Q&A: ATS 2012-13 President Monica Kraft, MD

Monica Kraft, MD

Monica Kraft, MD

An interview with Monica Kraft, MD, ATS 2012-13 President

Q: Before you were an ATS officer, you were chair of the International Conference Committee. In that leadership role, the ATS began making changes in the format and programming of the conference. What are some of the most significant changes you made? 
A: There have been a number of changes made to the International Conference, and certainly not all were implemented during my tenure as chair. We now have a core curriculum, as well as many more hands-on workshops. Hands-on training in ultrasound and interventional pulmonology has also been available at recent conferences and will continue this year. This type of practical training, along with leadership training in the postgraduate sessions, is important to many attendees.

One of the most promising developments in International Conference programming is that the Society has embraced providing Maintenance of Certification (MOC) to U.S.-based adult and pediatric physicians who attend the International Conference. The American Board of Internal Medicine and the American Board of Pediatrics have both approved ATS 2012 MOC modules so that adult pulmonologists can earn up to 10 MOC points and pediatric pulmonologists 20 MOC credits. Next year, we will add MOC in adult and pediatric critical care, as well as in sleep.

There are other changes being contemplated, including a “Science Core” track for basic scientists, but the overall intent is the same: to make sure that the International Conference continues to meet the needs of the ATS’s diverse membership and its diverse group of attendees.

Q: How did you first learn about the ATS? Was it through the International Conference?
A: Yes, I was a resident at Harbor-UCLA, and I was doing some research employing exercise testing in patients with sarcoidosis with Karl Wasserman, Om Sharma and Kathy Sietsema. I submitted an abstract, and it was accepted. This was in 1990 and the conference that year was in Boston.

Q: Was it a good experience?
A: It was a wonderful experience, although I had no idea how big the meeting was! It was a little overwhelming at first, but I received great feedback. And I was surprised how much time people spent talking to me.

Q: What is it that has attracted you to leadership positions at the ATS, particularly the ATS presidency?
A: I love the Society and it’s ability to impact lung health in many ways. I became involved in certain committees, and I felt like I wanted to make a bigger contribution if I could. I was attracted by the people I would be able to work with, not only other healthcare professionals, but also the ATS staff, who are a very dedicated group of people.

Q: What are some of your goals for Society during the coming year?
A: First, let me say that the good news is that the financial climate has changed, and the ATS is poised to grow. I’d like to take advantage of that fact and get some initiatives moving. They certainly won’t all come to fruition during my time as president, but I’d like to get them started so that others can build upon them.

Research funding is near and dear to my heart. With ATS Public Advisory Roundtable, I would like to expand our advocacy program not only to continue our work in Washington, but also at the local level by engaging elected officials at home. We would like both care providers and patients who are constituents to visit members of Congress in their district offices. This, we think, will be very powerful and give us more time with the people who, at the end of the day, are going to determine research funding levels.

This is one idea to come out of the Presidential Commission that Nicholas Hill, MD, formed shortly after he became ATS president. The commission has had other ideas, including expanding our educational outreach, that I think are quite promising. And I’m happy to report that Nick and the other commission members will continue to meet in the coming year.

I definitely want to continue to build relationships with colleagues internationally. ATS is a desirable partner. For instance, the ATS is jointly planning with colleagues in China the International Symposium on Respiratory Diseases, which will be held in November in Shanghai. I think other societies around the world would like to partner with us to present the latest in pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine. They want our scientific perspective.

I’d also like to see the ATS integrate with industry even more effectively. We recognize that there are important conflict of interest issues to be addressed, but I would like to see us collaborate to move the research and therapeutics agenda forward. I also want younger professionals in respiratory medicine to recognize that this is a viable career path and to support anyone who chooses this path to increase their chances for success.

Q: You’re putting together an Implementation Medicine Task Force. What is the charge of the task force, and how might it affect what ATS does? 
A: This idea is in its infancy, but it addresses the issue of how we get into the hands of clinicians the outstanding guidelines we produce, so that patients benefit from the latest evidenced-based approaches to diagnosis and treatment. How can we best do that? I’m struck by how actively other professional associations, particularly those involved in heart disease, have created programs to help healthcare institutions and providers adopt guidelines, and track outcomes based upon use of the guidelines to improve quality of care.

This would be a new direction for the ATS, and it would represent a major investment, but it’s absolutely in keeping with our mission of translating our science to help patients. So, the charge of the commission is to recommend whether we should move forward in this area and, if so, to recommend the next steps.

Q: Are there other ways that you think the ATS can better help patients?
A: Certainly, we want to work to increase recognition of respiratory disease—globally, nationally and locally. The public doesn’t recognize that COPD is now the third-leading killer worldwide, that asthma can be a very serious disease or that certain types of interstitial lung disease carry a high mortality. There also needs to be more understanding of sleep disorders, which affect the function of many organ systems, and the issue of workforce shortage in pulmonary and critical care. This lack of awareness has ramifications for patient care and for research funding.

While some steps have been taken to address that issue, we also need to be active as a society in ensuring a new pipeline of researchers and clinicians in pulmonary, critical care and sleep. I’d like to see ATS become even more active in this area. In addition to our advocacy efforts, we should work with medical schools to make sure more graduates go into internal medicine and pediatric residency programs, and then into fellowships in pulmonary medicine and critical care. I’d also like to see us play a leading role in promoting the entire healthcare team—respiratory therapists, physician assistants and nurse practitioners. Physicians clearly cannot do it on their own—not if we’re serious about doing the best we can do for our patients.