petty, MD, was one of his mentors. At the end of his fellowship, my father-in-law published a first author original research article in JAMA. The article was entitled, “Monitoring inspired oxygen pressure during mechanical ventilation.” After fellowship ended, he left Denver and moved back to his hometown of Albany, New York, where he practiced pulmonary and critical care medicine. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2012.

Most of the professional occurrences that my father-in-law and I shared were serendipitous. In the early 1990s, I completed my own pulmonary fellowship at the University of Colorado, under the direction of Marvin Schwarz. During the fellowship, I performed clinical and epidemiological research on ARDS. At the end of my fellowship, I published a first author original research article in JAMA. The article was entitled, “The effect of alcohol abuse on the development of ARDS.” After the fellowship ended, I also left Denver to practice pulmonary and critical care medicine. I wasn’t in in Albany, New York, but instead in Atlanta, just up the road from Albany, Georgia.

A few years later, Dr. Petty wrote a Letter to the Editor concerning an article about standardizing oxygen measurements. In the reply to Dr. Petty’s letter, the authors of the original article included six references. The first was my father-in-law’s first author article in JAMA. The sixth reference was one of my first author articles from fellowship. I was probably the only person who noticed that my research and the research of my father-in-law was referenced in this reply. However, this serendipitous occurrence demonstrated a deep connection between myself, my family, and the pulmonary, critical care, and sleep community.

In 2006, I was recruited back to the University of Colorado. As part of the recruitment, I received the Roger S. Mitchell Endowed Chair of Pulmonary Medicine in honor of the first head of the pulmonary division at the University of Colorado, and the doctor who had directed my father-in-law. At this point in my career, my involvement in the ATS increased and I began to understand the importance of the ATS. Through the ATS, I fostered collaborations and made some very close friends. I watched my colleagues accept exciting new positions that originated through ATS-related connections. I saw the ATS Foundation launch the careers of many exceptional junior investigators. I was, and am, proud to be a part of the ATS community.

Earlier this year, my mother-in-law decided it was time to sell the house that she had bought with my father-in-law over 48 years ago. My wife went back home to help sort through the belongings that had accumulated over the years. In one of the stacks of papers, my wife found a document the ATS had sent to her father. Dated Dec. 29, 1966, the letter stated that “I am very happy to be able to inform you that the Fellowship Board of the American Thoracic Society has considered your application for an ATS Fellowship favorably and has awarded you $7,500 for the period July 1, 1967 to June 30, 1968. This is for work at the Webb-Waring Institute for Research under the sponsorship of Dr. Roger S. Mitchell.” Like many other fellows from that era, and now, the ATS supported my father-in-law’s training and helped launch his academic career. What a great legacy for a professional society.

My year as ATS President has passed very quickly. The experience reaffirmed my appreciation for the ATS community and family. I was fortunate to be surrounded by an exceptional Executive Committee, executive director, ATS staff, and ATS members. The Society is in a great position and on a very steep and positive trajectory. Serving as the ATS President was truly an honor.

Thank you to the ATS, for helping to build shared legacies, for connecting us, and for supporting an exceptional pulmonary, critical care, and sleep community.