President's Message

HomeATS CommunityPresident's Message ▶ Advocacy at the ATS: Speaking Truth to Power
Advocacy at the ATS: Speaking Truth to Power

I have always believed that human beings are at their best when able to transcend themselves in the service of others. Few endeavors exemplify this better than advocating for just and noble causes.

Advocacy sets the American Thoracic Society (ATS) apart from most medical specialty societies, and at no time has the society’s voice been more important than in the past few years. This year alone, the ATS atsnews-juanceledon1.jpgtook a stand on issues specifically related to COVID-19, spoke against racism following the tragic death of George Floyd and called for a moratorium on tear gas use by police during subsequent protests, and responded to censorship of federal agency education efforts to address racial inequality in the U.S.  

In the U.S., the ATS devotes significant resources to end tobacco and e-cigarette use through increased federal regulation (e.g., by eliminating candy flavorings and raising the tobacco-purchasing age to 21), and supports federal funding for research. Our top advocacy goals also include working toward universal health care access and health equity, global elimination of tuberculosis (TB), clean air for all, and continued funding and independence of the FDA and the CDC.

As a Society, we address these issues by leveraging our rich and diverse expertise. We file amicus briefs in court proceedings, as was the case when we supported the Affordable Care Act and health care access for all. We comment on proposed legislation and rules changes, to ensure that our perspective is considered by officials as they codify policies impacting our work and lives. Our staff and members meet with congressional representatives and their staff to advocate for issues relevant to our society, and our members give their expert testimony to Congress. Beyond our work with the government, our advocacy extends to participation in social media campaigns, joining letters authored by peer societies, and drafting our own public statements and press releases.

Working with our Public Advisory Roundtable, (PAR), we ensure that government representatives hear our patients’ voices and are aware of their perspectives. We organize “Hill Days” for ATS members, PAR partner organizations, and PAR patients to speak directly to legislators about the needs of our patients and the medical and scientific communities. We compile an annual publication, Patient Voices, which captures our patients’ words and experiences,  highlight the importance of research and health care access, and enhance our advocacy efforts.
In addition to our work in the U.S., we are a founding member of the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS). In coordination with our peer societies in FIRS, the ATS advocates for global respiratory  health to the World Health Organization and the United Nations, and such advocacy helped to establish September 25 as World Lung Day and further address worldwide challenges such as TB, smoking, pollution, and respiratory infections.

Confronted with grave dangers to public health - be it the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, air pollution, or vaping- we are well equipped to speak truth to power. Indeed, our expertise and credibility make us critical participants in conversations to promote policies that are based on the best available scientific evidence and aim to advance research, public health, and patient care.

To learn more about our advocacy, visit and stay up to date with our Washington Letter, which covers our ongoing advocacy and news out of Washington. If you’d like to get involved, you can see our current top-priority issues and take action today!