Reflecting on the Past Year

As I write this last blog post, I find myself reflecting on my year as AST President. Although the last few months have been exceptionally challenging, the opportunity to serve as President has been extremely rewarding, and definitely a highlight of my career.

I am so grateful to all of you who volunteered your time to the Society over the last year, especially during the tumultuous past few months. Even in less chaotic times, it takes a village for us to accomplish all that we do at the AST and to support its programs. The greatest strength of our society is you – our members – who amaze me with your creativity, tremendous insights, and unwavering dedication to our field. COVID-19 has created a whole new list of tasks for many of us, and I am so appreciative of the many who have helped us maintain our currency in the field, including our infectious disease colleagues who have helped to keep our resources up-to-date and our COTS leadership who have shepherded the impressive discussion board on the Outstanding Questions website.

To say a lot has changed in the past year is an understatement, but as I think about my year as President, I remember that it is important to celebrate the good things, especially during such challenging times.

In light on focusing on the positive, here are a few AST highlights that we should all celebrate.

Public Policy and Advocacy

Last July, I was invited to see President Trump speak about advancing kidney health. The commitment to kidney help with a focus on transplantation and organ donation expressed then has persisted.

In December 2019, the Comprehensive Immunosuppressive Drug Coverage for Kidney Transplant Patients Act (aka the Immuno Bill) was introduced in the House of Representatives. This was followed by a Senate introduction in early 2020. We should all be proud of our community’s response to the introduction of this bill. Over 2,000 messages were sent to legislators about this bill through our grassroots software. We are so grateful for your support. Thanks to vocal constituents like you, this bill finally stands a good chance of passing. The demonstration of its cost-effectiveness may finally bring it over the finish line in the near future. In the meantime, showing your ongoing support can only help so if you would still like to participate, please contact your Members of Congress here.

COVID-19 has been at the forefront of public policy in the US recently and AST has been consistent in our support for those impacted by the pandemic. With your support we have expanded our reach by contacting your legislators about the need for increased PPE, medical supplies, and medication access. These are critical issues now and I am so proud of AST’s commitment to supporting our front line workers and patients.

Our advocacy efforts are not the work of a few but rather represent the entire community coming together, so on behalf of the entire AST, thank you!

Communities of Practice (COPs)

I cannot say enough about our COPs and the incredible work that they do. It is wonderful to see all the great projects and initiatives that come out of each group. I especially enjoyed all of my conversations with COP leadership throughout the year. Getting to know you all and learn more about the incredible work you continue to do has been a highlight for me this year. Your efforts have made a real difference for the transplant community and I look forward to hearing about the successful implementation of your plans for the future.

Last year, we saw the biggest Donation Derby ever – I am so proud of the fundraising efforts of our COPs and the engagement from members. These efforts allowed our COPs to do even more with their big ideas this year.

I know that you are disappointed about missing your in-person COP meetings at ATC this year, but I encourage you to tune in to the virtual meetings. It is important to stay connected, even if it is not in-person. Although our exploration of the virtual space was born out of necessity, we are now learning to capitalize on the experience using virtual platforms to help our COPs communicate even more effectively in the coming year. 

AST Meetings

We were fortunate to hold the Fellows Symposium, International Transplantation Science (ITS), and Cutting Edge of Transplantation (CEoT) meetings over the last year.

Our Fellows Symposium provided an excellent opportunity for young professionals to learn and network with senior faculty. While the 2020 meeting attendees will not have the opportunity to fully connect with others, we are working hard to ensure that an exciting virtual program is available for our fellows. Registration for Fellows 2020 will open this summer.

The first-ever International Transplantation Science (ITS) meeting was held in Clearwater Beach, FL last November. This joint meeting with ESOT and TTS was a highly engaging and innovative meeting for our transplant science colleagues. The 2020 meeting, which would have been in Europe, has been canceled but plans are already underway for the 2021 meeting which will be hosted by TTS.

Lastly, we were able to hold the 2020 Cutting Edge of Transplantation (CEoT) meeting right before the threat of COVID-19 prohibited meetings and travel. It was fortunate that we could hold this meeting with record attendance and memorable discussions, and it was wonderful to see all of you.

While I wish I could see all of you at ATC this year, I encourage you to take advantage of the education and credit offerings at the virtual ATC. Attendees can earn 149.5 CME, ACPE, ANCC, CEPTC Credit/Contact Hours, and will have OnDemand access for a year. The meeting starts on May 30, so if you are interested, register today.

Thank you for everything you have done this year. It has been a privilege to work with all of you – including our extremely dedicated Board of Directors, COPs, and Committee leaders.

Don’t forget to join us for the virtual AST Town Hall on June 1 at 4:30 pm ET. We look forward to sharing more information about our society and the accomplishments of you our members, as well as our election results. 

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