HomeVoteSecretary-Treasurer ▶ Gregory P. Downey, MD, ATSF
Gregory P. Downey, MD, ATSF

I am currently a professor of medicine, pediatrics, and biomedical research at National Jewish Health where I also serve as executive vice president of Academic Affairs, and provost. I am also professor of medicine and immunology and microbiology and associate dean of the School of Medicine, at the University of Colorado in Denver. I received my BSc and MD from the University of Manitoba and then completed my residency in Internal Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Beth Israel, and Brigham and Women’s Hospitals. I received my clinical training in pulmonary and critical care medicine at the University of Colorado and then undertook post-doctoral research training in immunology in the laboratory of Dr. Peter Henson at National Jewish Health. I returned to Canada to the University of Toronto as assistant professor and rose through the ranks to professor, director of the Division of Respirology, and vice-chair of the department of medicine, and I was awarded a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Respiration Sciences.

In 2007, I was recruited to Denver to National Jewish Health and the University of Colorado where I maintain an active clinical practice in general pulmonary medicine and interstitial lung diseases and direct the Rare Lung Disease Program at National Jewish Health. I lead a basic and translational science research laboratory focused on mechanisms of lung injury, repair, and fibrosis. My research program has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and the U.S. Department of Defense for over 25 years. My contributions to research were recognized by an ATS Award for Scientific Accomplishments in 2010. I have been strongly committed to education at all levels throughout my career.

I have been a member of the ATS since 1988 and I have served on the AII Executive Committee and Board of Directors, as chair of the Assembly on Allergy, Immunology and Inflammation. These positions have given me experience and insight into how the ATS functions as an organization. I currently serve on the Basic Science Core Committee and the MITT Committee, which provided me with the opportunity to foster two of the most important missions of ATS, enhancing the research excellence of our society, and engaging and empowering early career faculty to become the future leaders of ATS. My current position as deputy editor of the American Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology has provided valuable insight into the importance of our journals for the society’s members as leaders in respiratory research. I am interested and committed to joining the ATS leadership team because I share the ATS vision to improve respiratory health globally. My qualifications summarized above indicate that I have the experience, vision, and enthusiasm to help the society remain a premier organization that is vibrant and forward thinking.

My vision for the ATS it to enhance and solidify its position as the leading organization dedicated to respiratory health globally with the goal to diminish the burgeoning global health care burden imposed by respiratory disease. I am an active member of the ERS and will work to enhance the relationship between the two organizations. The ATS should work collaboratively with thoracic organizations around the world, including the ERS, JRS, ALATS, Pan-African Thoracic Society and others to advance our joint goals while striving to lead by excellence in all aspects of our mission. If elected, I will bring my experience as a researcher, educator, clinician and administrator to represent our members and lead the ATS to accomplish the goal of improved respiratory health through fostering outstanding research, education, innovative clinical care, and advocacy.

1. What qualifies you to be an ATS officer and what personal leadership qualities would you bring to this role?

My experience in a variety of leadership and administrative roles throughout my academic career, my understanding and appreciation of the history of the ATS and its assemblies, coupled with a deep loyalty for the Society have prepared me to take on this important role. I will also bring strong national and international relationships that I developed as a physician scientist and mentor and my experience as a deputy editor of the Red Journal. My long track record of working with current and former members of the ATS Executive Committee and ATS staff position me to function effectively within the structure of the Society to ensure its future success. My leadership style is open and inclusive, and I will lead by example with integrity, energy and enthusiasm.

2. The ATS Executive Committee works collaboratively to direct the ATS; can you describe how you have worked collaboratively to accomplish leadership?

As research director of a complex academic medical center with essential ties to various institutions such as the University of Colorado, local health networks, and national academic organizations, I have had to collaborate to create an environment where individuals feel comfortable expressing their opinions, no matter how diverse, in order to develop a group consensus and accomplish common goals. In my experience, ‘top down’ approaches to complex and contentious problems are rarely successful without buy-in from the group. In leading these efforts, I have ensured that every stakeholder is given an opportunity to express his/her opinion and view point in an open and respectful environment and thus are empowered to contribute to the unified mission of the organizations.

3. What would you identify as strengths of the ATS?

The main strengths of the ATS include: its reputation and position as the premier respiratory organization of the world with a focus on research excellence; the excellence and international impact of its journals; the robust commitment of the members of the current Executive Committee and staff of the ATS to the Society that has enabled a highly supportive environment; the implementation of an astute plan of financial stability that is able to provide members with valuable services during times of economic volatility while developing research support for early career members; its successful integration of patients, families, and community advocacy groups and partner organizations through the Public Advisory Roundtable.

4. What would you identify as weaknesses of the ATS?

The current challenges of the ATS include: the financial vulnerability due to its relatively narrow revenue stream highly dependent on the success of the International Conference; the increasing competition by other journals and international meetings. ATS is a home to a broad range of professional communities, and with increasing size there is the risk of fragmentation of the pulmonary, critical care, and sleep communities. Also, there is a need to continue to increase our diversity at multiple levels, giving a stronger voice to PhD scientists, better integrating allied health professionals, and better recognizing the contributions made to our field by women and members with diverse backgrounds.

5. What do you see as present and future opportunities for the ATS?

The ATS should capitalize on its strong reputation and expand its sphere of influence to state, federal (NIH, DoD, FDA, EPA), and international organizations such as the WHO, Global Alliance against Respiratory Disease, and the United Nations. By expanding its commitment to clinical excellence and leadership, we can increasingly attract clinicians to become members. By actively focusing on and supporting trainees and early career faculty, we can groom the next generation of leaders who will keep the Society vibrant. By incorporating PhD scientists, we will enhance our expertise and stature in discovery science and innovative technologies that will be critical to maintain our international reputation as being the home of outstanding respiratory science. The Society should be a leader in setting the standards for academic conferences and publications, as well as maintain the highest standards regarding conflict of interest. We need to continue to actively engage industry in partnerships that advance our mission, in a transparent and objective (influence-free) way. We also need to modernize our technology and approach to education at the international conference using the latest technologies.

6. What are some of the threats you see to the ATS now and in the future?

There are several potential threats to the ATS including its limited diversity of revenue stream, the challenge posed by other competing respiratory societies and journals, aging educational tools and technology that may not effectively engage the younger generation that we are trying to attract. Further fragmentation into separate groups interested in pulmonary disease, critical care, and sleep medicine and basic science and clinical medicine diminishes our ability to speak with a strong and united voice to federal and international agencies.

7. What role should ATS play as an international organization?

The ATS should continue to be the premier international organization focused on respiratory health and diseases in research, education and clinical excellence. The ATS should set the standards for academic conferences and publications, as well as maintain the highest conflict of interest standards. The ATS needs to reach out and actively encourage participation of international members at all levels in the International Conference including symposia and planning committees. Having served as the chair of the AII International committee for many years, I have witnessed the benefits of including international members in all aspects of the ATS including as speakers in symposia and in leadership positions.

8. What should the ATS do for its membership and how would you advocate for the membership?

The ATS should expand its research grant program to provide critical support for early career investigators who represent our future. The ATS should continue to advocate strongly at the federal level to highlight the health care burden imposed by respiratory disease and to increase funding for respiratory research. The ATS should continue to provide educational opportunities for its members including providing the highest quality scientific and clinical publications. Personally, I will plan to advocate for membership needs on multiple levels. First, I will do this at the ATS Executive and Assembly levels. I will remain firm on the principle that all activities of the society should benefit its members first and foremost. Any new activities or proposals should directly address the needs of its membership and foster and celebrate its diversity. The ATS needs to be fiscally responsible and lean as a steward for our members. I would also advocate for membership at local and regional meetings, engaging our Chapters and partner with international respiratory organizations such as the ERS, JRS, Asian Pacific Society of Respirology, Latin American Thoracic Society, and Pan-African Thoracic Society.

9. Can you give an example of a leadership accomplishment of which you are particularly proud?

As executive vice president of academic affairs and provost at National Jewish Health, I led the efforts to transform our Faculty Appointments and Promotion policy to help provide early career faculty with institutional support to achieve independence and success in their academic careers and to appropriately reward outstanding clinicians for their contribution to the academic mission. I am also especially proud of my trainees who have gone on to their own highly successful academic careers and have made important contributions in basic discovery and translational science throughout the world.

10. How do you envision making time for this new leadership role?

Having participated as an executive committee member of the AII Assembly and as a member of the ATS Board of Directors, I recognize the time commitment that this position requires including national and international travel. I will delegate several administrative and clinical responsibilities to allow additional time for my role as an ATS officer. My term as a board member for other foundations will end this year and this will free up time and effort that I can devote to the ATS. I am at a stage in my career when I have the time and experience to give back to the ATS.

Click here to view Dr. Downey's CV.

Last Reviewed: March 2019