Don Mackay, MD
Sue and I send our best wishes to all our Association Members, as well as your families and colleagues. These are very strange times, and we hope that despite the challenges we face in this COVID-19 world, you all have had the opportunity this summer to enjoy a little quiet time and perhaps savor some of the slower moments thrust upon all of us when outside our practice settings.
Our Association communications into late Spring were focused on the cancelation of the Annual Meeting in Chicago and the implications for the 2021 meeting at the Turnberry Resort, Aventura, just outside Miami. While we do not know what the coming months will bring, at this time our Board is cautiously optimistic that we may be able to come together and begin to share, albeit cautiously, the fellowship, collegiality, and recognition of excellence in our field for which our Association is so well known.
Despite the cancellation of our 2020 Annual Meeting, and the shift forward of our planned presenters, panels and papers, there has been a lot of activity by many of our Association Committees and our staff team over the past several months. Thanks to the diligence and dedication of our Membership Committee, led by Juliana Hansen, the Board approved a highly qualified slate of 35 candidates for acceptance this year. Thanks to a change in policy allowing an Association Member to sponsor five, rather than the previous three, new members, we are seeing a tremendous class of potential candidates put forth for 2021. The Membership Committee is already looking ahead to the new set of applicants, and Juliana continues to follow the charge put to her and the committee back in 2019, which was to have a strong emphasis on diverse candidates from all areas of our specialty.
Another project started in 2019 came to fruition with the establishment of the Women in Plastic Surgery Committee, chaired by Michele Manahan. This committee was a logical outgrowth of the discussions emanating from the AAPS’ yearly Women Surgeons’ Luncheon, initiated back in 2007 by Susan Mackinnon, and carried forward by so many of our women surgeon leaders, including our Past President Mary McGrath and President-Elect Linda Phillips. Many of our female leaders in plastic surgery have hosted and attended these meetings over the past decade, and it became very apparent that a committee focused on issues unique to women in our specialty was long overdue.
Part of the discussion in Baltimore around the Women’s Committee was how we should address the broader issue of Diversity in Plastic Surgery. Our national consciousness was jolted by the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Amuad Arbery. The Association along with many of the organizations we work for and belong to have chosen to do our part to address racism and racial disparities in our society. We have formed a Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion which that will ultimately become another standing committee of the Association. Russell Reid has accepted the position of Chair and together with Julie Hansen, Michelle Manahan, Milton Armstrong and Nick Vedder will form the core of the task force. Their initial charge is to ensure a sustained effort to make a difference in the diversity not just of the Association but in plastic surgery as a profession. This will involve not only efforts toward inclusion in membership, but in helping raise awareness of opportunities in plastic surgery by focusing on underrepresented minorities. Ultimately, we aim to have an even stronger Association with a membership that represents the untapped talent from the full diversity of our amazing country.
While we all agree our Annual Meeting is what makes the Association so special and unique, as Past President Jim Zins noted, the “AAPS is more than a Meeting.” Our focused webinar series has held presentations which have been extremely well attended and well received. What helps make our Association webinars different from the myriad offerings in our specialty is an independence from industry, the caliber of our speakers, and the selection of topics, which have at times been controversial. The Board acknowledges that we all seem to be suffering from “ZOOM fatigue” at this time, and so while we know virtual education and presentations are crucial as we move forward, we will be bringing our webinars back online later this year.
The Association also continued to move the ICONS project forward, and if you have not looked at our repository recently, I urge you to take the time and visit the true pioneers and leaders of our specialty in these unique videos. This joint project of the AAPS and the Plastic Surgery Foundation offers 35 video interviews, and we hope to conduct the next round of interviews next year, adapting to the environment if need be to ensure that they are conducted in atmosphere of safety for all involved.
Awards initiatives and external programs continue as well. We will have two James Barrett Brown winners in 2021, and we will be naming a new Constable Fellow in 2021, as we resume the campaign for candidates for this unique fellowship. Recognizing that research projects and labs have been impacted by COVID-19, we have extended the terms of our current Academic Scholars to allow them an additional year to complete their research and continue to access funding. Dr. Ian Whitaker was named as the second AAPS-EURAPS Academic Scholar awardee this summer. The remainder of our awardees selected for 2020 will be carried forward and recognized in Miami, including our new class of Visiting Professors. The Association received so many requests for our Visiting Professors that we decided to extend their time to allow each of them to complete their visits once it is safe to do so. We will have the largest class ever of Cannon Students next year, as we are inviting back those who were accepted in 2020, as well as looking to fund a new group for 2021. Finally, we are hopeful that the Cannon members, led by Past President David Larsen will be able to gather in person as they welcome the next generation of plastic surgery leaders.
Plans for the 2021 Annual Meeting are underway, always informed by the need to be vigilant about the future. We cannot be certain what form the meeting will ultimately take. At this time, we are preparing for a either a full meeting or a meeting/hybrid format. We are very fortunate to have Aurelie Alger and her team from PRRI monitoring the situation. Their experience with other societies has been key in guiding a rational approach for our meetings. One thing we must acknowledge is the tremendous work done on COVID-19 by our colleagues in the medical and research fields, as they not just look toward an eventual vaccine, but for their tireless efforts on a daily basis as they treat those afflicted by this terrible disease. Many of our members have served in directly caring for COVID patients. A number of us have served on our respective hospital COVID-19 planning teams during these past several months. I believe we have all gained an even greater appreciation for the diverse members of the patient care team.
While we cannot be together yet, please know that your Association Board wishes each of you, and your families, good health. We look forward to joining you all in person as soon as it is safe to do so.
Don Mackay, MD