Many New Beginnings for ASA

  • Singleton, Mark, MD
| Mar 10, 2013

The first (interim) meeting of the 2013 ASA Board of Directors took place this past weekend in snow-carpeted Chicago. If I can characterize the meeting, and indeed the overall state of the ASA today, it is one of new beginnings and a truly forward-looking strategy to engage the future of Anesthesiology.

Last year the ASA dismantled a dysfunctional and unharmonious staff structure with two executives, in favor of a single CEO. During this period of uncertainty, some key staff left the organization, but under the temporary yet stalwart leadership of Interim CEO, Barbara Fossum, PhD, usual operations of the organization and indeed several major new initiatives, have proceeded with great success. At this Board meeting we said goodbye to Dr. Fossum and look forward to our new CEO, Paul Pomerantz.

Another major change in the works for ASA is the physical headquarters in Chicago. The Board was presented with the architectural vision for the six-acre site in Schaumburg, just northwest of O’Hare, on which the new ASA headquarters will be built over the next few years. It will truly be a gem for the future with green technological underpinnings and innovative design features. ASA has secured a buyer for the current headquarters property in Park Ridge that will result in a fair return to the ASA, and allow for a comfortable move.

The Board engaged in many routine items of business like bylaws updates, review of existing policies and statements, as well as some new, and in some cases, controversial proposals. Perhaps the most contentious one was the culmination of several years of problems that led the Administrative Council to propose the termination of ASA’s management support for the proliferation of anesthesia subspecialty societies that it has undertaken over the years. ASA has not been able to adequately provide the services needed by these diverse groups, and at the same time incurred significant expense in the attempt. While some voiced the concern that ASA needs to promote and nurture these anesthesia subspecialty societies, the Board was overwhelmingly convinced that despite efforts to do so, it has not worked. ASA will assist in the transition of these organizations to the many experienced professional management companies available to do this work. At the same time ASA will continue to provide ACGME accreditation to support educational offerings of these organizations.

The Society of Cardiovascular Anesthesiologists (SCA) has applied to the American Board of Anesthesiology for subspecialty certification status.  In its report to the Board the ASA Committee on Cardiovascular and Thoracic Anesthesia supported this action. Comparison was made to the newly created ABA Certification in Pediatric Anesthesiology. However the ASA Board disapproved the proposal, and will not support the SCA’s application to the ABA.

The Board did support a plan to contribute financially, as well as through staff resources, to smaller State component societies in their pursuit of legislative advocacy efforts. For components with less than 200 members this might be up to two thirds of such costs, and for components with between 200 and 500 it would be limited to 50%. For very large components like CSA, the implication is that ASA support would be proportionally much less, given our greater financial resources. ASA total membership has topped 50,000, a 3.5% increase, for 2013, exceeding a strategic goal one year early. Our own Linda Mason, MD, ASA Secretary was given a large amount of the credit for this achievement.

The report from the Committee on Quality Management and Departmental Administration (QMDA) again revived its partially developed educational product to assist medical staffs and anesthesiology departments, in granting privileges for deep sedation to non-anesthesiologist physicians. After some debate, the Board approved QMDA’s proposals and committed significant funds to the effort ($220,000). This is a victory for the CSA, as it was our resolution that allowed this work to be resurrected after defeat at the 2011 ASA House of Delegates. The great majority of ASA members want this tool to be available to them from within our own specialty. The Board also reaffirmed the value to our specialty, of the Expert Witness Testimony Review Program, despite the relatively large expense involved in reviewing and taking appropriate action on cases referred to the program. It was felt that the program fulfills an essential component of our assurance of professionalism at the highest level.

Another aspect of professionalism, not to mention adherence to the law, is at the heart of the ASA’s efforts to expose and oppose the staffing scheme known as “The Company Model.” This is an arrangement in which a facility creates a separate “anesthesia company,” which then allows anesthesiologists to work at the facility but takes a portion of revenues generated from that work. The Committee on Practice Management’s proposal to continue to investigate and apply the ASA’s legal resources to oppose these arrangements was approved by the Board as an important member service.

Finally, as we look toward the ASA 2013 meeting in San Francisco, where CSA will be the recognized host, the line up of candidates for election for ASA Offices, will, at this point at least, contain no contested elections. The two non-incumbents who have announced are Beverly Philip, MD, of Massachusetts for Vice President for Scientific Affairs, and our own Dan Cole, MD, former CSA President, now Director from Arizona, for First Vice President (and eventual ASA President). The CSA wishes Dr. Cole all the best as a former leader and member. 

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