President's Message: Things I Learned During My Time as Your ASRA President
May 1, 2021
To say the last two years have been an interesting ride would be an understatement! When I took the reins of the Society in spring 2019 from Dr. Asokumar Buvanendran, never could I have predicted what was ahead. We were off to a great start together on this journey when the world was turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic. No, this won’t be another story of the challenges. I believe we are ready to look to the future – and a very bright one it is! Rather, I want to share some of the truly wonderful things I will remember from these two years.
- We have the most amazing and best volunteers and members, far too many to list. Rather than batten down the hatches until the coast was clear, all of you pitched in working harder than ever, giving tremendous amounts of your time to pivot ASRA to a virtual society. You kept us relevant to our members and produced a portfolio of new and engaging activities that have transformed our organization. By any measure, we have had more engagement with our members than in any time in our history.
- We have the most dedicated, focused and brilliant board of directors. The ASRA Board has had to make some of the most challenging decisions of any in our history as we navigated through this time. We got through many somber meetings with creative solutions, keeping ASRA fiscally sound yet without cutting services to our members. I will never forget the heartfelt discussions and team effort we experienced. I respect and love all of you!
- ASRA has the best executive director, Angela Stengel, of any society! She has been my right hand and best friend for these two years. In spite of challenges, not once did she lose her wonderful positive demeanor or fail to cheer me on through some depressing times. Angie has kept the home office running like a top in spite of cutbacks and work from home!
- ASRA has the most amazing staff! While accepting cutbacks, they worked tirelessly and harder than ever taking on new tasks and learning new skills to make our society look and function great. Please thank them for their outstanding efforts whenever you see them.
- Our annual meetings have been interesting, to say the least. The 18th Annual Pain Medicine Meeting in fall 2019 demonstrated that we are a diverse society and stronger together. It was the end of “man-els” as women were equally represented, and we even had our first all-female panel! Then, we abruptly pivoted to our first ever virtual meeting. Although nothing replaces the joy of a live meeting, we were together. I may be biased, but I believe this was the best of all virtual meetings. Content was outstanding, and it actually had the feel of a live meeting. We are now planning our first hybrid meeting, putting ASRA at the forefront being one of the the first organizations to have a live and in-person meeting.
- We have the best annual meeting planning committee chairs. Dr. Andrea (Nicol) Chadwick shared my vision to have a diverse faculty, bringing science from bench to clinical practice, and brought the difficult topics of physician depression, burnout, and suicide to a public forum. Drs. Jaime Baratta, Magdalena Anitescu, and Nabil Elkassabany should get awards for being the most flexible and accommodating program chairs ever. Each recreated and reformed their meetings multiple times, as we went back and forth between live, virtual and hybrid formats. Still, the meetings were among our best ever. Kudos to these masters of meeting planning!
- We are truly blessed to have so many dedicated individuals on our numerous committees and SIGs. They are working (volunteering) harder than ever, expanding the quality of programs and the reach of the Society.
- In spite of being in a virtual world this past year, ASRA has formed incredibly stronger ties with ESRA, ASA, and other societies producing lasting bonds, an atmosphere of collaboration, and enduring friendships. Look forward to seeing some current and future products of these collaborations. If anything, we have learned that the world is smaller and that we all have similar concerns.
- ASRA is poised for greatness! Membership is strong. The Society is stronger and more diverse than ever with an expanded portfolio that will continue to grow. The leadership on our board is also stronger and more diverse than ever. One can feel the pent-up excitement to get together in person and resume were we left off. We will have a grand reopening!
- Lastly, I cannot say how much I cherish the relationship I have shared with Drs. Samer Narouze and David Provenzano during this last year. They are both incredible individuals and my dear friends who work tirelessly for ASRA. The future is incredibly bright having them as your future leadership. Samer will be an amazing president bringing ASRA back to “normal.” He is one of the most caring and gracious people I have ever met with a heart so big it should have its own zip code!
It has been an amazing ride – not the one I expected – but I have had a rare privilege of sharing those intensely personal moments that only happen when we face intense challenges and uncertainty together. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve you. This was the highlight of my career. I will never forget this time. I cannot wait to see all of you and share hugs when we can finally meet in person!