John Morris, MDPresented by John C. Morris, MD
American Thyroid Association
Annual Membership and Business Meeting
Hotel DEL Coronado
Coronado, California
Thursday, October 30, 2014

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.

Three years ago we held a leadership retreat and formulated a strategic plan that has served to guide us in many of our activities.  The areas of focus of this plan have been:  Constituencies and Member Benefits; Publications and Guidelines; Meetings; and Communications and Technology.  Thanks to the efforts of the ATA office staff, the Board of Directors, ATA committees, and numerous individual members, we have largely completed or resolved the majority of the items on this plan.  You will hear of some of these activities here today.  We are therefore currently planning another retreat this winter to refresh and update this plan to guide us further into the future.  The timing of this is important, as I enter the final year of my secretary position and am ready to hand off this job to Secretary-Elect Victor Bernet.

ATA’s membership has continued to expand.  Our total membership, including the new category we added last year for allied health providers, now exceeds 1700.  Over 270 of us are surgeons and more than one-third are women.  We have added 298 new members this year, 69 of whom are regular members and 10 of whom joined in the allied health category. It is clear that our society is growing and changing and we are continually challenged to provide programming and opportunities that are of interest to this diverse group of professionals.

We continue to attract fellows to our meeting and to associate membership, thanks especially to the fellows program that was previously sponsored by the University of Colorado and directed by Chip Ridgway and colleagues. As of last year’s meeting it was fully sponsored by ATA.  This fellows’ conference has clearly been a major contributor to the growth of ATA. Perhaps many of you in this meeting first came to an ATA meeting as an attendee of this conference.  While we were in the process of discussing and developing a process for supporting the fellows’ program into the future, we learned of the tragic passing of Dr. Ridgway, its founder.  We immediately then received many notes from members suggesting that we name this program after Chip and the Board agreed, unanimously approving both the renaming of the program, to now be called the “E. Chester Ridgway Trainee Conference”, and further to begin a fund-raising effort in his memory aimed at support for the program. This new funding effort will ensure that we are able to invite and support the attendance of interested fellows to our meeting and to ATA membership in perpetuity.  I hope that each of you will recognize the importance of this to our future, the honor it pays to Chip’s efforts towards our young members and therefore will help the ATA support trainee education through contributions to the Ridgway Legacy Fund.

Our support for research also continues to grow.  This year we will contribute over $400,000 dollars to support research grants, which are all selected from submissions by our members after review by our Research Committee, chaired by MingZhao Xing.  There is a 27% increase in funding and 3 additional grants from 2013 are being supported thanks to new contributions from the Bite-Me-Cancer and New Hampshire Foundations.  Since 2010 ATA has contributed a total of over $2.1 million to these research efforts, more than 90% coming from foundation and philanthropic sources and not supported by dues payments.  Foundations such as these clearly recognize that our membership includes the best and most productive investigators in Thyroidology. They have chosen to utilize our Research Committee and infrastructure to further their goals of enhancing the lives of patients with thyroid disorders.  I think we should all be proud of this important function of our society.

To me the most important thing the ATA does is to hold the annual meeting, which as I have said before, I personally feel is the basis of our existence.  I am pleased to say that this year’s meeting has reached record highs for abstracts submitted and presented, member and overall registration, and hotel rooms occupied.  The great scientific program put together by Fred Wondisford and Mike Tuttle is certainly the highlight and major attraction to all who are here.  In past years ATA received major support for our meeting from pharma, which helped us not only to hold our meeting but also supported our annual budget significantly.  Much has changed in the last 10 years, such that direct dollars from pharma are now only a small part of the meeting support.  For example, the largest contributor to our meeting 10 years ago, which represented a major fraction of our support, did not contribute to this meeting with direct support dollars at all.  Instead of direct support contributions, you will now see a much larger number of booths and vendor representatives in our exhibit hall which pay for space to show their products to our attendees.  The number of exhibit booths purchased is also a new record this year and has to a large degree replaced the older method of direct contributions from pharma.  Of course the fees we pay and charge for attendance have increased as well.  There is more work to be done here, but without the growing exhibit hall our meeting could not be what it is.  I encourage you to stop by the exhibit hall to show these businesses that it is worth their while to be here.

Our new journal, VideoEndocrinology (VE) is off and running.  Under the guidance of Editor Jerry Doherty, the first issue was published in the first quarter of this year and two additional quarterly issues have followed.  VE is included as part of a journal package with Thyroid, which continues its success under Peter Kopp’s direction, and Clinical Thyroidology (CT) which is expertly edited by Jerry Hershman.  This package has subscribers in 39 countries and is provided free online in 108 developing nations in collaboration with a World Health Organization (WHO) program.  THYROID’s impact factor has increased 9% in the last year and full-text downloads of articles from the journal average 20,000 per month, which is up 12% from 2013.  VE after three issues is averaging over 900 downloads per month and Jerry and the editorial board are working aggressively to further increase the submissions and to include all disciplines of endocrinology.  The transition of CT under Jerry Hershman’s leadership within this package has also been successful to date, and it already enjoys a wide readership.  Being on-line only, there have been more than 19,000 downloads of CT averaging more than 2,100 per month.

I wish to highlight the efforts of Vicki Cohn and her colleagues at Mary Ann Liebert in the success of this exciting project and their strong support of ATA.  Finally, the promise of increased royalty income to ATA from our publications is being seen already. The funds we have received in this first year have been above projection and all indications are that the trend will continue.

In a major sense, for ATA this has been the year of the guideline.  Published or nearing publication this year include Hypothyroidism, chaired by Jacquie Jonklaas and Tony Bianco, the Basic Science Guidelines Handbook entitled “ATA Guide to Investigating Thyroid Hormone Economy and Action in Rodent and Cell Models” chaired by Tony Bianco, an update of the Medullary Thyroid Cancer Guidelines, chaired by Sam Wells, and a new guideline on Pediatric Thyroid Cancer chaired by Gary Francis.  Finally, the update of our most visible guideline, the Thyroid Nodules and Thyroid Cancer guidelines, is nearing completion after receiving over 10,000 words of member commentary in this last month.  The task force is busy reviewing those comments and revising the document based upon them. I wish to congratulate Bryan Haugen and the members of his task force on this effort, which has truly been a heroic one to date.  We have recognized that the volume of information contained within this document has made it a bit overwhelming to produce and read, so that in future versions the two topics, nodules and cancer, will be split into two separate guidelines.

ATA continues to be served tremendously well by our headquarters’ office staff, which of course is led by our outstanding CEO, Bobbi Smith.  Bobbi, with her 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.  As we announced a few months ago, we are pleased to have renewed Bobbi’s contract with us for another 5 years.  Thank you Bobbi for all that you do for us.

Bobbi leads a strong and effective group which is our office, including Adonia Calhoun Coates, director of meetings, Sharleene Cano, membership and publications, and Kelly Hoff, development and information technology, 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 around 200 volunteers.  We anticipate that the office staff will expand over the next year with the addition of an individual whose skills include fund raising.

ATA is fortunate to have an active and engaged Board of Directors. I want to thank all members who have been on our frequent calls and email working towards each of these goals. I especially want to thank the members who are completing their terms at this meeting, Vic Bernet, Jerry Doherty and Sissy Jhiang.

I wish to thank my long-time colleague and friend, Hossein Gharib for his service and dedication as President of ATA over the last year.  Hossein has been a strong and visible ambassador for our organization at venues all around the world, perhaps more often than anyone who has come before.

I want to thank Bryan Haugen for his dedicated service and leadership as he completes his term as past president and as a member of the Board of Directors.  Bryan has led several initiatives of major importance to us, including most visibly the update of the thyroid nodules and cancer guidelines and the Ridgway fund mentioned previously.  Thank you Bryan for the great work, we will try to call on you a bit less often.

I feel fortunate that my long-time colleague and friend, Bob Smallridge will be stepping into his role as president very soon and is already active in many items.  I am looking forward to his leadership over the upcoming year.

Finally, I thank the ATA for the opportunity to serve our organization as Secretary and look forward to an exciting future.