When Tom Slama handed me the gavel as IDSA President in October 2012, we were in the midst of the fungal meningitis outbreak associated with contaminated steroid injections. In my first President’s Message, I reported on the many ways in which IDSA responded to that outbreak, to keep members informed and to support the public health response.
That was only the beginning. 2013 has been another amazing year. Our field and our professional society have faced more than a few challenges, and all of us, working together through IDSA, have realized an impressive set of accomplishments:
We have grappled with difficult questions about how to anticipate, oversee and asses dual use research of concern (DURC)—research with a legitimate scientific purpose that could be misapplied to pose a threat to public health. We have attempted to strike an appropriate balance between the need to gain knowledge that can help prevent or lessen the severity of naturally occurring infectious disease (ID), and the need to mitigate risks associated with some research. The Journal of Infectious Diseases (JID) and members of our Society have played leading roles in this discussion, and will continue to do so.
We have focused on the future of the ID specialty and have supported mentorships, scholarships, and educational programs to attract the best and the brightest to our field. We have worked long hours to document the value that ID specialists bring to our patients and the health care system, through improved patient outcomes and reduced health care costs.
We rallied Capitol Hill to support funding for medical research, and we continued to emphasize the need for the U.S. to maintain a strong and well-funded public health system that can respond to serious threats, such as antimicrobial resistance, influenza, food-borne illness, and the next emerging infectious disease.
We kept up our efforts on immunization, including co-sponsoring a working group meeting to discuss responses to the ongoing resurgence of pertussis in the U.S., in conjunction with the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society, and the National Vaccine Program Office. (Proceedings will be published in JID this winter.) We worked with the National Adult and Influenza Immunization Summit to support and strengthen adult immunization standards.
We launched several new educational programs and resources on hepatitis C, including a new collaboration with the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases to develop clinical recommendations for the management of hepatitis C virus.
Recognizing the essential role of diagnostic testing, we worked with the American Society for Microbiology to release a new guide to help physicians choose the most appropriate tests to aid them in diagnosing infectious diseases. We have supported the efforts of IDSA’s Diagnostics Task Force to evaluate current trends related to the research, development, approval, regulation, and utilization of ID diagnostics. This includes identifying barriers that limit research and development (R&D) of new rapid diagnostic tests as well as challenges to their use in patient care. A report with recommendations for how to overcome these obstacles and other challenges will be released this fall.
Working with partners including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Pew Charitable Trusts, we continued to sound the alarm on antimicrobial resistance and to advocate for a robust response, including prevention, surveillance, stewardship, and development of new antimicrobials and diagnostic tests.
In my first President’s Message, I wrote: “One of the most challenging and captivating aspects of our field is that there is always something emerging, evolving, or unanticipated. As ID physicians and scientists—and as the professional society for the field—we must be flexible, agile, and creative, so as to be able to tackle new problems as they arise, in real time.” In 2000, the late Nobel laureate, Joshua Lederberg wrote in reference to the struggle to address antibiotic resistance, that it’s “our wits versus their genes.” In 2013, we used our wits and determination to anticipate and counter microbial threats to health.
None of this would have been possible without the dedication and hard work of the Society’s members. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to serve as your president.
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