By Guadalupe Garcia-Tsao, MD, AASLD President
This is my last eNews column as President of AASLD. It has been a wonderful year, and I’d like to take this opportunity to tell you about what we have achieved and what challenges still face us. I would also like to take advantage of my recent experience on the Governing Board -- starting as a Councilor in 2008 -- and contrast it with my experience on the Governing Board as Secretary from 2004 to 2006. I think that these two periods of service, which I have enjoyed greatly, give me a great perspective in experiencing how AASLD has grown and changed in less than a decade.
AASLD has always been the home of anybody interested in the science and practice of liver diseases. Initially, when there were no therapies for liver diseases, these were basic researchers that studied the physiology and pathophysiology of the liver and biliary tree. Their studies led to therapies and procedures that needed to be tested in patients and, thus, AASLD welcomed patient-oriented researchers. As many of these therapies, including liver transplantation, became the standard of care for patients with liver disease, AASLD has also become the home of practitioners taking care of patients with liver disease.
AASLD’s main event is The Liver Meeting®, where research and educational offerings are provided to both members and non-members. This year, 9563 individuals attended the meeting--our second highest attendance ever. It was energizing for me to feel and share the excitement of new discoveries and new information among attendees.
But outside The Liver Meeting®, AASLD works all the time at continuing worthwhile programs and developing new programs geared at ultimately improving the care of patients with liver disease.
Continuing the tradition of my predecessors, I have been completely committed to fostering the next generation of liver researchers and practitioners. In 2012, AASLD committed $2.1 million to awards that include research career development awards as well as hepatology fellowships for physicians and mid-level providers. We can do this thanks to the generous support of industry and our members. As support from industry has dwindled, we have to count more and more on our members in order to maintain these programs.
With the growth in areas of research and the number of therapies and patients, there needs to be an increase in workforce. Therefore, in 2012 AASLD established the Emerging Liver Scholar mentoring program with the goal of recruiting young professionals (medical students and residents) to a career in liver diseases. The program, in which 18 residents were matched with established, respected members of AASLD in order to help guide them through a complex meeting and to establish a long-term mentoring relationship, was initiated at The Liver Meeting®. Steven Herrine, MD, and the Membership and Mentorship Committee have been instrumental in bringing this program to fruition, and AASLD has dedicated $500,000 over the period 2012 to 2016 to keep this program properly funded and help it grow.
Recognizing that not everybody interested can attend The Liver Meeting® and recognizing that the treatment of patients with liver disease goes beyond the realm of gastroenterology and hepatology, AASLD has also committed to creating online educational resources for clinicians. The amazing thing about these achievements is how quickly AASLD has identified a need and reacted. Not only did we react quickly, but we brought programs to fruition in a short period of time thanks to the dedication of our members.
• The AASLD Curriculum and Training (ACT) created a complete educational module on HCV, due to the professional commitment of the Associates Committee, in particular Sue Currie, who worked with our dedicated professional staff in the central office. The HCV module is only the first for ACT, which will continue to add online educational resources for those who care for patients with liver disease. Plans are underway for ACT First -- a hepatology curriculum created in collaboration with the American College of Physicians, CDC, VA, and Project ECHO.
• Similarly, AASLD’s third journal (in addition to HEPATOLOGY and Liver Transplantion) is an online-only resource. Clinical Liver Disease (CLD) will have launched six issues in its first year under Editor-in-Chief Michael Lucey, MD, and an incredibly dedicated group of Associate Editors. The readership of CLD has grown dramatically since the release of the first issue in March 2012, with readers from 65 different countries.
It is important to mention that both these programs are offered free of charge both to members and non-members, in and out of the United States, thanks to the commitment of AASLD to educating practitioners and ultimately improving the care of patients with liver disease.
In closing, I want to say that it has been a privilege and an honor for me to serve as AASLD President this last year. It has been the highlight of a career that started many years ago as a medical student from Mexico who attended her first scientific meeting, The Liver Meeting®. I have not done this by myself. It is inspiring to work with a talented and committed group of individuals, including the members of the Governing Board, the leaders and members of our 18 committees and 12 special interest groups, and a dedicated staff who tirelessly work behind the scenes at ensuring that AASLD continues to be the premiere liver organization in the world.
I thank you all.