American Thoracic Society Conference Wrap-Up

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Six days in sunny San Diego

For over 100 years, members of the American Thoracic Society (ATS) have gathered for meetings once a year—otherwise known as the “annual conference.”

This year’s conference took place just before Memorial Day (May 18–23, to be exact) in beautiful San Diego. In its 114th year, ATS boasts the longest-running, large-scale conference of its kind in the world. Ground-breaking research is offered in the areas of pulmonary, critical care, and sleep medicine.

In 2017, the conference welcomed 16,000 professional to the nation’s capital, and all expectations were that they would exceed that number in 2018. While final attendance numbers aren’t yet available, it’s safe to say an astounding number of professionals took advantage of the opportunities offered by what this year’s unofficial host, Jess Mandel, MD, professor of medicine at University of California–San Diego and chair of the ATS International Conference Committee, called the “intellectual crossroads of the field.”

“A lot of the material goes beyond pulmonary, critical care, and sleep medicine,” said Dr. Mandel. “There are opportunities related to infectious disease, allergy and immunology, pediatrics—a whole slew of other disciplines.”

The conference’s inclusiveness is an important part of its widespread popularity, as not only are physicians welcome, but physician’s assistants, nurses, and nurse practitioners are among the highest-attending disciplines.

2018 Programming

The 114th Annual Conference kicked off late in the afternoon of Friday, May 18, with a welcome address by Darrell G. Kirch, MD, president and chief executive officer of the Association of American Medical Colleges. Dr. Kirch, who is in his final year in his current role, having announced he will be stepping down in June 2019, has been outspoken about issues including physician burnout and the ongoing, worsening shortage of doctors across the country.

Sunday afternoon brought another conference highlight: the announcement and recognition of the 2018 Respiratory Health Awards. This awards, and this year’s honorees were as follows:

Amberson Lecture: The Amberson Lecturer is an individual with a career of major lifetime contributions to clinical or basic pulmonary research and/or clinical practice. The Lecture is given in honor of James Burns Amberson, an international authority on chest disease and tuberculosis.

The 2018 Amberson Lecturer was Scott T. Weiss, MD, MS, of Boston, MA, who delivered a talk entitled “Network Methods to Prevent Asthma.”

Trudeau Medal: The Trudeau Medalist is an individual with lifelong major contributions to prevention, diagnosis and treatment of lung disease through leadership in research, education, or clinical care. This award was established in 1926 and is given in honor of Edward Livingston Trudeau, a founder and the first president of the American Lung Association.

Trudeau Medal: The Trudeau Medalist is an individual with lifelong major contributions to prevention, diagnosis and treatment of lung disease through leadership in research, education, or clinical care. This award was established in 1926 and is given in honor of Edward Livingston Trudeau, a founder and the first president of the American Lung Association.

2018 Honoree: Jeffrey A. Whitsett, MD, Cincinnati, OH

Distinguished Achievement Award: The Distinguished Achievement Award is given to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to fighting respiratory disease through research, education, patient care, or advocacy.

2018 Honorees: Qutayba Hamid, MBChB, PhD, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Monica Kraft, MD, Tucson, AZ

World Lung Health Award: The World Lung Health Award recognizes contributions to improving world lung health in the area of translational or implementation research, delivery of healthcare, continuing education or care of patients with lung disease, or related political advocacy with a special emphasis on efforts that have the potential to eliminate gender, racial, ethnic, or economic health disparities worldwide.

2018 Honoree: Eric D. Bateman, MBChB, MD, Cape Town, South Africa

Jo Rae Wright Award for Outstanding Science: Jo Rae Wright Award for Outstanding Science recognizes demonstrated potential for significant achievement and contributions. This award is aimed at the rising generation of individuals who will be tomorrow’s leaders in science.

2018 Honoree: Yohannes Ghebre, PhD, Houston, TX

Public Service Award: The Public Service Award recognizes contributions to public health related to improvement of indoor and outdoor air quality, eradication of tobacco usage, prevention of lung disease, improved management of communicable respiratory diseases, or improvement in the ethical delivery, and access to healthcare in areas related to lung diseases, sleep disorders, or critical care. There is a special emphasis on efforts that have the potential to eliminate gender, racial, ethnic or economic disparities.

2018 Honoree: George D. Thurston, ScD, Tuxedo Park, NY

Other Opportunities

A highlight of each year’s conference is ATS’ unrivaled exhibit hall. From Sunday–Tuesday, the hall was open for five hours a day, with at least 60 minutes of time each day unopposed, leaving attendees free to roam and take in the offerings put forth by almost 2,500 exhibitors.

“16,000 of your best friends are around, sharing opportunities with their peers,” said Dr. Mandel. “You walk into the [exhibit hall]—it’s s almost overwhelming to see what’s going on. It’s a chance to see what’s being brought to market on the cutting edge of therapies, diagnostics… even things as ‘old-fashioned’ as books make it really fun to walk around and see the latest.”

But you don’t even really need a game plan to enjoy. “One of the most fun things to do is walk in there without an agenda,” said Dr. Mandel. “Wander around, and let serendipity be your guide as well in terms of the things you encounter. There are always some surprises.”

Research

The highlight for many professionals is the release of the results from numerous studies that take place at each year’s conference. A summary of some of 2018’s most important findings is available, offering new research in asthma, obesity, and other areas of focus.

For members of ATS, the countdown is already on until next May in Dallas, TX for the 115th Annual Conference. As usual, the bar has been set plenty high, and the International Conference Committee members will spend the next year attempting to clear it.

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Rob Senior
Rob Senior

Rob has 15 years of experience writing and editing for healthcare. He previously worked for ADVANCE from 2002 to 2012.

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