A Message from the New AST President

As I step into my role as the incoming President of the AST, I am grateful for the past leadership, led by the guidance of Past President, Dr. Deepali Kumar. I would also like to congratulate the newly elected President-elect, Jon Kobashigawa, Secretary, Nicole Turgeon, and our new Councilors-at-Large: John Friedewald, Matthew Cooper, and Shelley Hall. Furthermore, I would like to thank the outgoing Board members: John Gill, Sean Pinney, Linda Ohler, and Beau Kelly for their invaluable contributions. As we embark on a new chapter, I am thrilled to reflect on our recent accomplishments and share my vision for the year.

Over the last year, the AST hosted over 25 webinars and Journal Clubs, covering various transplant topics. These virtual events have fostered a sense of collaboration, allowing transplant professionals worldwide to come together and exchange invaluable insights.

In addition to our virtual initiatives, we successfully transitioned back to hosting in-person meetings. We were thrilled to host the Cutting Edge of Transplantation (CEoT), American Transplant Congress (ATC), Fellows Symposium, and Future of Transplantation meetings in person again.

In the past year, we proudly awarded nearly $1.1 million in research grants. Furthermore, through our public policy efforts, we continued to advocate for the Living Donor Protection Act and addressed other key transplant-related issues.

Nearly ten years ago, I made this statement on an application for a Board position: "I see my involvement in the AST as a lifetime effort, with further involvement at even higher levels than a Councilor position." Becoming a Councilor, Treasurer, and now the AST President is truly a culmination of these goals and an absolute privilege. More than ever, the AST is the most important Society and home for all organ transplantation disciplines. The direction the Society is heading is simply nothing short of amazing, flourishing during difficult times as we come through the COVID-19 pandemic. I am excited to lead the Society moving forward, promoting patient/donor advocacy, education, and research missions, and continuing the charge to be more inclusive, diverse, and equitable. I have always believed that the AST is the "mother ship" and connector for all transplantation disciplines. No other society is all-encompassing and comprehensive like the AST, which emphasizes all transplant fields via research, education, advocacy, and donation missions. This is what makes the AST unique and, as such, I will emphasize efforts that cross multiple disciplines to bring people together for uniformity and consensus.

During Dr. Kumar's productive year as the AST President, the Board hired an outside firm to help synthesize and formulate the Society's strategic plan, with all board members providing input. The Strategic Plan is now posted on the website, but it is our job to carry out the strategic plan at the Board and COP level to focus our efforts on solid organ transplantation in the most productive, effective places. Thus, it made sense to me to outline my goals for my year as the AST President under the strategic goal headings as follows:

Continuous Innovation

  • Support the AST's efforts to establish an NIH Institute focused solely on transplantation to enhance the ability to conduct basic, translational, clinical studies across multiple disciplines in our field.
  • Explore the development of a data warehouse to allow members the ability to create, link, and analyze large amounts of data expeditiously to solve key clinical and research questions important to our patients' outcomes.
  • Continue to expand the AST research funds to allow all levels of trainees and faculty access to apply for research funding. This will be done through novel connections to new industry partners, philanthropic organizations, and members.
  • Support the success of our flagship journal American Journal of Transplantation, through continued partnerships and interactive committees.

Engaging Members

  • Grow the number of actively engaged members of our Society through COPs, committees, subcommittees, and our educational programs.
  • Work toward the AST becoming a leading society emphasizing diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Continue to build on the strong connections between the AST and ASTS in improving the quality of the ATC meeting and other joint efforts.

Serving our Patients and the Broader Society

  • Seek broad transplant recipient input on our survey to explore unmet needs in transplant immunosuppression. This will create data to take directly to the FDA and amplify the patient voice on this important topic.
  • Advocate for our patients' and donors' interests and needs by engaging members of Congress on Capitol Hill, where we will hopefully have our first in-person visits since before the pandemic. Being a son of a former U.S. Ambassador growing up outside of D.C., I have a strong interest in U.S. healthcare policy and advancing organ transplantation.
  • Expand the international presence of AST through efforts to connect with other international societies involved in transplantation – combined meetings, collaborative advocacy efforts, etc.
  • Provide input on the new directions of the U.S. Transplant system and advocate for the principles of optimal use of organ donors, reducing time and death on the waitlist, and improving recipient outcomes, with an emphasis on long-term survival and quality of life.

Developing the Workforce

  • Grow opportunities for early-stage trainees to become exposed to careers in transplantation.
  • Support efforts to formalize specific fellowship programs in the different fields of organ transplantation.
  • Enhance transplant fellow opportunities for involvement in AST at all levels to retain their interest and activity in transitioning toward faculty positions.
  • Promote mentorship programs across the entire Society to help career progression and opportunities for early-stage trainees and investigators.

A Future-enabled AST

  • Guide AST through the transition to our new Executive Director and work with their vision for enhancing AST's impact on organ transplantation and financial stability.
  • Implement and monitor the progress of the AST Strategic Plan under the direction of the AST Board and implemented by the new Executive Director and AST staff.
  • Promote technological advances to AST's web platform and other technological services.

As I step into my role as the incoming President of the AST, I am filled with optimism for the future. I look forward to working and collaborating with our membership for another successful year at the AST.

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