Q&A: ATS Executive Director Stephen C. Crane, PhD, MPH


Stephen C. Crane

An interview with  Stephen C. Crane,  PhD, MPH, ATS Executive Director

Q: How does the ATS measure its success, and how might these metrics be different from those of other organizations?
A: Rather than simply stating “we produced a meeting that had ‘x’ number of sessions, where we talked about ‘z’ diseases,” the Society is looking at the harder question of how we are moving the needle on the morbidity and mortality of lung disease nationally and globally. Implementation is the key concept here. The ATS has always produced a significant number of guidelines, statements, and workshop reports each year, but for the past two years we’ve been directing more of our attention to getting these statements into practice. Our longer-term goal is to understand the impact of these guidelines on patient care and then to feed this information back into the guideline development process. We have a way to go to reach this goal, but that is where we need to be if the Society is going to make an even bigger difference in the lives of patients.

Q: Why should clinicians and researchers be attracted to membership in the ATS? 
A: I get asked this question quite frequently when we’re presenting information and exhibiting at other conferences outside of the U.S. Membership needs to be more than just a subscription to the ATS journals and a discount on International Conference registration or our other educational programs. Individuals who join ATS should be able to feel pride in the accomplishments of their organization—and it is their organization—and derive substantial professional satisfaction from our collective accomplishments to improve health worldwide by advancing research, clinical care, and public health in respiratory disease, critical illness, and sleep disorders.

One important source of pride is our national and global advocacy efforts. The ATS spends considerable resources fighting for public health policy to ensure that clean air, research funding, and high-quality patient care are public priorities. We make visits to Capitol Hill to fight for improved practice conditions and access to care for all.

We work closely with our international sister societies through the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS) to advance the agenda of non-communicable diseases worldwide, of which respiratory conditions are a critical part. We work collegially and collaboratively with sister organizations in the U.S. to strengthen and advance clinical education in our specialty areas and to attract more people to our field.

We embrace patients as full members of our organization to learn from them and to improve health care delivery.

We fund young investigators to assure that there will be another generation of well-prepared clinicians and researchers. And we do so much more. We encourage all of our members to become active participants in the work of the Society to make it better, and to more rapidly achieve our mutual goals and objectives.

Q: What might jeopardize the success of the Society’s mission? 
A: Medicine is a team sport that involves many different health professionals working with patients to provide affordable, quality treatment to all who need it. The work of a scientific and professional medical society, such as the ATS, also requires a team effort. One of the most valuable contributions a society can make is to bring together individuals and groups from a wide diversity of backgrounds, missions, and views to figure out how to advance science most rapidly and to translate these findings into clinical care. The team aspect of our Society’s work requires representatives from academia, government, and industry, just as it includes health care professionals and patients.

For me, this exceptional collaborative environment is a great strength of ours as an organization, another source of pride for members, and a valued resource for the work of many others committed to advancing respiratory science and health at all levels. To fail in this team approach would be to fail our members and our patients.