Presented by John C. Morris, MD
American Thyroid Association
Annual Membership and Business Meeting
Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel
Thursday, October 17, 2013
I wish to thank the membership of ATA for the opportunity to serve this organization as secretary. This has been a busy and exciting year for ATA in many respects, and exceptionally so in a few. I will here mention some of those items.
ATA’s membership had continued to expand. In the last year we have added 271 members to our roll, including 61 active and 172 associate members. We continue to attract fellows to our meeting and to associate membership, thanks especially to the fellows program that has been sponsored by the University of Colorado and directed by Chip Ridgway and colleagues for many years. Many of these associate members convert to active membership as their career progresses and the fellows track and associate membership serves as an important introduction for clinicians and scientists to the ATA.
Our board has recently approved a new category of membership to accommodate the growing number of allied health professionals — physician assistants and nurse practitioners — who are involved in thyroid disease diagnosis and management, so that they and their patients may benefit from the educational and research activities of ATA. This change will require an update to our bylaws and this will be voted upon later during this meeting. This new membership category which, if approved by you, will be named Allied Health Specialist Members and will include reduced dues as compared to active membership and offer the possibility of committee membership, but not voting privileges or the ability to hold office. I am sure that many of you already work closely with providers in your offices or institutions that may an interest in this pathway to ATA participation.
The strategic initiative to improve opportunities and membership activities for basic scientists that was initiated last year under then-president Jim Fagin, has continued this year with President Bryan Haugen’s leadership. Sheue-yann Cheng has led a research affairs task force that brought forward several initiatives that have been or will soon be implemented to address this concern and to help strengthen the basic science foundation of ATA. One of these items is reduced fees for active membership for the first 10 years post-graduation for PhD’s and basic scientists. Sheue-yann’s task force remains active with several other initiatives, including consideration for a CLINICAL THYROIDOLOGY-like review publication focused on thyroid basic science summaries. We are disappointed that Sheue-yann and several other members of this group were required to cancel their trip to our meeting this year because of the government shut-down. In fact, we have approximately 25 persons who were registered to be here who have been forced to cancel their travel for this reason. If only the congress could be as effective as Sheue-yann’s task force….
Our support for research also continues to grow. Last year we received an endowment from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation totaling $406,000 to support Thyroid development and Pregnancy related research and this upcoming year we will be funding the first projects from that endowment. We have just accepted funds from the “Bite-me-Cancer” Foundation for a new grant for Medullary Thyroid Cancer research. Our research committee, chaired by Christine Spitzweg, will be receiving proposals and selecting awardees for these new awards in the next year. Of note, ATA last year contributed almost $300,000 towards these peer-reviewed research projects with the funds coming largely from endowments and foundations, not from member fees or membership dues. This is possible in large part because of the rigorous and transparent process we have for making awards and most importantly because the organizations that are the source of the funds recognize that the investigators doing the most important thyroid-related research are members of ATA. Since the inception of our research fund in 1996, ATA has awarded 64 grants totaling $1.67 million and with support from THYCA (ongoing) and THANC (past) an additional 1.67 million and 57 grants (grand total of 121 grants and 3.27 million)
To me the most important thing the ATA does is to hold the annual meeting, which I personally feel is the basis of our existence. This year’s meeting is another great success. Our attendance is similar to that we enjoyed last year in Quebec City and above our 5 year average. The venue is beautiful and unique, and most of San Juan is still open despite the government shut-down. The scientific program, thanks to the program committee which has been chaired by Julie Ann Sosa and Ron Koenig is outstanding. For me, because of my bias towards the importance of this meeting, the program chair job is the most important one in the organization and Julie Ann and Ron have carried it out superbly. Of course everyone in the ATA office contributes in a major way to the meeting as well, most especially Adonia Coates our “certified” meeting planner. Adonia is an outstanding meeting organizer and we are very fortunate to have her working in our group. Again this year we have experience growth in the industry display booths which brings income to help support the meeting. This growth is largely due to staff efforts building industry partner relationships through innovations such as the expo theater, corporate liaison council and strong outreach for CME grants, all especially important in these days of declining direct sponsorship contributions from industry partners.
Arguably the biggest news of the year for ATA is the establishment of a new journal. This effort began about 18 months ago as a strategic initiative for the board of directors to grow our already strong publication activities. After several months of deliberation and investigation of options during which we were assisted tremendously by a publications consultant Morna Conway, the board voted at our June meeting to enter an agreement with Mary Ann Liebert, the publisher for THYROID, to create a new journal to be named VideoEndocrinology (VE). As the name implies, VE will be a video journal, the first of its kind in Endocrinology. Also, as the name implies it will be broader in scope than Thyroidology alone, potentially encompassing all of Endocrinology. Video journals are largely surgical by nature because the surgical community utilizes this medium very heavily and we expect that VE will also be mostly surgical in its direction and will appeal most importantly to surgeons and surgical trainees. ATA already includes more than 250 surgeon members (15% of all member categories) and our surgical affairs committee, currently co-chaired by Electron Kebebew and David Steward is one of our most active and visible committees. Otolaryngologists and Endocrine Surgeons have a balanced representation in the ATA and work together effectively and productively. Thus our organization clearly includes the expertise and interest to make VE successful.
We have just completed the process of selecting the editor for VE, thanks to Tony Hollenberg (chair) and members of the search committee. As you have heard already Jerry Doherty, chair of Surgery at Boston University, has been chosen as the first editor from a very strong, and I would say exceptionally strong, group of candidates who offered their services. Jerry has tremendous experience with video production and video-based education as well as strong connections to the surgical community within and outside ATA. Our publisher Mary Ann Liebert already publishes two video journals, so we anticipate that this will move forward quickly and that the first issue of VE will be published in the first quarter of 2014.
VE will be packaged with THYROID and CLINICAL THYROIDOLOGY and marketed by Mary Ann Liebert to libraries and individuals around the world as a package. Everyone here will receive all three journals as part of your membership without additional fees. One downside of this agreement and plan is that CLINICAL THYROIDOLOGY, which is published monthly and edited by Jerry Hershman and his editorial board, will no longer be free to non-ATA-members. This may result in an initial drop in readership for CT. However, it will be available by subscription to all libraries and persons who subscribe to THYROID and will be become fully indexed through this process and we anticipate that this will result in readership growth as the package becomes firmly established in libraries around the world. We are working on a plan to reach out to current CT readers who are not ATA members and invite those who are interested and qualified to ATA membership
Lastly, and, depending upon your point of view, perhaps least importantly, through our royalty agreement with MAL, we anticipate significant additional income to ATA with successful marketing of this publication package. In these days of increasingly difficult industry support, these monies will help fund all the educational, clinical, and research activities of our society. In the worst case scenario, this will be revenue neutral to ATA.
Another of the most visible activities of ATA is our guideline development and publishing. I wish to congratulate Tony Bianco and his task force who have recently submitted and received acceptance for publication of a new and very unique handbook of basic science techniques that will be published in THYROID and entitled “ATA Guide to Investigating Thyroid Hormone Economy and Action in Rodent and Cell Models”. Other guidelines published since last year’s meeting include the “Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer Guidelines”, task force chaired by Bob Smallridge, and the “Clinical and Professional Ethics Guidelines for the Practice of Thyroidology” from the ethics committee by Glenn Braunstein and Sara Rosenthal. Several other guideline task forces are active and some are nearing completion of updates of prior publications, including Thyroid Nodules and Thyroid Cancer – chaired by Bryan Haugen; Thyroid Hormone Replacement and Use of Thyroid Hormone Analogues – chaired by Jacquie Jonklaas and Tony Bianco; Pediatric Thyroid Cancer – chaired by Gary Francis; and, Medullary Thyroid Cancer – chaired by Sam Wells. You should see publication of most if not all of these before our gathering next year in San Diego at the Hotel DEL Coronado.
As noted by David Sarne and alluded to above, we continue to experience a drop in contributions from industry for direct support of our annual meeting. This is not unique to ATA and is being experienced by all professional organizations, although because of the smaller focus of our society we may be more affected than some other groups. We continue to be diligent on our search for support of ATA activities. One very important effort here is the establishment of the Corporate Leadership Council (CLC), which is directed by Greg Randolph and had its first meeting in Minneapolis in 2010. This council will serve to improve collaboration between ATA and subscribed industry partners. Its first project has been to establish a mechanism by which to serve as a communication link between ATA members and these corporate partners. In the last year this has been implemented and you may have already noted communications from this project posted on our website. Others of higher priority may be transmitted to you by email. Greg will continue to serve as the chair of the CLC while also serving as Treasurer of ATA and board liaison to the Development Committee because these activities are all highly related to each other.
ATA continues to be served tremendously well by our headquarters’ office staff, which of course is led by our outstanding CEO, Bobbi Smith. Bobbi’s knowledge of our organization, effective management skills, and warm manner is the face of the ATA for much of what we are and do. Her institutional memory is incredible. Thank you Bobbi for all that you do for us. Bobbi leads a strong and effective group which is our office, including Adonia Coates, director of meetings, Sharleene Cano, membership and publications, Kelly Hoff, development and IT, all of whom have several jobs and duties including support of our committees and task forces. Chief Financial officer, Shirlyn Barger works closely with the Treasurer, Finance and Audit Committee, our Auditors, and the Board of Directors and keeps all of our financial bottom lines in view. Between them they manage and coordinate 29 committees and task forces supporting the productivity of over 190 volunteers from the ATA membership.
I want to thank Bryan Haugen for his dedicated service as ATA President over the last year. Bryan has been a strong leader and active and dependable officer. As I said earlier he has continued the effort to enhance activities for basic scientists in ATA and has recently initiated a similar effort towards Pediatric Thyroidologists. He has been a strong and effective spokesperson for us in several venues and a voice of reason and enthusiasm in the process of making several of these important decisions we have confronted. Thank you Bryan.
I feel fortunate that my long-time colleague and friend, Hossein Gharib will be stepping into this role very soon and is already active in many items. I am looking forward to his leadership over the upcoming year as well.
Special thanks to David Sarne who is completing a double-duty effort as Treasurer of ATA. As you may remember, Dave agreed to extend his duty in order that we may stagger the turnover of the Treasurer and Secretary positions. David has a special way of looking at a large spreadsheet of numbers, and our spreadsheet is quite large these days, and pointing out the bottom-line, which is not always the bottom-line on the sheet, clearly, succinctly and effectively. His tenure as treasurer has spanned some quite difficult financial events and he has led us through it all with grace, skill, and success. Thank you, Dave.
Finally, I thank the ATA for the opportunity to serve our organization as Secretary and look forward to an exciting future.