Respiratory Structure and Function

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Respiratory Structure & Function (RSF)


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Janette K. Burgess, BSc, PhD, ATSF
Assembly Chair
Janette K. Burgess, BSc, PhD, ATSF



The RSF Assembly is the home for basic, translational and clinical scientists  and clinicians who share an interest in advancing scientific discovery and patient care. The scope of the assembly is one of the broadest scientifically. It encompasses physiologic, morphologic, biochemical, cellular, and molecular properties of the respiratory system in health and disease and explores the mechanisms through which normal structure and function is altered. Our members have diverse interests including but not limited to the lung and skeletal muscle physiology; respiratory and cellular mechanics; cell:cell and cell: extracellular matrix interactions; control of ventilation; innervation of the respiratory system; lung-heart interactions; bronchial circulation; acute lung injury; imaging, simulation, and modeling; pulmonary gas exchange; lung function testing at rest and during exercise and aerosol deposition.

In 2022, our roster included 2,774 individuals, making us the 5th largest assembly. Our membership is as diverse as our interests. Thirty-six percent of us come from outside of the United States. Almost one-third of us are women. Thirty-seven percent of us are 40 years old or younger. Our Early Career Professional Working Group is very active and provides a way for junior members to contribute ideas, “learn the ropes” and to get involved. The group consists of graduate students, post-doctoral and clinical fellows, and junior faculty. We are actively involved with the ATS apprenticeship program for senior fellows and early career faculty to get a “behind the scenes” look at the operations of the RSF Assembly. This provides an opportunity for developing skills for evaluation of scientific abstracts and major proposals (i.e., Program Committee) and development of committee projects (i.e., Planning Committee). We also have a strong mentorship program that allows junior members to be paired with senior faculty who share their interests and can help them to navigate the ATS conference and career challenges.

It is important to emphasize that the assembly is active all year long and not only at the annual membership meeting. The officers who comprise the Executive Committee convene on a monthly call to discuss assembly business. The main focus of the call is to receive reports from the various committees that comprise the backbone of our assembly structure. This includes the Program Committee, the Planning Committee, the Nominating Committee (identifies candidates for the assembly’s leadership positions), the Web Committee, the Early Career Professional Working Group, and the Science Core Committee. Other roles of the Executive Committee are to establish working groups to develop state-of-the-art ATS official documents, to design symposia, to plan journal clubs and podcasts, to foster career development of junior members, to be part of the Science and Innovation Center Planning group for ATS and, to represent the needs, goals, and interests of the entire RSF membership. Suggestions for content to be included in any of these activities are welcome form all members.

As the Chair of the RSF Assembly, I am passionate about the promotion of awareness and understanding of lung diseases and about mentoring early career researchers as they develop their individual niches in the field and beyond.  My major focus will be working with the assembly to ensure increased visibility of RSF specific themes and strengths within ATS and seeking opportunities to increase international linkages with sister Assemblies/Societies. My hope is that you will all be active participants in our assembly. The assembly exists to help you to achieve your career goals. Within RSF, you have an inviting scientific space to call your home -- one in which you can present your work, share your ideas, and learn from others. Whether you are a basic/translational scientist, a clinical investigator, or a clinician, you can all thrive within our assembly. RSF truly provides a bridge from the bench to the bedside. If you are just starting out in your career, I strongly encourage you to get involved, ask questions, investigate our apprenticeship and mentorship programs, and attend the business meeting at the International Conference. It is my goal to represent all RSF Assembly members, both old and new. I encourage your questions, ideas, comments, and participation. Your innovative involvement will drive the field of respiratory medicine forward and together we can help to advance and promote lung health.