I am a pulmonologist and intensivist committed to patient care; research; advocacy; and education, training and mentoring of the next generation of physician-scientists, scientists and clinician-educators. I am currently the Niels K. Jerne Professor of Pediatrics and Medicine, and Chief of the Division of Pediatric Pulmonary Medicine, Allergy and Immunology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. I earned a degree in medicine from Javeriana University in Colombia, and a doctoral degree in public health from Harvard University. I completed a residency in Internal Medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, a Fellowship in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Brown University, and a Research Fellowship at the Channing Laboratory of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. In 2000, I joined the faculty at Harvard Medical School, rising to Associate Professor before joining the University of Pittsburgh in 2010.
My research has focused on asthma and COPD, and on health disparities in airway diseases. My group’s research, funded by the U.S. NIH, has been recognized with my election to the American Society for Clinical Investigation and the Association of American Physicians, and by a Recognition Award for Scientific Accomplishments from the ATS. I am proud of the accomplishments of my mentees, and was deeply humbled to be the first faculty member to ever receive both the Young Mentor Award and the A. Clifford Barger Excellence in Mentoring Award from Harvard Medical School.
I am keenly interested in joining the leadership team of the ATS, my professional home and a worldwide leading Society in pulmonary, critical care, and sleep medicine. My vision for the ATS is for constant innovation and excellence in diversity. Key components of our sustained success include: the ability to address ever more complex scientific, health care, and policy issues; recruiting, retaining and mentoring talented U.S. and international members; and enhancing our revenue stream to support our worthy endeavors. If we transform current challenges into opportunities for positive change, the ATS will continue to fulfill its mission to improve global health by advancing research, clinical care, and public health in respiratory diseases, critical illnesses, and sleep disorders.
Responses to key questions.
1. What qualifies you to be the ATS president, and what personal leadership qualities would you bring to this role?
I attended my first ATS International Conference as a fellow in 1994. Since then, I have participated in the annual International Conference, first as a poster presenter and speaker, and then as Chair of post-graduate courses, symposia and workshops. I have served on several ATS committees, including the Program Review Sub-Committee, Scientific Advisory Committee, Health Policy Committee, Health Equality and Diversity Committee, International Conference Committee, and Finance Committee. I have represented the ATS in initiatives with other organizations, recently chairing an ATS/NHLBI Workshop on health equality, and a successful proposal for an ATS/ERS Workshop on respiratory health in migrants and refugees. I was honored to be the first recipient of the ATS Lifetime Achievement Award for Innovations in Health Equality. My ATS service has brought me in contact with a wealth of talented members and staff with perspectives different from mine, which has greatly contributed to my personal and professional growth, while deepening my understanding of the organizational structure, mission and values of our Society.
I have learned about effective leadership from great mentors and formal educational programs. My leadership style is guided by personal values (honesty, hard work, humility, accountability, and a desire to serve), and an unwavering willingness to collaborate with others to better help our patients. I have a passion for service, strong motivational skills, ability to prioritize and accomplish goals, a self-deprecating sense of humor, and an inclusive leadership style that puts the interests of the group above my own.
2. What are your top three goals for the ATS and how would you implement them
Secure our future by nurturing the next generation of leaders and innovators in pulmonary, critical care, and sleep medicine
This would involve strengthening our portfolio of research grants, developing a cohesive educational and mentoring program for career development at various stages, and enhancing our new initiatives (e.g., the ATS Academy and the Global Scholars Program).
Increase and diversify our sources of revenue
This can be accomplished by recruiting and retaining new members in the U.S. and abroad; enhancing our services to clinician-educators; and expanding fund-raising efforts through the PAR and the ATS Foundation.
Lead vigorous efforts to reduce health disparities in pulmonary, critical care, and sleep medicine
This entails continuous support of environmental justice in the face of ongoing and new challenges (e.g., air pollution, climate change and e-cigarettes), advocating for health care access and research on health disparities, and fostering a diverse workforce.
3. What would you identify as strengths of the ATS?
- Worldwide leadership and reputation
- Motivated members with diverse and in-depth expertise
- Opportunities for members to serve at various levels
- Devoted and experienced staff
- The International Conference
- The ATS Journals
4. What would you identify as weaknesses of the ATS?
- Complex organizational structure
- Challenges in translating the great value of ATS membership
- Insufficient data on graduating trainees and members’ expertise
- Need to serve members with different interests
5. What do you see as present and future opportunities for the ATS
The ATS leadership has developed exciting programs for members at different training stages (e.g., Boot Camp). This initiative could be taken a step further by creating a cohesive longitudinal career development program, which would help us recruit and retain talented new members. Moreover, the ATS should capitalize on technology-driven opportunities to promote interactions and enhance opportunities for our members.
6. What are some of the threats you see to the ATS now and in the future?
- Difficulty in recruiting new members, given increasing strength of sister societies
- Increasing time pressures, limiting members’ engagement in the Society
- Financial difficulties from non-diversification of revenue
7. What role should the ATS play as an international organization?
The ATS stands for what is best about the American spirit, as proven by our eagerness to help develop thoracic societies worldwide; the Global Scholars Program and robust international training programs such as MECOR; advocacy for programs to reduce detrimental environmental exposures around the world; and longstanding international leadership on research and clinical care for diseases “crossing all borders,” such as tuberculosis. With continued efforts from our U.S. and international members, the ATS is indeed capable of a growing global role as a leader and advocate for research, education, and patient care in pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine.
8. What should the ATS do for its membership, and how would you advocate for the membership?
The size and complicated structure of the Society can be challenging to our members, who may not take advantage of all the ATS has to offer. Enhancing a virtual or in-person ATS orientation, coupled with a cohesive career development track, would benefit our members and increase their perception of their membership’s value. This could be further developed by enhancing our database to identify potential new members of decision-making bodies in the ATS, and using social media and new technologies to disseminate information and foster networking. To better serve our membership, we must expand fund-raising efforts for our research portfolio and enhance our services to clinician-educators -including maintenance of certification programs, hands-on interactive workshops at our International Conference, and fostering careers in medical education through the ATS Academy and the Section on Medical Education.
Since vibrant societies benefit from diversity of expertise, background, and perspective, I plan to continue to advocate for inclusion of deserving U.S. and international members in bodies relevant to the main activities of our assemblies and committees. As conditions change, I also plan to receive feedback from our members by attending assembly and committee meetings, and reviewing membership surveys, which would help prioritize our goals and develop a collaborative plan involving ATS leadership and our members.
9. Can you give an example of a leadership accomplishment of which you are particularly proud?
As a founding member, I am proud of the accomplishments of the ATS Health Equality and Diversity Committee since its inception in 2013. As a member and eventually Vice-Chair of the Sub-Committee, I served as guest editor of an Annals of the American Thoracic Society issue devoted to health equality, led an ATS position statement article on respiratory health equality, and chaired an ATS/NHLBI workshop on “Addressing Respiratory Health Equality.” Moreover, I organized symposia on health equality, in collaboration with members of multiple ATS Assemblies and Committees; and helped create the ATS Fellowship in Respiratory Health Equality. I was thus delighted when the Sub-Committee was elevated to Committee status in 2016.
10. How do you envision making time for this new leadership role?
Sir Winston Churchill stated that “much is expected from those to whom much is given.” Our Division has become productive and mature, and my daughters will soon be in college. Given time availability, I would be honored to serve and lead our Society, thus repaying the ATS for the opportunities it has afforded me.