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July/August 2011
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From the President: Setting Priorities for IDSA’s Future

When living in challenging times, it’s wise to periodically reassess the path we are on.

The weight of the federal budget deficit is pressing down on all of us, leading to cuts in public health and research funding, as well as efforts to control Medicare and Medicaid spending. Implementation of health care reform is creating a push toward more integrated ways of delivering health care and new payment models for providers to reward quality care and reduce health care costs.

These trends affect not only those of us who currently work in infectious diseases, but also medical students and residents who are considering their career options. The future of our field is at stake.

In this context, the IDSA Board of Directors met in June for a strategic planning session to identify the Society’s top priorities for the next two to three years. Board members drew upon a range of information, including an assessment of the changing environment, recent member surveys (summaries are available online), and strategic planning documents recently developed by the HIV Medicine Association of IDSA (HIVMA). (You must be logged in to access the survey summaries.)

 The IDSA Board identified several top priorities:

  • Advocate for regulatory and legislative action to address antimicrobial resistance, including by urging Congress to pass legislation to create incentives to stimulate the antimicrobial pipeline and the development of rapid diagnostics, strengthening surveillance programs, requiring antimicrobial stewardship efforts, and fostering research on antimicrobial resistance. This includes continuing to urge the Food and Drug Administration to complete important clinical trial guidance documents.
  • Significantly enhance the development of IDSA practice guidelines, focusing on making timely revisions, standardizing guideline formats, and ensuring that the guidelines are concise and user-friendly.
  • Assist ID physicians in understanding and coping with changes in the health care delivery system, including ongoing efforts to document the value ID specialists provide to patients and the health care system, informing members of important trends and changes related to health care reform, developing practical tools to help members respond to the changing circumstances of their practices, and assisting ID clinicians in providing care for patients with chronic hepatitis B and C virus infection.
  • Support adequate funding for critical public health and prevention programs in ID, including developing effective ways to advocate for funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and continuing to promote adult immunization.
  • Promote ID research, including influencing the direction of research by identifying critical unmet medical needs, advocating for eliminating bureaucratic barriers to research while strengthening protection of research subjects, and developing effective strategies to advocate for funding for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

The Board also agreed that IDSA should have an ongoing role in advocacy on global ID issues, including antimicrobial resistance, in addition to maintaining current efforts on HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis through the Center for Global Healthy Policy (see March 2011 “From the President”). A new Board work group has been appointed to define core advocacy activities in this important area.

Board members also recommitted to ensuring the success of IDWeek. A new venture of IDSA, the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, HIVMA, and the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society, IDWeek 2012 will involve the first-ever combined meeting of these leading ID groups next fall in San Diego. (As a reminder, the 49th Annual Meeting of IDSA and HIVMA, Oct. 20-23, 2011, in Boston is rapidly approaching. See the related article in this issue for more information, including how to register.)

The strategic planning process was invaluable in refining the Society’s short-term priorities. I was pleased to see that the priorities identified by our Board and our members are, for the most part, consistent with current activities, reinforcing my belief that we are on the right path.

The process also reinforced the challenges IDSA faces in serving its diverse membership (see May 2011 IDSA News). It was incredibly gratifying to read the comments from members responding to the surveys who wrote in passionate terms about why they belong to IDSA in these challenging times.

Said one: “IDSA is one of the most progressive and active professional organizations and is dedicated to improving patient care.” Said another: “I believe in what [IDSA] stands for and want to help out in any way I can.”  I hope that you share these views.
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