The role of pediatric representation on the committees of the ASE, which perform much of the work of the association, deserves to be highlighted. The pediatric (and adult congenital) representatives provide unique perspectives to the deliberations and policies generated by these committees. The work of ASE committees—in the areas of education, guidelines, and advocacy, just to name a few—has the potential to tremendously influence the practice of pediatric and congenital echocardiography. Below are the reports of some of our committee members, as collected by Cathy Kerr, newly assigned staff member to our Council and vice president of communications for ASE. These reports were discussed at our most recent Pediatric and Congenital Heart Disease Council Retreat.
Awards Committee: Dr. Peter Frommelt reported that the Awards Committee proposed a system for recognition of sonographer excellence similar to that developed by the Pediatric and Congenital Heart Disease Council—an award will be given yearly to a sonographer in ASE, with a lifetime achievement award alternating with a distinguished teacher award.
Finance Committee: Dr. Gregory Ensing reported that because of ASE’s conservative investment strategy, and reasonably aggressive cost cutting over the last 2 years, ASE remains in a favorable financial status with total assets similar to those before the economic decline of the last several years. Savings were achieved by cutting meeting “extras,” limiting funding of some grants (including travel grants), controlling other CME meeting costs, and increasing income from revenue generating projects such as posters. The exception to ASE’s conservative financial expenditures has been a substantial increase in the advocacy budget to support lobbying efforts to limit the very major proposed cuts in echocardiography reimbursement.
Public Relations Committee: Dr. Grace Kung reported that she was able to help select interesting and noteworthy abstracts that were presented at this year’s meeting as part of her work on the Public Relations Committee. Many people in the general public do not realize that children are afflicted by cardiac disease; they assume all cardiac disease is atherosclerosis. It is very important that we educate the public on the importance of congenital and acquired heart disease in the pediatric population.
ASE Research Committee: Dr. Colin Phoon indicated that he was struck most by the paucity of pediatric/congenital heart submissions and was led to wonder how we, as a Council, might try to bolster interest from the pediatric cardiology community. A second problem is the limited number of pediatric cardiologists on the Committee (1 out of 20, this year). Dr. Phoon proposed the addition of one or two pediatrics or adult congenital representatives in order to foster more research on topics that pertain to pediatric/congenital heart disease.
Membership Steering Committee: Dr. Craig Fleishman noted that the committee discussed that sonographer schools need to increase the pediatric content of their curriculum, potentially increasing the number of schools seeking accreditation in pediatric echocardiography. This is an opportunity for ASE to reach out to schools and make them aware of the professional and educational benefits of membership as the schools train their instructors and develop teaching materials.
International Relations Committee: Dr. Seda Tierney reported that ASE’s emphasis in international relations has shifted to making ASE’s guidelines and related educational products available to the international echocardiography community. An International Relations Task Force has been formed to determine the best approach in establishing ASE as a worldwide leader in these products.
Education Committee: Dr. Reenu Eapen reported that there was interest for a pediatric learning lab course. Dr. Eapen would also like to explore the idea of developing a course for fellows in training, with beginner and advanced tests used to assess and chart their knowledge level. The course material could be incorporated into the curriculum of training programs. In addition, ASE has the ASE University for online CME courses. If you have ideas for pediatric-related CME courses, please let her know.
IT Committee: Dr. Andrew Powell reported that the ASE Information Technology Committee focused on several projects this year: (1) EchoShare, a regional information system for the sharing of echocardiographic images in a health information exchange model; (2) Echo ToolBox™, a web-based application to help labs meet ICAEL standards and efficiently undergo the accreditation process; and (3) creating an “appropriateness point-of-order echo guidance” tool to replace precertification of echocardiograms by private payers and promote more appropriate ordering of echocardiograms.
Advocacy Committee: A written report that Dr. Ben Byrd, Chair of the Advocacy Committee, prepared for the ASE Executive Committee was reviewed. It was noted that there have been relatively few advocacy issues that were specific to pediatrics this past year. The 2010 Physician Fee Schedule was the source of major cuts for echocardiography reimbursement, and a significant amount of time and money has been spent to address this issue. Precertification of echocardiography is another important issue that will affect everyone in practice.
Finally, the work by Drs. Leo Lopez and Mark Lewin on the Scientific Sessions Program Committee should be applauded. The Pediatric and Congenital track of the 2010 Annual Scientific Sessions in San Diego was extremely well attended and very highly rated. The highlights included the one-day pathology/echocardiography/surgical correlation symposium and joint sessions with the Society of Maternal Fetal Medicine (on fetal cardiology) and the European Association of Echocardiography (on pediatric quantification). Dr. Richard Van Praagh was interviewed by Dr. Ira Parness during a memorable Fireside Chat, and Dr. Nancy Ayres received the Award for Excellence in Teaching in Pediatrics. For the first time, the Young Investigator Award was won by a pediatric cardiologist, Dr. Shelby Kutty, for his work on sonothrombolysis of thrombi using microbubble enhancement.