December is a month of numbers: 12 days of Christmas, 8 days of Chanukah, and seven principles of Kwanzaa. December is also the 12th month of the year and the final month of my ASN presidency.
There is so much I would like to share about the past 12 months, such as participating in the federal government's Kidney Interagency Coordinating Committee, which met in October; describing the many projects that we are pursuing with other societies; and emphasizing how much I have learned from writing these editorials for Kidney News. I could highlight 365 activities but will limit it to 12 due to space constraints.
Transitioning governance structure. Under the new structure, I am the first person to serve on the ASN Council's 4-year executive track. Before I started in 2021, councilors spent 7 years on the council, with the sixth year as their president's year. The ongoing joke was that the councilors were told to simply observe for their first year. Now there are three distinct 4-year tracks: an at-large councilor, an executive councilor, and a treasurer track. Executive councilors now spend the first year as secretary, the second as president-elect, the third as president, and the fourth as past president. On this accelerated track, councilors jump into the action quickly and can no longer just observe for their first year. My time on the council has been a whirlwind but always fulfilling, meaningful, and a lot of fun.
Reconfiguring our publications’ organizational structure. We have implemented a more integrated publication oversight structure. In the past, the three ASN journals (JASN, CJASN, and Kidney360) worked independently. In the new structure, JASN will serve as the flagship with the editors-in-chief (EICs) of CJASN and Kidney360 being in close contact with the JASN EIC. This approach enables more opportunities for manuscripts that may not be appropriate for one journal to find a home in another journal in ASN's portfolio.
Ending the COVID-19 pandemic. On May 5th, the U.S. public health emergency ended. I started on the council in January 2021, mid-pandemic, only weeks before vaccines became available. This timing was brought home for me very literally, as I had my first bout of COVID-19 in December 2020. During my first year, many of the council meetings were conducted virtually as was Kidney Week 2021. These virtual meetings are very helpful, but they are not as fulfilling as in-person meetings. With the return of in-person Early Programs and more than 12,000 people attending Kidney Week 2023, it feels like the pandemic is finally over.
Hosting Kidney Week 2023. What a great meeting! On a personal note, having the meeting in Philadelphia, PA, was particularly meaningful. In some ways, like coming home, because I attended medical school at the University of Pennsylvania, it was returning to the city in which I started my medical journey. A big shout out of appreciation and gratitude to the co-chairs of the ASN Kidney Week Education Committee: Dianne McKay, MD, and Mark Perazella, MD, FASN. Their leadership was extraordinary. The incredible program for Kidney Week 2023 reflects the efforts of the talented and dedicated individuals who served on the ASN Kidney Week Education Committee. The meeting's success was also due to the amazing ASN team. The plenary sessions, oral presentations, and posters were such high quality because of the hard work of all of these individuals, as well as you, the kidney community, who submitted abstracts, participated, and provided expertise. It takes a village….
Taking a village. The ASN staff (https://www.asn-online.org/about/staff.aspx) is an amazing group of individuals. They are dedicated, smart, professional, effective, creative, and simply a pleasure to work with. Having the opportunity to interact with and be involved in several projects with the staff made this year particularly enjoyable. The ASN staff is highly effective. I cannot say enough good things about them.
Celebrating milestones. We marked the 10-year anniversaries of KidneyCure (https://www.kidneycure.org/); the Kidney Health Initiative (KHI) (https://khi.asn-online.org/); and our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. If you attended Kidney Week 2023, you saw some videos about each of these landmarks. KidneyCure is a separately incorporated, not-for-profit organization that focuses on curing kidney diseases through research and innovation. A partnership between ASN and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), KHI includes more than 75 member organizations, such as patient groups, other health professional societies, dialysis organizations, and pharmaceutical companies. ASN's commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion has resulted in transformative efforts, such as awarding travel grant support for 19 ASN members to attend the 2023 Network of Minority Health Research Investigators Annual Workshop (bringing the 10-year total to more than 100 participants); the ASN Loan Mitigation Pilot Program; and multiple targeted activities at Kidney Week.
Supporting research, discovery, and innovation. Each year, ASN's sponsorship of KidneyCure spends more than $2.5 million to fund nearly 50 investigators. This is the largest outlay of grant support from any kidney organization. The awards include the ASN-Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program (in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation), the ASN Pre-Doctoral Fellowship Program, the Ben J. Lipps Research Fellowship Program, Transition to Independence grant recipients, and the William and Sandra Bennett Clinical Scholars Program. Developed to cultivate collaboration to improve patient safety and develop novel therapies, KHI hosted its Annual Stakeholders meeting in September. FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, MD, was the Keynote Speaker and later posted the following on social media: “I was delighted to speak yesterday at the Kidney Health Initiative's annual meeting. This is an area of medicine & science of great interest to me, both because of the enormous scientific & clinical challenges posed as well as the enormous opportunities tied to medical advances.” Finally, the Kidney Innovation Accelerator (KidneyX) (www.kidneyx.org) also enjoyed an impactful year, hosting webinars, holding an in-person summit, and announcing eight new prize winners of the Artificial Kidney Prize, Phase 2 competition.
Engaging ASN members. Over the course of the year, several members expressed interest in becoming more engaged in ASN but were unsure how to do so. With this in mind, and as a first step, ASN has added the following sentences to the website, providing a mechanism for members to express interest in becoming more involved: “If you are interested in learning more about ASN's committees, workgroups, task forces, and other panels (or in serving the society), please email email@example.com.” During the next year, I plan to work with the council and staff to implement additional plans to engage our members. One activity that always needs volunteers is Kidney Week abstract review. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to express your interest in abstract review and indicate your area of expertise.
Transforming transplant. As a transplant nephrologist, I am proud that the second pillar of the “We’re United 4 Kidney Health” campaign (https://4kidneyhealth.org/) commits ASN to transplant, and I am excited that considerable federal interest exists in this arena. We saw years of advocacy efforts pay off with the Securing the U.S. Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network Act becoming law (SUS OPTN). Making possible changes that we will see in years to come with the Health Resources and Services Administration Modernization Initiative, SUS OPTN is not the end of ASN's transplant journey, just one big milestone to make the most of and to celebrate along the way as we continue forward. I am also excited about the newly appointed ASN–American Society of Transplantation (AST) Task Force (Table 1), charged with making the case for the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) to accredit transplant nephrology fellowships.
Strengthening training. In this year's ASN survey, 92% of nephrology fellows stated that they would recommend nephrology to medical students and residents. With the publication of the final report from the ASN Task Force on the Future of Nephrology, it is clear that we have begun to reinvigorate training. Working with the entities responsible for regulating training (ACGME) and certification (American Board of Internal Medicine), ASN is implementing the ASN Task Force on the Future of Nephrology's 10 recommendations. In 2024, for example, you will see more of an emphasis of training in-home modalities such as peritoneal dialysis. ASN also partnered with the Home Dialysis University this year to help at least 30 fellows participate in this excellent program. One-half of U.S. nephrologists and nearly two-thirds of our future workforce completed medical school outside of this country, which is why ASN—in concert with our colleagues at the American Nephrologists of Indian Origin—is engaged in efforts to help international medical graduates seeking to train and work in the United States. ASN is also working to reintroduce the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act, important legislation that seeks to recapture unused visas and provide them to physicians and nurses at the system level. This month, we met with leadership from the American Nephrology Nurses Association to discuss how we can work together to best support the kidney care team.
Pursuing sustainability. ASN took steps to address climate change and nephrology's relationship with the environment by joining The Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health and the International Society of Nephrology's (ISN's) GREEN-K (Global Environmental Evolution in Nephrology and Kidney Care) Initiative. With alterations in weather patterns related to climate change, we are seeing more intensified natural disasters like hurricanes and wildfires. These catastrophic events can pose insurmountable barriers for patients to receive lifesaving dialysis treatments. Through its Emergency Partnership Initiative, ASN works closely with the Kidney Community Emergency Response Coalition, Direct Relief, the European Renal Association (ERA), ISN, and other stakeholders to ensure that kidney patients have access to the care they need and to ensure that kidney health professionals can provide that care. We also collaborated with ERA and ISN to begin to develop a plan for which organization will take primary responsibility for geographic regions of the world and how we will notify membership of the response to emergencies. Together, we tried to help throughout the world.
Prioritizing patients. Determining what is best for patients always guides ASN. It is no surprise, therefore, that ASN's commitment to excellence in patient care made substantial progress this year. With Alan S. Kliger, MD, at the helm, ASN's activities in this arena are extensive. Last month, for example, ASN conducted a community-wide, after-action meeting with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to assess what worked, what did not work, and what we can learn for the future based on our experience during the COVID-19 pandemic.
ASN–AST Task Force on ACGME Accreditation for Transplant Nephrology
When the calendar flips from 2023 to 2024, ASN will mark several transitions. Josephine P. Briggs, MD, will step down as EIC of JASN, a position she has held since 2018. The high-quality and excellent science that is a trademark of JASN is testament to Josie's efforts. I cannot thank her enough. Stepping down as CJASN EIC, Rajnish Mehrotra, MD, MS, FASN, will succeed Josie as JASN EIC. Connie M. Rhee, MD, MSc, will succeed Raj as CJASN EIC.
As I reflect on this year, I feel a tremendous amount of gratitude for having had the opportunity to work with such a wonderful group of people. My fellow councilors: Jeffrey S. Berns, MD, FASN; Deidra C. Crews, MD, MS, FASN; Linda F. Fried, MD, MPH, FASN; Crystal A. Gadegbeku, MD, FASN; Keisha L. Gibson, MD, MPH, FASN; Patrick H. Nachman, MD, FASN; Susan E. Quaggin, MD, FASN; and Prabir Roy-Chaudhury, MD, PhD, FASN, were always engaged, thoughtful, and helpful. And before this year, I served on the council with Anupam Agarwal, MD, FASN, and David H. Ellison, MD, FASN. All of these individuals provided me with honest and useful discussions, direction, and friendship.
Several ASN councilors will also end their terms. Since January 2020, Crystal Gadegbeku and Keisha Gibson have served as ASN councilor-at-large and treasurer, respectively. They have brought thoughtful and impactful engagement. They have both guided the organization during the difficult years of COVID-19. Crystal was instrumental in the work done to remove race from the calculation of estimated glomerular filtration rate, and Keisha made difficult decisions to keep ASN financially solvent during the pandemic. I thank Crystal and Keisha for their years of exemplary service.
After 8 years, Sue Quaggin will also rotate off the council. We all owe her an extra debt of gratitude for staying on council to serve as president for an additional year after Barbara T. Murphy, MB BAO BCh, FRCPI, passed away. Sue led ASN with vision, strength, and grace. She did so in the face of the pandemic and the tragic passing of Barbara, a dear friend to Sue, and to all of us. On a personal note, I cannot thank Sue enough for the guidance she provided me, the generosity with which she gave of her time (even when she did not have any), and for our Chicago dinners.
Looking forward to 2024, Deidra Crews will become ASN president on January 1, 2024. Deidra is a clinical researcher whose focus is on health equity. She gave us a preview of her plans at Kidney Week, and she will share more details of her vision for 2024 with us in future editorials. We also welcome three new councilors: Jeffrey H. Miner, PhD, FASN, will become treasurer; Samir M. Parikh, MD, FASN, will become secretary; and Daniel E. Weiner, MD, MS, FASN, will become a councilor-at-large in January. ASN is in good hands.
In 2024, as past president, I look forward to chairing the Awards Committee and the Council Nominations Committee. With that in mind, please nominate your deserving colleagues for the society's awards and to the society's leadership.
In the meantime, wishing you and your loved ones a happy and healthy holiday season and New Year. It has been my honor, privilege, and pleasure to serve as your president this year. See you in San Diego, CA, in October for Kidney Week 2024…if not before!