HomeVoteSecretary-Treasurer ▶ Jess Mandel, MD, ATSF
Jess Mandel, MD, ATSF


A native of the Chicago area, I received my AB from Brown University in 1986 and earned my MD from Baylor College of Medicine in 1991. I served as Intern, Resident, and Chief Resident in Internal Medicine at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston and completed my Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine fellowship at the combined Harvard program. After joining the faculty of Harvard Medical School, I served as director of the Medicine Residency Program at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and founded and directed the hospital’s Pulmonary Hypertension Program. In 2001, I joined the faculty of the University of Iowa, where I served as co-director of its Pulmonary Hypertension Program and as assistant dean for Student Affairs and Curriculum.

In 2006, I joined the Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine Division at UC San Diego and was appointed associate dean for Undergraduate Medical Education; in that position, I led a highly successful redesign of our medical school curriculum and learning environment. Since 2018 I have served as the Kenneth M. Moser Professor of Medicine, chief of the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine, and as vice-chair for Education in the Department of Medicine. Under my leadership, the division has been able to significantly expand its research portfolio, markedly improve its financial performance, improve our fellowship program, implement 24-hour in-house attending critical care coverage, and recruit outstanding and diverse new faculty members.

I remain clinically active in both inpatient and outpatient aspects of pulmonary and critical care medicine. A physician “frontline provider” in the intensive care unit during the COVID-19 pandemic, I also developed and oversaw system-wide critical care surge planning for UCSD Health. In addition, I developed and led volunteer efforts to assist the Tijuana and Mexicali medical communities in dealing with their surges of COVID-19 patients, including establishment of in-person and telemedicine collaborations with their safety net hospitals, and was able to obtain donations of lifesaving medical equipment for them.

At the same time, I have consistently contributed to the medical literature with publications related to medical education, pulmonary vascular disease, and other aspects of pulmonary and critical care medicine. I have co-authored two books; one of them, Principles of Pulmonary Medicine, is among the most widely used medical school texts on pulmonary medicine worldwide.

In addition to these activities, I have been deeply involved with the American Thoracic Society for the past 25 years. I joined the ATS and attended my first International Conference in 1996, and shortly thereafter began service on the Education Committee (1999-2009). Since then, I have served on and chaired the Program Review Subcommittee (2009-2015), served on the Pulmonary Circulation Assembly Program Committee (2013), served on and served as vice-chair of the Planning and Evaluation Committee (2013-2014, 2019-), served on and chaired the International Conference Committee (2015-2019), and served on the Board of Directors (2013-2015; 2017-2019.) I am currently chairing the Task Force on Designing Future ATS Conferences, which is charged with evaluating and proposing redesigns of the ATS International Conference as well as other conferences of the society.

Over the past decades, ATS has made remarkable progress in many areas. These include negotiating a separation from the American Lung Association, weathering a severe global financial downturn, establishing the ATS Foundation as a key funding source for junior faculty, and transitioning the center of gravity of its membership to a younger, more diverse demographic with strong international representation, all the while remaining the key arena for scientific advances in our field, serving as a key advocacy voice on respiratory health issues, and authoritatively influencing the field via its meetings, journals, statements, and workshops.

However, the society needs to continue to evolve in order to remain successful, particularly in light of the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, this evolution needs to occur in a manner that strengthens, rather than disrupts, its scientific leadership, its successful International Conference, and its leading journals. If chosen to serve in ATS leadership, I hope to focus my efforts on improvements in the areas of the International Conference, non-IC educational offerings, and related to membership.

First, I eagerly await completion of the work of the Task Force on Designing Future ATS Conferences. My personal view is that for at least the next several years, we should plan for a hybrid conference, with opportunities to attend either in-person or remotely. In addition to phasing out some of the non-ICC programmed portions of the conference, we should ensure that the programming offered meets the needs of our younger, more clinician-educator focused members while not diminishing the scientific offerings of the meeting. This may require increasing the number of presentation rooms that are offered each year. In addition, because of my concerns that we are at risk of losing members to smaller, more focused meetings in subspecialties such as interventional pulmonology, cystic fibrosis, etc, I support exploring partnerships with smaller societies for the development of a multi-society respiratory meetings similar to Digestive Diseases Week (DDW). DDW runs as a single meeting in which the large American Gastroenterological Association partners with three smaller societies (American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, and the Society for Surgery of the Alimentary Tract). Obviously, the details are critical in determining whether to move forward in this manner, but an arrangement could mitigate the risk of the ATS International Conference progressively losing more subspecialized attendees.

Second, the ATS has struggled to successfully develop in-person meetings or educational activities in addition to the International Conference. In contrast, other societies successfully run annual board review courses and in-person skills courses (pleural procedures, ultrasonography, EBUS, mechanical ventilation, airway management, and critical care procedures.) Given the quality of our members and staff, ATS could develop offerings of higher quality and compete effectively in these spaces. Co-branding non-U.S. activities with local respiratory societies may augment our offerings internationally and make us more of a true international society.

Finally, the ATS has been successful in recent years in attracting members who are more diverse in multiple ways than has ever before been the case. However, to keep these members engaged and energetic in the society, we must make sure that there are pathways to greater levels of involvement in committees, assemblies, and other visible leadership positions at ATS. The society must fully understand and dismantle barriers to members from groups underrepresented in medicine and to international members to ensure a greater role in ATS activities. In addition, increasing numbers of non-MD clinicians who are involved in pulmonary, critical care, and sleep medicine and the society should offer activities and affinity groups that both meet their needs and offer them a voice in ATS.

In summary, I believe that my leadership experience both inside and outside of the ATS has equipped me well to serve the society at a leadership level. In all of my leadership roles I have viewed my mission as focused upon helping others succeed. I would approach serving as a leader in ATS with the same philosophy and very much hope to have the opportunity to do so.

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

Based upon my years as an ATS member and my service to the organization to date, I believe that I have an excellent sense of the society's missions, organization, and challenges. In addition, my experience of over 20 years in high level academic administrative positions has equipped me with the skills necessary to help forge consensus and provide effective, transparent leadership to large, diverse, and highly participative organizations.

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

I believe that my years as Chair of the ATS International Conference Committee provide an example of my ability to work collaboratively and lead effectively at the ATS. While many members of the International Conference Committee arrived primed by their assemblies to aggressively and singularly pursue their assembly's agenda, I was able to forge a positive culture of collaboration within the committee. Working with Fran Comi and Eric White, MD, MS, ATSF we were consistently able to resolve the conflicts that occurred satisfactorily and amicably, in large part because of the collaborative relationships and trust that had been developed. The end results of this leadership approach were International Conferences that were well attended, well received, and largely devoid of controversy.

What would you identify as strengths of the ATS?

The ATS has many strengths, including the quality of its International Conference, its journals, and its advocacy efforts. However, I view its greatest strengths as its human capital, specifically its membership and staff. The membership is extremely capable, generous with its efforts on behalf of the organization, and passionate about facilitating the society's mission of improving respiratory health worldwide. The staff are likewise extraordinarily capable, committed to the organization, and remarkably skilled at effectively working with rotating member-volunteers in order to facilitate ongoing, meaningful contributions to the field. 

What are the biggest challenges you see for the ATS?

I see the most immediate challenge to the ATS as  meeting the needs of its members and sustaining its financial stability under the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. As mentioned above, the Task Force on Designing Future ATS Conferences, which I am chairing, will make recommendations on redesigning ATS conferences, and I favor doing so in a hybrid model that both permits  in-person participation and remote participation. Some degree of disaggregation of the single large meeting into several smaller virtual events throughout the year may also offer advantages in terms of participation and revenue. While progress has been made, there remains much work to do to make the ATS a "12-month organization," rather than just an annual meeting for many of its members. We need to continue to expand our virtual offerings, such as webinars, assembly-based journal clubs, etc. Other organizations have been more successful than ATS in developing and marketing smaller educational workshops, training sessions, and conferences throughout the year, and ATS should consider challenging them in those professional spaces.

What should ATS do to address the needs of its heterogeneous members?

One of the greatest strengths of the society is its membership which has become increasingly diverse in terms of its composition and interests. The ATS needs to enthusiastically embrace this diversity and ensure that structural barriers to participation and leadership in the organization are eliminated. The ATS also should recognize that most things in our society have become more "personalized" over the past 25 years. Precision medicine is now taken for granted, a landscape of three television networks has been replaced by hundreds of cable options, and niche podcasts have replaced less differentiated programming aimed at larger population segments. Similarly, the ATS cannot fall behind the curve in terms of offering relevant opportunities and content to members at a more granular level. This may mean reexamining our somewhat rigid assembly and section structure; exploring strategic partnerships with smaller societies related to interventional pulmonology, cystic fibrosis, lung transplantation, and thinking creatively regarding the number and foci of our journals. The influx of many more members who are clinician-educators represents a new opportunity for ATS to play a role in the professional development of this group of academic physicians without abandoning the key role ATS plays in the careers of scientists and physician-scientists. In addition, clinicians are working with increasing numbers of mid-level providers, such as physician assistants and nurse practitioners, but many of these providers have not had extensive training in pulmonary, critical care, or sleep medicine. ATS can play an important educational role for them (perhaps modeled on our successful boot camp courses) and develop other incentives for them to join and become more active in the society.

How can ATS promote engagement and opportunities on an international scale?

The fact that the ATS draws so many international members is a testament to the quality of its International Conference, journals and other activities. However, international membership cannot be taken for granted, particularly as travel remains problematic due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To become a more truly international organization, the ATS should pursue opportunities to play a more visible role in conferences and educational programming outside of the U.S. (ideally in partnership with international peer respiratory medicine societies), rather than assuming that international members will travel to the United States for all ATS-sponsored activities. In addition, the substantial portion of non-U.S. members have not been well represented in the leadership ranks of the society or its committees and assemblies. It is urgent to reduce structural barriers to participation in those roles because participation by international members in that manner will ensure their interests are addressed by the society and will send a signal of inclusion that nothing else can.

What could the ATS do to become more nimble?

It is essential that the ATS be as nimble as possible to address threats to its current operations. As examples, advances in information technology have the potential to diminish the value of the society's journals and International Conference as access points to state-of-the-art information, and the society may become vulnerable to having successive groups of members peeled away by other professional organizations that offer more targeted offerings to groups such as critical care practitioners, clinical sleep medicine specialists, pediatric pulmonologists, interventional pulmonologists, and cystic fibrosis experts.. At each juncture, the ATS may make the decision (logical in isolation) that it need not aggressively compete for each relatively small group which may seem somewhat distantly connected to the ATS's "core business" of mainstream respiratory scientific leadership. However, the cumulative effect of such membership losses has the potential to leave the society in a much diminished state as the membership base and the intellectual capital of the society is subsequently reduced. To make the society more nimble, it should consider reconstituting its Board of Directors to be smaller and having more members with specific expertise in creative and successful organizational leadership. When possible, decision making that impacts organizational and operational changes should reside with the Board of Directors rather than with committees and assemblies, which while offering useful perspective and input, may decrease the reaction time of the organization.

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

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic our divisional efforts in preparing for COVID-19 during February and March were sufficiently impressive that I was put in charge of critical care surge planning for all of UCSD Health. At the same time, I recognized that a humanitarian crisis was developing across the border in Baja California and despite the many demands of my UCSD roles, I set out to develop and lead volunteer efforts to assist Tijuana General Hospital and Mexicali General Hospital as they struggled with a surge in COVID-19 patients and had many fewer health care professionals to provide service. I was able to develop a plan to assist our Mexican colleagues that ultimately involved the San Diego County Medical Society and physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists and translators from multiple area hospitals, as well as liaisons with our county and state health departments, The U.S. Embassy in Mexico, the Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S.-Mexico Border Health Commission. We have provided both in-person and telemedicine support of clinical activities on both sides of the border, improved practices of infection control and use of point of care ultrasound to reduce iatrogenic pneumothorax in Tijuana and Mexicali, and have hosted Mexican physicians in our ICUs to participate in bidirectional sharing of experience and best practices. We also raised over substantial funds to purchase critically needed bedside monitors and ventilator humidifier parts to assist our Mexican counterparts.

The skills of providing leadership, communicating effectively, building productive relationships with individuals and organizations, and developing and overseeing systems to move complex initiatives forward are ones that I anticipate would serve me well at ATS.

Provide an example of how you have led or managed change in the past (within your organization or within ATS)

My leadership skills in change management were most tested in 2006 when I arrived to lead the UC San Diego School of Medicine in its first comprehensive restructuring of its curriculum since it opened in 1968. At that time our curriculum was gridlocked, many of our educational outcomes were declining, and our ability to compete effectively with peer institutions for top applicants was worsening. While a number of constituencies expressed pronounced skepticism about some of the efforts when they began, I was able to effectively build new relationships, meaningfully engage a broad range of participants, forge consensus on the objectives and structure of the new curriculum, and ultimately oversee its detailed development and implementation with the class entering in 2010. The new curriculum has been extremely successful by a variety of metrics. As examples, we documented improved measures of student-faculty connectedness, improved student performance on national board exams, and an improvement in graduating students' overall satisfaction with their education from the 14t to approximately the 90 percentile when compared nationally.

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

I have established a leadership team in the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine that includes an associate division chief, a vice-chief for research, outpatient clinic directors, clinical service chiefs, and section chiefs for sleep, pulmonary vascular disease, and physiology. Because of the depth of this collaborative leadership structure, I can be quite flexible in my ability to travel or devote time to the ATS. In addition, because I hold an endowed chair and have administrative salary sources, the funding of my salary is less dependent upon clinical service and funded research. In addition, if selected to serve on the ATS Executive Committee, I would step down from a number of service commitments at UCSD and with other professional societies and would temporarily reduce my teaching commitments during my term of service.


View Dr. Mandel's CV