ATS Stays in Step With the Times

ATS President David Gozal, MD, MBA, looks back at his tenure in ATS leadership, in which he has used his previous experience traveling the world to expand the impact of ATS.

Q: You have a unique background, personally and professionally, which is truly global in nature. How has that experience been useful to you in the ATS leadership?

A: ATS is clearly a global society and is proud of its multicultural diversity, which enriches every aspect of our Society activities. We have members originating from nearly every country in the world, and the fact that they see the ATS as a professional home speaks loudly about the unique value and content that the ATS offers. I look at myself as a global citizen and have been fortunate to live, learn, and thrive in many countries throughout my life. This multicultural background and the acquisition of several polyglot skills on the way have been uniquely helpful during my tenure on the ATS leadership team. Being able to engage and communicate with the leaders and members of the many sister societies around the world in their national language, while being keenly aware of their customs and traditions, have undoubtedly fostered the trust and mutual respect that is fundamental for collaboration and progress toward achieving our mission.

Q: You have expressed concern about the misperception that ATS is for academic physicians when, in fact, it has significant resources for community clinicians. What are the most important ways you believe ATS supports clinicians, whatever their practice setting?

A: The ATS is a very heterogeneous society that aims to serve in its best capacity the needs of all constituencies. As such, we need to first remember that even if a large proportion of our members are academic physicians, many more see themselves as clinical educators who strive to enrich the field with evidence-based medical practice. The ATS book of assets is therefore replete with a vast array of ever-evolving educational activities geared toward providing the members with the best and most forward-looking clinical practice models. This constant enrichment process is paramount for any practitioner, irrespective of their practice setting. As such, the unique wealth of educational opportunities and the fact that the ATS represents not only how clinical practice is performed today but also how it will look tomorrow should be an extraordinary impetus for many community clinicians to join and be a valued and contributing part of our Society.

Q: You’ve called attention to the fact that the millennial generation learns differently from previous generations. How will the ATS International Conference change to take advantage of new ways of learning?

A: Over the last several decades, the emergence of novel technologies and a myriad of changes in many aspects of our personal and professional lives have also modified the way we learn. We have gone from top-down rigid educational models to personalized learning. The ATS is a member-driven organization and therefore these changes have permeated every aspect of our activities. Rather than responding passively to member-driven requests, we are now embarking on an ambitious set of initiatives aimed at introducing state-of-the-art technologies that will reflect not only the global trends of educational aspirations but also will permit a more personalized learning opportunity for each of our members and for conference attendees.

Q: You are the driving force behind the South American Critical Care Conference that will take place in July in Sao Paulo. How does this initiative play into the larger ATS global mission and will ATS become involved in similar conferences in other parts of the world?

A: As a global society, the ATS needs to have a global footprint and provide value to its international members. The South American Conference is one of many ATS activities designed to fulfill potential education gaps and serve our entire membership. However, it is important to emphasize that the ATS views such activities as collaborative enhancers, and as such has sought and will continue to seek local or regional partners to better leverage the unique portfolio of ATS educational, research, and professional opportunities. Together, we hope that such efforts will culminate in a much more expansive and collaborative global ATS footprint.

Q: Since the worldwide recession of 2007-2009 has receded, funding for the clinician-scientist has been slowly improving. Are there still reasons to be concerned? What role is ATS taking to help boost research funding to the greatest extent possible?

A: I am afraid that the survival of scientists in general, and of the clinician-scientist in particular, is being threatened more than ever by irresponsible and shortsighted decisions in Washington. The decades-long roller coaster of federal funding along with many parallel changes in health care policies have generated a terrible void in the future outlook of respiratory science. In addition to our intense advocacy efforts in Washington, the ATS will continue to allocate every possible available dollar to the funding of meritorious junior investigators to promote and sustain their highly vulnerable careers. Therefore, the more attendees we have at the International Conference and the more engagement and contributions are made to the ATS Foundation, the more grants will be available to support the next generation. This is a time when we all need to dig deep and contribute in any way we can.   

Q: Many countries, including the U.S., appear to be reacting against globalization. Do you believe that medicine and science, which seem to progress fastest when artificial boundaries are erased, can buck this trend?

A: I want to believe that the globalization of medicine and science is an irreversible process, and that no short-sighted national political trends will reverse such a long-awaited and precious reality. However, we need to be vigilant and protect the unique values of humanism embedded in a global scientific and medical community. To this end, the ATS needs to lead such efforts and partner with every national, regional, and international like-minded association to preserve and foster the universal principles of our mission: to help the world breathe.

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