ASN President and President-Elect Address

For the Renal Week edition of ASN Kidney News, editor-in-chief Pascale Lane, MD, interviewed ASN President Thomas Coffman, MD, and incoming ASN President Sharon Anderson, MD.

KN: Thomas Coffman, MD, currently serves as President of the American Society of Nephrology. He is also the James R. Clapp Professor, Chief of the Division of Nephrology, and Senior Vice Chair for Academic Affairs in the Department of Internal Medicine at Duke.

How long have you been participating in ASN activities?

Thomas Coffman, MD

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Coffman: I have been an ASN member since completing my fellowship training. In 1999, I chaired the Program Committee and began a stint on the Transplant Advisory Group. I continued to work on a number of committees until my election as Councilor in 2003.

KN: What is new during your term as ASN president?

Coffman: I hope I don’t forget anything! Expansion of the internal staff to a size and structure appropriate for the scope of activities of the Society is the most important process, ongoing since hiring Executive Director Tod Ibrahim last year. Our staff now includes the expertise and personnel to provide an ever-expanding array of quality services for our members. New leaders include Adrienne Lea, Director of Communications, and Phillip Kokemueller, Chief Learning Officer, providing staff oversight for burgeoning educational programs.

ASN’s most visible products are publications. My term saw the birth of ASN Kidney News and the transition of Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology to monthly publication. Podcasts of various publications have also been added.

New educational efforts include the appointments of Drs. John Burkart and Marc Pohl as Education Directors for the ASN Board Review Course. Web site offerings have expanded, including an online geriatric nephrology curriculum and audio versions of NephSAP.

KN: Is there anything new in the policy arena?

Coffman: We continue expanding our efforts to shape implementation of Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008 (MIPPA) as it relates to the care of patients with kidney disease. We also provide input and feedback in the conversation regarding the Patient-Centered Medical Home. ASN leadership also lobbied on Capitol Hill for improved funding for research at NIH and enhanced support for kidney disease research in particular.

With the assistance of our Corporate Relations Task Force, we developed a set of principles to steer the Society through the choppy waters of conflict of interest so we may continue to provide an array of balanced and unbiased educational programs for our members while maintaining productive and transparent relationships with our corporate partners.

KN: Please describe the transition process for the presidency.

Coffman: Transition starts with your election to Council. Over five years, you learn the scope of the ASN’s operations, as well as its structure-function relationships. Your activities and responsibilities accelerate significantly during the President-Elect year, providing an opportunity to gear up for the Presidency year. Then you coast toward the sunset for one year as Past President.

KN: Sharon Anderson, MD, is the Society’s President-Elect. You earned a nontraditional premedical degree?

Anderson: I received my BA in Government and Politics from the University of Maryland; it is a topic useful for academic medicine!

KN: How have you prepared for the Presidency?

Sharon Anderson, MD

Anderson: Given the complexity of the organization and its responsibilities, it is fortunate that the ASN has a long “apprenticeship” before the presidency. Council members serve five years learning about all of the various facets of the organization and rotating on all of the major ASN committees. Established communication processes with meetings and conference calls have given me a pretty clear idea of the scope and duties of the presidency. There will undoubtedly be numerous details not currently apparent to me, but I trust that the lines of communication will stay open. The practice of having the Past President remain on Council for one year adds valuable continuity to the business of the Council, as well as veteran advice for the current and future presidents.

KN: What do you hope to accomplish during your term as ASN president?

Anderson: ASN must recognize the needs of its membership, including ever-changing challenges to nephrology and the larger medical community. Obviously, we want to continue to be the leading source of education for our members, and to innovate in methods for delivering our educational products. Our growing online presence and development of usable delivery methods, such as podcasts, are examples of initiatives that will expand. We plan to provide products to assist Maintenance of Certification (MOC) through the American Board of Internal Medicine. We plan expanded tools for trainee education, addressing future workforce needs.

ASN must continue to be a voice in public policy, advocating for wide-ranging initiatives including expanded research funding and better care for kidney patients through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Nephrologists could be playing a stronger role in the national discussions regarding quality and patient safety. I hope we can encourage these efforts.

Finally, I hope we can develop stronger routes of communication with our membership to more rapidly and accurately identify new and ongoing concerns. We need the ability to rapidly tap into the expertise of our membership and engage them in the approaches to the challenges we face.

KN: Dr. Coffman, do you have any advice for the incoming President?

Coffman: Time management is key! I wish I had known the amount of time that is actually required to do the job…and the number of emails that come in everyday related to ASN business. I also wish I had known that I would be writing three NIH grant applications during my presidency.

KN: Is there anyone you would like to acknowledge?

Coffman: First I must thank my fellow Councilors and the ASN staff for their help and support. This year’s Program Chair, Ray Harris, with his outstanding Program Committee, developed a superb program for Renal Week 2009. I must also acknowledge my division members and laboratory group for keeping the ball rolling at Duke despite my frequent absences and consistent state of distraction this year. My family also deserves a nod for tolerating all of the extra work and travel.

Anderson: The leadership of Tod Ibrahim, Executive Director of ASN, has been instrumental in bringing a modern and professional structure to the staffing of the ASN office, lending confidence that we can continue to support and grow our various missions. The wisdom and guidance of more senior Council members is invaluable, and the dedicated ASN members who serve on our Committees and Advisory Groups do a great job keeping Council on track. Finally, the success of Renal Week is due in large part to the efforts of the Program Committee. I am pleased to report that David Ellison, Chair of the 2010 Program Committee, has assembled a terrific group for that most important task.

KN: What advice do you have for members who wish to become more engaged with ASN?

Coffman: Volunteer for Advisory Groups and lobbying efforts. Provide feedback on our services. One of the strengths of the ASN is a broad membership with a diverse array of talents, skills, and experiences.

Anderson: ASN cannot continue to be a relevant and effective organization without membership participation on Committees and Advisory Groups. Watch for the periodic requests for volunteers, and let us know you are interested. Members are welcome to send comments, suggestions, or concerns to the ASN staff, any Council member, or any Committee or Advisory Group Chair.

KN: So when is the transition complete?

Anderson: By tradition, the presidency changes with the passing of the gavel at the business meeting on the last day of Renal Week. To my knowledge, this is usually an orderly process accomplished without the need for a coup d’etat or placing the outgoing president under house arrest.

KN: … although that would make for an exciting article in ASN Kidney News.