President’s Message: ASRA Is a Strong Organization That Continues to Flourish

Apr 30, 2019, 12:10 PM by Eugene Viscusi, MD

Once upon a time, a ship set sail from the Old World carrying as many people as she would hold and as much gold as she could contain. Initially the seas were smooth and the sailing easy, but during the journey, the seas became rough. If the ship was going to make it to the New World, it had to reduce its weight. The captain had to make a decision whether to throw the people or the gold overboard.

For ASRA, the seas are quite calm, but we do have an expanding membership, larger meetings, and growing resources. We aren’t going to be throwing our gold overboard, but this is the time for ASRA to invest in our longer-term future by investing in our members.

We have never been stronger, more stable, or larger in our history, and I am privileged to take the reins at this golden time.

I am honored, thrilled, and overwhelmingly humbled to be your new president, which I feel is the highlight of my career. Be assured that I am here to support you, the members of ASRA, and to advance the Society. I am thankful for those who have led the Society to its current state of success and stability, and I am particularly grateful to all of you who volunteer your time and energy to advance the Society. I will always remember that we are a volunteer organization.

We have never been stronger, more stable, or larger in our history, and I am privileged to take the reins at this golden time. Our meetings are more successful than ever, membership has grown markedly, and, as a self-managed organization, we have the financial stability to plan for the future.

High on my list of priorities is to make ASRA a more diverse organization. Diversity can take many forms, one of which is broader representation from many institutions and sectors. Over the course of the next 2 years, we will visibly move to ensure more women are represented on our annual meeting panels. We’ve formed a special interest group (SIG) to support the advancement of women in regional anesthesia and acute and chronic pain management to provide peer support and mentorship. This coming year will be designated to acknowledge the contributions of women to the Society and our specialties. We encourage anyone to approach the leadership with their ideas without feeling marginalized.

The field of anesthesiology and pain medicine is evolving. I frequently tell my residents that I started my career in the operating room (OR), and if I had chosen, I could have spent my entire career there. But the stability and advancement of the specialty will likely take the next generations far from the OR into perioperative medicine and into hospital leadership positions. We are a leading force of ERAS (enhanced recovery after surgery) because outcomes are intimately linked to anesthetic choice and pain management. As pain physicians and diagnosticians, we can lead the field in discouraging the notion that our interests are just procedures.

Physician burnout and suicide are increasing worrisome indicators that recent changes in medicine are leading to physicians’ feeling a lack of power and autonomy. To raise awareness and offer solutions and support, physician wellness will be a constant theme at our meetings. In the past 10 years, physician-owned practices have dropped from about 80% to now less than 30%. The usual reasons cited are increasing regulatory and administrative burdens, decreasing reimbursements, and challenges in practice management. ASRA will continue to invest in a portfolio of offerings for both pain physicians and hospital-based physicians to help them better understand how to manage their practices, should they choose to pursue private practice, and, if employed under an institution, to understand how best to manage their practices to effectively negotiate payment and maintain autonomy.

We are leaders in ultrasound application in regional anesthesia, acute and chronic pain, and, now, point-of-care ultrasonography. Expect to see expanded offerings for our members in these emerging and needed skills.

Our annual meetings remain the lifeblood of the Society, and so we look carefully at what engages attendees. Traditional lecture formats are giving way to shorter presentations, more interactive sessions, and hands-on experiences. We repeatedly hear that our meetings give an ASRA “family feel” in a friendly environment that allows for casual interaction with faculty and other participants. Regardless of how much our meetings grow, they will never lose that intimate, interpersonal connection.

One of the key ways ASRA can support its members is through quality research that provides evidence of the value of what we can do for our patients and produces guidelines for practice. The Society will continue to expand these areas in the coming years.

Lastly, one of the most common questions I am asked is how I became involved in ASRA and advanced in the Society. With a bit of humor, I quote Woody Allen, who once said, “80% of life is showing up!” The key is to be present and persistent. For me, it took a number of years before I found opportunities for advancement. Consider joining a SIG or two, where you can exchange ideas with like-minded members and volunteer when possible. Volunteer for an ASRA committee once you are getting known in the Society. Apply to associate faculty when you feel ready. Not everyone can or will participate in the same manner, but we have many ways to grow professionally and help the specialty and the Society advance. Along the way, you will make lifelong friends and enjoy a national or global conviviality with peers striving for the same goals. For me, this has been the greatest benefit and joy of my long ASRA relationship. Ultimately, we are here to support each other, improve the care of our patients, mentor our young, and advance our chosen specialty for those who follow behind us.

As I begin this journey for the next 2 years, I ask for your support, your advice, your hopes and dreams for ASRA, your prayers, and, most of all, your patience. I am here to serve you and the Society.

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