Q&A: ATS President Monica Kraft, MD

Q: When you became president last year, you said one of your goals was to initiate an Implementation Medicine Task Force. What’s the charge of this task force?
A: Many members and I feel that it’s important for the Society to have a better understanding of how its science and guidelines translate to patient care. So, I started the Implementation Medicine Task Force and enlisted the help of the ATS Documents Development and Implementation Committee Chair Michael K. Gould, MD, MS; ATS Senior Director of Documents and Medical Affairs Kevin Wilson; Quality Improvement Committee Chair Jeremy M. Kahn, MD, MSc, and several of our talented assembly and committee chair members.

The task force investigates short- and long-term strategies to help the Society assess how its science and guidelines are changing care, and how clinicians and researchers might be better able to demonstrate their impact on human health. Among the ideas that we’ve been exploring is the creation of a patient registry specific to diseases within our specialty. We’re also looking strategically at integrating more information about the Society’s guidelines into the program for the International Conference and being able to demonstrate a positive change in patient care from these sessions.

Q: Expanding the ATS’s global presence was another important item on your to-do list. Why was this an important part of your agenda, and what progress has the Society made?
A: The ATS has an obligation to share its science and knowledge to ease the global burden of lung disease. In recent years, we’ve expanded our relationships with other societies in Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East so that our members can present and bring them the latest scientific research and clinical findings.

During my term, the ATS teamed up with the Shanghai Respiratory Research Institute, Chinese Alliance Against Lung Cancer, and the Chinese Society of Respiratory Diseases to present the Eighth International Symposium on Respiratory Diseases in Shanghai in November. Certainly in China, our plans not only include presenting at these conferences, but also increasing the number of ATS members who present their work, visiting their hospitals, listening to cases, and interacting hands-on with the clinicians. We also collaborated with other organizations on GulfThoracic, the fourth annual congress of the Saudi Thoracic Society and the Emirates Allergy and Respiratory Society, which took place in March in Dubai.

The ATS is also working with its Forum of International Respiratory Societies partners to provide United Nations member states with the most relevant research to help inform and guide their discussions in the area of lung health and chronic lung disease in June 2014. FIRS includes our colleagues at the Asociación Latinoamericana del Tórax, American College of Chest Physicians, Asia Pacific Society of Respirology, European Respiratory Society, International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, and Pan African Thoracic Society. At our meeting in Miami in January, we initiated work on a document to help world leaders understand chronic lung disease, the impacts of their policies on respiratory health, and the need for further research.

Our work through Methods in Epidemiologic, Clinical, and Operations Research Program continues to provide physicians and other health care professionals in Latin America, Africa, India, and Turkey with the tools to conduct research that will ultimately improve respiratory health in their communities and countries.

The Society is recognized for being outspoken when it comes to cleaner air worldwide, tobacco control, smoking cessation, and the effects of climate change on human health. This role is becoming increasingly important, as study after study solidifies the correlation between air pollution and premature deaths, for example.

Q: At the end of their terms, most ATS presidents find that time passes too quickly for all of their initiatives to take hold. Has that been your experience?
A: Certainly, but the good news is that there are three years to gear up for the presidency while serving on the Executive Committee, so there is time to think about ideas to implement even before the year as president. Sustaining these initiatives, however, is another story, as you’re left with very little time. Responsibility to sustain these initiatives ultimately rests on your successors and other leaders who may have different opinions as to what is important to the entire ATS.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish in your upcoming role as immediate past president, and what are your hopes for the ATS?
A: Mainly, I’ll support the incoming president, Patricia W. Finn, MD, just as ATS Immediate Past President Nicholas S. Hill, MD, supported me. I relied heavily on Nick for advice. As president, one has to manage many different opinions and agendas. Patricia will find that there are many factions that will want things implemented that aren’t entirely relevant to the Society as a whole. One has to weigh the pros and cons of moving forward with these critical decisions, and one’s predecessor can provide great perspective because he or she was in your shoes just a short while ago. I really look forward to being there for Patricia and the rest of the Executive Committee in helping to advance the Society in its mission.