President's Message: We Didn't Just Survive 2020 - We Thrived

Feb 1, 2021, 01:50 AM by Eugene Viscusi, MD, ASRA President, Thomas Jefferson University

Viscusi_EugeneWe survived 2020! I’ve said it before, but I want to again give a pat on the back to my colleagues who have contributed so much during the COVID crisis, not only in the treatment of patients but also for working so hard for ASRA during these stressful times.

I have heard two interesting and contrasting comments about 2020. On one camp, I’ve heard “2020 seemed to last forever.” Others have said, “I can’t believe how quickly the year passed.” In fact, both are correct. Time seemed to stand still when we were evaluating the fate of our spring and fall meetings, trying to remain nimble and craft a meeting that best served our members. Externally, one might think that pivoting to a virtual meeting was less work than a live meeting. The reality is that our outstanding ASRA staff, our meeting chairs, and many others involved in the meeting were literally building the airplane while flying it, often rebuilding the meeting multiple times. It truly was a Herculean task. By any measure, the ASRA Fall 2020 Worldwide meeting was a great success. I marveled not only at the breadth of content but the incredibly personal feel that this virtual meeting created, down to the Saturday evening dance party. I would be remiss if I didn’t also recognize the speakers who were incredibly flexible and timely with such short notice. It is a testament to how dedicated our ASRA family is.

While many societies saw decreased engagement and membership, ours has remained strong, demonstrating the value we continue to bring to our members.

For me, the time has flown. I can’t believe that this is my next-to-last President’s message. I won’t dwell on COVID. Rather, I celebrate what we have accomplished this year. While many societies saw decreased engagement and membership, ours has remained strong, demonstrating the value we continue to bring to our members. I am incredibly proud that our journal Regional Anesthesia & Pain Medicine exceeded an impact factor of 7, essentially tying it in first place among anesthesiology journals in this space. ASRA News has continued to expand the very popular “How I do it” compilations as well as incorporating global authors. A special additional issue on COVID was incredibly popular. We produced the two COVID guidelines – one for regional anesthesia and one for chronic pain. These resources literally “went viral” with approximately 70,000 website views.

For the first time in ASRA history, we partnered with our sister society, the European Society of Regional Anaesthesia and Pain Therapy, to produce the International e-Congress. This was a global event with more than 3,500 participants and 19 hours of content. This signifies a global partnership and an understanding that we are all in this together. I have great hope that our two societies will form even closer bonds and work to produce joint guidelines and projects. We truly are stronger together.

By any measure, our fall virtual meeting broke records. We had more than 1,400 participants and an amazing 46 hours of content covering acute and chronic pain and regional anesthesia. Twitter impressions exceeded 9 million! During 2020, we also conducted 12 webinars with both CME and non-CME content reaching more than 3,500 people. We launched the well-received ASRA Mentor Match Program bringing personal guidance to our members. We have continued to support research in spite of financial challenges.

ASRA has deepened its commitment to trainees both through our collaboration with the Association of Pain Program Directors and with acute and regional anesthesia fellows. ASRA is providing administrative support for a trainee-oriented monthly webinar series alternating between regional/ acute topics and chronic pain topics for fellows and interested individuals.

ASRA’s visibility through social media and other outlets dramatically expanded in 2020. ASRA’s Twitter exceeded 15,000 followers. Our LinkedIn page has exceeded 1,000, and our YouTube channel subscribers increased 60% to more than 500 subscribers. Our website pageviews exceeded 1 million (211 countries) demonstrating our global reach. We continue to see expanding citations from scholarly journals and lay media sources such as U.S. News & World Report.

We have continued to advocate for you and your patients including working closely with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the Food and Drug Administration, the Joint Commission, and the Department of Health and Human Services to provide expert opinion and feedback on critical issues affecting patient care and payment. We continue to produce guidelines and practice advisories to influence better patient care.

I am particularly proud of our initiative to recognize the role and contributions of women in ASRA. We designated 2020 the Year of Women in ASRA to recognize the achievements of women in the Society and the specialties of acute and chronic pain and regional anesthesia. Eight women were identified by their peers for their exemplary careers and contributions to our field receiving Trailblazers Awards. Meanwhile, we quietly have moved to diversity in our meeting faculty virtually eliminating “man-els” (man-only panels).

Throughout 2020, several dedicated working groups have been diligently preparing guidelines that will be published in 2021. While we wait with excitement for the final publication of these products, I can give a preview of one particularly high-impact project. ASRA has partnered with multiple major societies to produce guidelines for the management of Opioid Use Disorder, specifically with the role of anesthesiologists and pain physicians in actively initiating treatment with buprenorphine. This project was inspired by our Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams at our spring 2019 meeting. I have no doubt that working together we can save and impact many lives touched by opioid addiction.

Note that I have refrained from naming individuals in all the above accomplishments. I am sure you can identify them. The list would have made this article far too long, and I would have inevitable miss someone. I would ask you to remember who made these contributions and offer a word of thanks – by call, email, Twitter, or other social media, and, ultimately, when we can meet in person. Without the contributions of our dedicated volunteers, I would not be presenting such a list of achievements.

In closing, I feel so blessed to work with all of you. As a team, we have worked together with dedication and ingenuity to make ASRA stronger, more productive, and more meaningful than ever. You also have given incredible meaning to my “virtual” presidency. It was not the presidency I anticipated. Perhaps most painful was the inability to see you in person and share our personal experiences and, most of all, hugs. I am confident that we will make up for lost time very soon as we return to normal. I hope to see many of you in person at our 46th Annual Regional Anesthesiology and Acute Pain Medicine Meeting in May at Disney World. ASRA and the world may be forever changed, but the ASRA family remains strong and will always be my second family. 

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