On August 21-22, the ASA held its first in-person Board of Directors (BOD) meeting in more than a year in Chicago. The CSA was well represented with the following members present: Drs. Menor, Doyle, Pearl, Conte, Levin, Pregler, Yost, and CSA Executive Director David Butler. Common sense COVID precautions were in place with masks worn indoors and social distancing with larger rooms for meetings. Thankfully, we have not heard of anyone getting sick. Traveling in the age of COVID is a little concerning as well; although the airlines and airports require masks, there are a lot of people in small spaces. The fact that we were able to hold the ASA BOD meeting in-person safely gives some reassurance that we can hold the CSA BOD meeting and ASA Annual meetings safely as well.
The biggest issues discussed at the ASA Board of Directors meeting were the nurse anesthetists officially changing their name and calling themselves nurse anesthesiologists. The ASA is taking this very, very seriously and there was quite a bit of discussion and planning, most of which needs to stay confidential. The decision to hold an in-person annual meeting in San Diego in October was also thoroughly discussed, and the ASA is committed to having an in-person meeting in San Diego but doing so in the safest way possible. A close third for important issues discussed in Chicago is Medicare payment – the 33% problem and the need for the ASA to address this issue before it devastates the specialty of anesthesiology.
The ASA BOD meeting began on Saturday morning with the Western Caucus meeting with our own Johnathan Pregler, MD, FASA, as Secretary. The meeting started with a very nice tribute to ASA Immediate Past President, Mary Dale Peterson, MD, FASA, who oversaw the ASA’s response to COVID. Dr. Peterson did a phenomenal job of leading all of us through a very difficult time, and this was the first in-person opportunity for us to thank her for her service. The function of the Caucus meeting is to discuss the agenda for the BOD meeting and let the members express opinions and positions on the issues in an informal setting prior to the review committees. The agenda is divided into sections which include Professional Affairs, Administrative Affairs, Scientific Affairs, and Finance.
The reference committees were mostly uneventful; the biggest issue of contention occurred in the Administrative Affairs reference committee which includes ASA appointments to outside organizations including the AMA. Some physicians questioned the selection of a physician to lead the ASA delegation to the AMA who currently is not a practicing anesthesiologist but serves as an executive for a large insurance corporation. Vigorous discussion ensued and the senior leadership of the ASA affirmed their support for the individual, citing the ability of the executive committee to mitigate any conflicts, the support of the home state AMA delegation and medical society, the role and structure of the ASA delegation to the AMA, and ASA’s encouragement for anesthesiologists to become leaders within all areas of healthcare practice, policy and finance, which makes any potential conflicts less impactful.
The Saturday afternoon BOD meeting consisted of several education sessions which included a presentation on finance, membership, and strategic planning. The finances of the ASA remain strong. A very conservative projected budget deficit for the current fiscal year of three million dollars has turned into a break-even financial situation. An increase in investment returns, a decrease in expenses, and more revenue than anticipated made our current financial situation stable. However, challenges are on the horizon with decreased membership projections and the associated decrease in revenue as well as uncertainty about in-person meetings. ASA remains fiscally sound with more than 90 million dollars in reserves; however, we must plan for future challenges.
Additionally, ASAPAC contributions for the fiscal year ending September 30, have been disappointing at a level $800,000 behind where we were last year and more than $1,000,000 behind where we were two years ago. However, California has been leading the way and we are currently in first place for the Alabama Cup which is awarded at the annual meeting to the State that contributes the most to ASAPAC!
Thank you to all in California for leading the way! I am extremely proud to be a Californian! ASAPAC is our voice in Washington DC and the volume of that voice is directly related to the value of our PAC.