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ATS in a Nutshell

April 2007

Organizational Structure

The strength of any organization lies in its membership, especially an organization such as the ATS, which is largely volunteer-based. On an individual level, belonging and contributing to a strong and vibrant ATS can greatly enhance your professional and personal life. However, the size and complicated structure of the ATS may seem downright intimidating to new or potential ATS members. So why get involved?

  • Community-building. The ATS offers a unique and unparalleled opportunity to meet other people in your field, people who share your research or clinical passions.
  • Knowledge building. The ATS International Conference remains the premier event to see the best of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine and science. The ATS is actively involved in public health care policy-making on an international as well as national level.
  • Career-building. A critical component of obtaining tenure requires evidence of national reputation. The ATS is an excellent way to obtain national and even international exposure. Over the last 10 years, the ATS has truly become an international organization. Nearly half of the attendees at the annual International Conference are from outside the US and about 25 percent of the ATS membership is based outside of the US.

The Assemblies

The assemblies are really the heart of ATS and perhaps its most visible “face” to the young or new member. Every assembly chair sits on the ATS Board of Directors. More than simple interest groups, the assemblies are responsible for driving the programming and content of the annual International Conference. Ever wonder how mini-symposia and symposia are developed? Ever wonder why certain topics seem to be so popular while others seem relatively neglected? The assemblies also fulfill a critical mission of the ATS by drafting ATS statements and guidelines. ATS projects are also submitted through the assemblies, whose job is to review and rank the proposals before presenting them to the Program Review Subcommittee and Program/Budget Committee (see below).

There are 12 assemblies made up of members with common clinical and research interests. In addition, there are three sections, one devoted to Pulmonary Rehabilitation, another to Genetics and Genomics and another to Inhalation and Terrorism Disasters.  A simple click under the “About ATS” column on the ATS website will take you to a list of the assemblies. Under each assembly, there are additional links describing interests and mission statements.

The list of assembly members provides a quick snapshot of the makeup of the ATS.  Somewhat surprisingly for a “scientific” organization, the two largest assemblies are Critical Care with 2739 primary members, 6634 primary and secondary members, and Clinical Problems with 3154 primary members, 5407 primary and secondary members. Even more telling, perhaps, is that the next largest group (2130) are members with NO Assembly affiliation Smaller assemblies, like the Assemblies on Behavioral Science, with 85 primary members and 385 primary and secondary members, are also quite active in producing clinical guidelines, workshops and producing comprehensive programs for the ATS International Conference.

Every ATS member can belong to one “primary” and up to two “secondary” assemblies. Naturally, you choose your primary and secondary assemblies according to your clinical and research interests. This is important. This means that if you have trouble getting heard or acknowledged at one assembly, you might try becoming more involved with another.

At a minimum, each assembly is composed of executive, nominating, planning and program committees. Other than the officers who are elected by assembly members, most committee members are VOLUNTEERS and recruited through direct solicitation. You have a slim chance of being asked to serve if people don’t know who you are!!! Look for the officers and committees link. Here you will find all the current officers and members serving on the programming and planning committees as well as all assembly members serving on other ATS committees.

Not only are all the officers and committee members listed, but also you can directly contact these people by simply clicking on their name. Also, Monica Simeonova, Associate Director of Assembly Programs ( is a key staff person involved in helping to set up committee assignments. It never hurts to ask and people are always looking for passionate, enthusiastic volunteers. You may not get picked the first time around, as committee assignments are completed relatively early in the year. But get on the radar screen. Trust me, this can work. It’s how I and many others first got started.

The most direct way to get involved is to attend the annual assembly meeting at the International Conference. Nearly all of the assemblies meet on MONDAY from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.

The Assemblies on Behavioral Sciences and Pediatrics meet on Sunday 5/20/2007.

DON’T BE SHY!! Go up and introduce yourself.

The Council of Chapter Representatives

The CCR is an excellent way of becoming involved with the ATS using your local thoracic society as a stepping-stone. The ATS chapters are organized by state, city or geographical areas and provide an outstanding venue for getting involved at the local or statewide level. 

Every chapter holds at least annual scientific and business meeting. Each chapter also sends a representative to the CCR, which acts as a mechanism to address chapter specific issues including education, practice, research and public policy within the ATS. Since the chapters are much smaller and more local in scale, it might be less intimidating to attend your chapter’s business meeting (usually held in conjunction with the ATS annual meeting) and/or clinical/scientific conference.

The Committees

The ATS also has several standing committees, most of which are mandated by the ATS by-laws. The President-Elect appoints many of the committees, with service starting in May when he or she takes office.

Some important ones:

  1. The Executive Committee
          Elected officers and the Executive Director.
  2. Education
          Oversees the educational activities (except for the International Conference) sponsored by ATS.
  3. International Conference
          Composed of the chairs and chair-elects of the assembly program committees, two representatives of the Council of Chapter Representatives and three presidential appointees representing important constituencies within the organization. Responsible for actually constructing the program of the annual International Conference.
  4. Membership
          This committee reviews membership, its composition, benefits and strives to enhance retention as well as recruit new members.
  5. Program and Budget
          As its name implies, this committee oversees the entire annual ATS budgeting process from initial draft to its final submission to the ATS Board of Directors. This includes the Program Review Subcommittee , which reviews ATS projects that are submitted through the various assemblies. Former ATS President Sharon Rounds, M.D., wrote a great review in the December 2004 issue of the ATS News.
  6. Publications Policy
    The Staff        

These are the people who really make it happen and I absolutely recommend going out of your way to know them and to thank them! Leaders come and go; committee members turn over. It is the staff of the ATS who provide continuity and support for ATS programs.

Public Advisory Roundtable

Founded by Past-President Bill Martin, M.D., (2000-2001), the Public Advisory Roundtable (PAR) is a critical and unique collaboration between several national advocacy organizations representing patients afflicted with respiratory diseases and the ATS. The PAR oversees a number of Action Teams involved in everything from the International Conference to research. Importantly, these organizations partner with the ATS in sponsoring several Research Awards. The importance of the PAR is represented by the fact that its chair sits on the ATS Board of Directors. The PAR Executive Committee is composed of the two most immediate past chairs and the current Chair and Vice-Chair and reports directly to the ATS Executive Committee.