President's Message

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ATS International Activities: 2019 and Beyond

The ATS Executive Committee recently returned from the European Respiratory Society Congress in Madrid.  We are pleased that ERS had a very successful Congress, and we congratulate Professor Tobias Welte on a great year as ERS President.  We also congratulate Professor Thierry Troosters as the incoming ERS President.  I’m looking forward to continued close cooperation between ATS and ERS.a

During each of the international meetings that the ATS Executive Committee attends, we schedule meetings with the leaders of national and international respiratory societies, in order to advance our common goals and projects.  ATS and ERS have two half-day retreats annually in conjunction with our respective conferences.  For the Madrid retreat, we discussed many ways in which ATS and ERS cooperate to advance world lung health, including the development of joint guidelines and other publications.  In my opinion, the relationship between our societies has never been stronger.

While in Madrid, we also met with other partner societies.  We were very pleased that Tom Martin, MD, a former ATS President and chair of our International Activities Task Force, and Cristina Braz, ATS interim senior director for global health, could join us for these meetings.  We asked the leaders of our partner societies to consider two questions during the meetings.  First, how can the ATS and our partner societies work together to improve world lung health?  Second, how can we enhance mutually beneficial interactions between ATS and our partner societies?  We asked our partners to consider the topics of member engagement, clinical care, education, and research.  Each of these meetings led to robust discussions, and members of the Task Force will be conducting in depth interviews with the leaders of other societies to continue the dialogue.

Based on the information we acquire from our partners, and from ATS members, we expect that the International Task Force will provide a set of recommendations to the Executive Committee by August, 2020.  We’re very grateful to Tom and the Task Force members, who will work in conjunction with our International Health Committee members, to complete this important analysis.  Their recommendations will guide ATS international activities for the next several years.

While in Madrid, the ATS Executive Committee also participated in a meeting of the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS).  This organization comprises the seven international respiratory health organizations (ATS, American College of Chest Physicians, Asian Pacific Society of Respirology, Latin American Thoracic Society, ERS, Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, and Pan-African Thoracic Society).  The Global Initiative on Asthma (GINA) and the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) also participate in FIRS.  The major focus of FIRS is to influence policy and decision-making at the World Health Organization, and we have focused on establishing pulmonary diseases as a greater WHO priority.  The signature event of FIRS is World Lung Day, which was celebrated on September 25.  Working together, we enlisted the support of 147 organizations this year, up from 28 in 2017.  We also generated 45 editorial publications, which reached an estimated audience or 40 million people globally.  ATS appreciates the leadership of FIRS Executive Director and former ATS President Dean Schraufnagel, MD, ATSF who will be retiring from his position at the end of 2019. 

The ATS Executive Committee values the opportunity to attend the international meetings of our partner societies, and we certainly value the participation of our partner societies’ leaders in the ATS International Conference.  The next international meeting will be the Asian Pacific Society of Respirology congress in Hanoi, Vietnam in November.  I will be attending along with President-Elect Juan Celedon and Executive Director Karen Collishaw.  For this partner relationship, both societies also bring junior investigators to the other society’s meeting, providing great international exposure for ATS members.

Working together, we are advancing lung health in ways that enhance the ATS role on an international stage.  It’s a great honor to participate in activities that advance world lung health.