At my incoming President’s Address at the ASE Scientific Sessions in June 2012, I presented my plans for the year in the form of a “Bucket List” with seven major objectives for my term of office. As I write this, my term is winding down and it is an appropriate time to take inventory of our progress on these goals.
Whether we are meeting with legislators or the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), our membership numbers speak volumes. Thus, it was our intent to further increase the size of our membership. I am happy to report that our membership as of April this year has achieved an all-time record high of 16,482 members. This represents a growth of 5% compared with this time last year. Moreover, our 2012 member retention rate was also very strong at nearly 90%. Our international membership has also grown, and now approaches 3,000. This is no surprise, considering our close collaborations with our many sister societies worldwide. These collaborations resulted in ASE representation at Echo Nagpur in India, ECOSIAC in Asuncion, The Great Wall meeting in Beijing, EuroEcho in Athens, the Japanese Society of Echocardiography in Tokyo, and Canadian Society of Echocardiography in Toronto, and we look forward to the second World Summit of Echocardiography in New Delhi next October. ASE is interested in collaborations with new users of focused cardiovascular ultrasound including critical care physicians, physicians in the Emergency Department, and others. Our New Practice Applications Task Force has developed initiatives to facilitate such collaboration.
Another objective was to increase member participation in the activities of the ASE. Typical of many organizations, it has been a small minority of members that have actively participated in ASE, including serving on committees, boards, task forces, writing groups, scientific sessions, or applying for fellowship. However, there is always an abundance of work to be accomplished by ASE, so greater member involvement would certainly be advantageous. When I appointed the committees and task forces last year, I managed to appoint every single person who had applied. Of course, as the number of positions is finite, this resulted in no one person being called on to fulfill as many roles as has occurred in previous years. In addition, to accommodate growing interest in participation, we created a volunteer database which we can use to call on members for the many micro-volunteering activities that occur throughout the year. I promised to make the process to leadership increasingly transparent and, towards this aim, wrote a President’s Page about my path.
Increasing member benefits was also a priority. Our Journal of the American Society of Echocardiography is a very important member benefit. With the assistance of a JASE Contract Task Force, we have secured the services of Dr. Alan Pearlman, Editor-in-Chief, for another five-year term. We are currently in the process of renegotiating the JASE publishing contract and developed a specific list of requests to make the Journal even stronger, more valuable, and more accessible to members. Stay tuned for an even better iPad version of the journal. Our social network, Connect@ASE, had great growth and connectivity. We also launched Echo, a member news source, as well as our online Practice Management Resource. We produced a webinar for members on reimbursement and coding. A 3D Zone task force has produced content to assist with integration of 3D echocardiography in clinical practice. In addition to our numerous educational resources for members, we added a new CME course to our portfolio, Echo Florida. Beginning in 2014, we will be incorporating ABIM Maintenance of Certification credit into our live courses.
Another priority was promoting research and innovation. With the support available through the ASE Foundation, ASE was again able to offer several research grants, including a grant to a cardiovascular research sonographer and two career development awards. We were also able to support a new award to document the relevance and essential role of echo as a reproducible technique to quantify serial changes in cardiac function. We have continued to seek opportunities to feature and support investigators and will again, at our Scientific Sessions, recognize emerging talent in our field with a Young Investigators Award competition. Those interested in clinical research were able to compete in a clinical case competition, new this year. We sought to strengthen our partnerships with the National Institutes of Health to promote and study applications of echocardiography. Towards this aim, we held our second Research and Technology Summit, the proceedings of which were published in the April issue of JASE . In this document, we also included a road map of future directions and have drafted a plan for how we will achieve our goals.
Promoting quality in cardiovascular ultrasound was another objective. With our guidelines and standards documents, including two that were published this year and 15 more that are in development, we continue to define and standardize the cardiovascular ultrasound practice. Our guidelines continue to be translated into Spanish and Mandarin; this year, we have added Portuguese and French. An international training task force is actively developing curriculum and discussing plans for how we might assist with the training of sonographers in countries in which no sonographers exist. We have participated in the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation’s Choosing Wisely ® campaign, recommending situations in which echocardiography is not necessary. Also related to quality and appropriate use, ASE received its first ever foundation grant from the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. This will allow us to develop a mobile use application of appropriate use criteria for echocardiography.
Spurred by broad member interest and strong ties with members abroad, we sought to expand our global influence and service . We conducted our second medical mission trip in India in December 2012 and provided funds for a volunteer group traveling to Vietnam this spring. The interest in these mission trips remains very strong. We have developed an application that will be used as an initial guide for proposals for missions (download available from the ASE Foundation Webpage). Our global missions have been expanded to involve an education component as we seek to enhance the skills of local staff in performing cardiovascular ultrasound. There is also a research component and the results of our first medical mission trip were published in the March issue of JASE .
Finally, continuing our efforts in advocacy was a key mission. We have continued our meetings with legislators, key staff, and agency personnel, and collaborations with ACC and other imaging societies. For the first time, ASE received a seat in the American Medical Association’s House of Delegates. We are currently exploring appropriate reimbursement for transesophageal echocardiogram guidance for interventions. We met with CMS and have advocated that reimbursement should be tied to quality. It is crucial that we work to position echocardiography as the most valuable imaging technique in a changing health care environment. To accomplish this, we must partner with other organizations who share this interest. We participated in the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine (AIUM) in their “Ultrasound First” campaign, the proceedings of which have been published and recorded. This interesting campaign promoted the many circumstances in which safe, portable, and relatively inexpensive ultrasound techniques should be the test of first choice.
As my term draws to a close, I can reflect on the amazing help I have had from the ASE staff. I am thoroughly impressed with their dedication, diligence, and the excellence with which they performed their work. Characteristically sending e-mails late at night, I was frequently surprised receive a prompt response from our staff in the North Carolina office where the hour was even later. They are a wonderful team and have been invaluable to me.
With the capable leadership of my presidential successors, Ben Byrd, Neil Weissman, and Susan Wiegers, the dedicated and enthusiastic Board of Directors and Council Chairs, and of course, all our members, the organization is, indeed, well positioned for the future. Was this a busy year for me? Yes—ask my husband! Am I glad I had this opportunity? Most certainly! It has truly been an honor and a pleasure to serve as your president. Thank you very much!