President's Message

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Why Join the ATS?

September 2015
Atul Malhotra, MD

Atul Malhotra, MD

My decision to join the ATS was obvious. I trained in a program where everybody participated in the ATS, and every year my peers would fight over who would get to go to the conference. Even before becoming an officer, I viewed the ATS as a major source of career development and advancement. Because of this, I was baffled by my colleagues in other programs who were not members and did not want to attend the conference.

They had their reasons. Some said the ATS was only about basic science. Others said that membership and attending the conference was not worth the expense. Some said that they could get the information they needed online.

Unfortunately, this line of thinking persists even today, which is why I would like to dedicate this month’s President’s Message to addressing it.

Those who say the ATS is only about basic science are mistaken. While we are very proud of our strength in research, clinicians and educators comprise the majority of our membership. Members describe themselves as academics, but the range of clinical and educational offerings through our meetings and our journals is substantial and telling. The clinical tracks, core competencies, modules that offer continuing medical education and maintenance of certification, and the recently revamped Annals of the American Thoracic Society journal are good examples of our clinical strength.

People who say the ATS is too expensive need to consider what conference registration and membership support. Combined, they pay the administration expenses and costs of programs such as the ATS Foundation Research Program, our global health efforts including the Methods in Epidemiologic, Clinical and Operations Research (MECOR) Program, our advocacy efforts in our Washington, D.C., office, our patient information materials, and much more. Members who recognize this take pride in paying their dues because they know all of the good that can come out of it. Altruism still exists!

Information abounds on the Internet, and those who say they can find what they need online have a strong argument. However, the information the ATS provides is high quality, well written and researched, and cutting-edge. Also, you will not find the networking and camaraderie that occurs through personal interactions at our meetings, which certainly cannot be achieved via some Wikipedia search. I have benefited through these face-to-face interactions. When I have a question, I now have no shortage of smart colleagues who I trust to provide the answer, whether it is clinical, basic, or administrative.

Furthermore, the connections I have made through ATS have benefited my career and growth as a leader. For instance, grant reviewers see me as a colleague instead of a nameless, faceless applicant. I have never received formal training in leadership or management, so the feedback from respected ATS colleagues regarding how I can improve has been invaluable. These interactions have made me a better mentor and leader, and the feedback I give to my trainees reflects these rich experiences.

In short, the ATS has benefited all aspects of my career. I am proud to be a member. I feel bad for those who are missing out.

Last Reviewed: September 2017