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 Presidential Update 06/07

Richard H. Gelberman, MD
June 20, 2007

The following is a summary of the most important action items approved at the ASSH Council meeting that took place at the end of May.

Sobering Research Audit Dissected
A Council task force on Research provided the results of a critical audit of the Society and Foundation’s research efforts over the past 10 years.  While excellent value has been achieved from the funding of Basic Research grants (in terms of annual meeting presentations and relevant publications), the effort to support clinical research studies has largely failed.  In addition, the Society’s financial commitment to support research overall, through the American Foundation for Surgery of the Hand, has fallen behind endowment levels supporting research in other sub-specialties. 

A bold new research direction, recommended by Task Force chair Kevin Chung, was approved enthusiastically by Council.  Key components of the program to be implemented as soon as possible are:

  • Dramatic improvement in research funding levels.
  • Development of a clinical trials and outcomes committee (CTOC) based on the successful model of the American Society for Sports Medicine’s multi-center orthopaedic outcomes network (the MOON group).The goal is to stimulate and facilitate higher levels of clinically relevant research in hand surgery. 
  • Sponsorship of several hand surgery fellows and residents to attend the AAOS Clinician Scientist Development Program.
  • Performance of regular audits of ASSH research grants in an ongoing assessment of the award process by developing the research management committee (RMC), which will be chaired by Richard Berger.
  • Site visits of active ASSH scholars.
  • Development of a funding relationship between the ASSH, the NIH, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to facilitate higher levels of hand surgery clinical research.
  • Development of a Career research award to highlight the importance of hand surgery research.


A variety of other recommendations were approved for development over the next 2-3 years.  Believing that the ASSH has a substantial challenge if it is to achieve the levels of funding necessary to provide appropriate levels of innovation in the field, a number of other long-term programs were discussed, primary among which was the need to undertake a Capital Campaign in support of research.

Capital Campaign Plan Developed
The ASSH and AFSH will launch a major capital campaign in order to substantially increase hand surgery research support.  The goal is to double the endowment for research within three years.  The compelling need to undertake a major effort of this sort at this time was discussed fully and the rationales articulated.  There was full agreement on the central importance of clinical and basic research to our practices, to our journal, to our annual meeting, and to the future of hand surgery.

Council recruited the services of an experienced campaign consultant, Nike Whitcomb.  Ms. Whitcomb, who has had a long history of successful fund raising in non-profit organizations (e.g., American College of Surgeons), is in the process of designing a plan to help us achieve our multi-year goals.  In the near future, some ASSH members will receive a request for interviews and other members will receive a survey about our research efforts.  I sincerely appreciate your taking the time to respond.

New JHS is Unfolded
Under the leadership of Andy Lee, a task force has been working with consultant Lance Primis (former President of the New York Times Co.), through the winter and spring to develop a series of far-reaching improvements in our scientific journal.  Over the next 18 months, the JHS cover, organization, and layout will be re-designed in order to make it more attractive and accessible to readers, and the manuscript submission and review process will undergo both up-grading and streamlining.  A sub-group of the task force, led by Ghazi Rayan, thoroughly dissected the review component of the JHS and developed a comprehensive list of recommendations.  In addition to new and improved guidelines for review articles covering a multi-year rolling curriculum, there will be three  new offerings.  Based on the highly regarded Pediatrics in Review, readers of JHS will see:

• a new series of brief diagnosis and treatment updates entitled “Index of suspicion”
• a novel section of highly relevant clinical reports entitled “In brief”,
• an improved section on surgical technique with audiovisual supplement

In addition, the task force recommends the development of an on-line CME component within the review section of JHS – one that addresses topics relevant to Maintenance of Certification.  Council is committed to having JHS be the premier professional journal among surgical sub-specialties.  Stay tuned for the new JHS brand identity to be rolled out in early 2008.

Novel Resident Education Program Unfolded
A resident education task force, under the leadership of Martin Boyer, has developed such an exciting resident new curriculum that its activities have been perpetuated in the form of a new Resident Education Committee within the Division of Education.  The committee is in the process of creating an ASSH Pocket Manual of Hand Surgery edited by Drs. Bozentka, Hammert, and Boyer.  Modeled after the highly effective Washington Manual of Therapeutics, the Society’s Pocket Manual will be a ring bound compendium of essentials for the pockets of all medical students, residents, therapists and others.  With content that is updated at frequent intervals and with a companion web-based offering of Classic Articles and Self Assessment, this state of the art publication promises to fill a previously unmet need. 

The committee is also compiling a list of educational objectives and required factual knowledge as they relate to the requirements of students and junior and senior level residents in hand surgery.  The committee will monitor data on the entrance of orthopaedic, plastic, and general surgery residents into hand surgery fellowships annually.

International Programs to be Pursued Vigorously
Chairman of the Society’s International Task Force, Alex Shin, unfolded a strategic approach to international development, one that was approved unanimously by Council.  Components of the program include the development of a Carousel group, similar to a program that has been so successful for the American Orthopaedic Association.  The Presidents of the French, British, and Japanese Hand Societies will discuss the possibilities of enhanced interaction in September.  The invited Presidents will then attend the Council dinner where further brainstorming will take place. 

Other features include the introduction of our first International Guest Society program (the JSSH will be the 2007 select Society), an expanded scientific interaction with other societies (a joint meeting with the BSSH will take place in London in 2009), and the creation of an international travel group made up of interested ASSH members.  Further, the ASSH past President will represent the Society at European Federation meetings annually and at IFSSH meetings.  The overall goal is to have the ASSH become an interested partner for scientific advancement and collegiality among societies for hand surgery around world-wide

Society Develops Guidelines for Corporate Support
The Society’s partnership with industry has grown substantially, in terms of financial support and complexity of interaction, in recent years.  As a result, President-elect Steve Glickel led a Council retreat focused on developing a principle-based set of guidelines for accepting financial support from industry.  The nature of potential new interactions is so broad (now including such possibilities as website advertising) that Council has elected to establish clear and appropriate boundaries for accepting sponsorships, pursuing marketing opportunities, and condoning other types of financial support.  Our overall goal is to devise an explicit statement of principle that is consistent with our reputation for independence, honesty, and scientific integrity.  Dr. Glickel will summarize the enthusiastic points of discussion and present an action plan for Council’s consideration in September.

2007 Young Leaders Program Approved
Based on the recommendation of Past President Terry Light, Council approved a fourth consecutive year for the increasingly popular Young Leaders Program.  The program is targeted to surgeons with less than 8 years of membership in the ASSH.  David Lichtman will lead the 2007 program, Dec. 6-8, in Rosemont.  Applications will be made available on line through the Weekly Update the near future.

ASSH to Launch Mentoring Program
Julie Katarincic, MD provided background information on a pilot ASSH Mentoring program.  The Mentoring Task Force will be working with the Young Member Steering Committee to pair mentors and mentees early this summer and there will be a kick-off reception at the Annual Meeting in Seattle to encourage mentorship pairs to meet each other face to face. 

Conflict of Interest Policy Revised
Vice President Andy Koman led Council through a discussion of critical importance on Conflict of Interest as it relates to service in other professional organizations.  A resultant newly devised conflict of interest policy and disclosure form provides guidance on how the ASSH will manage conflicts where members have multiple leadership roles in various organizations.  Attached is a relevant portion of the new policy.

Sites Selected for 2012 and 2013 Annual Meetings
Council considered 3 sites each for the 2012 and 2013 annual meetings before deciding on Chicago (2012) and San Francisco (2013).  Both popular cities have provided successful cost-effective venues for the annual meeting.

Council’s next meeting will take place in September in Seattle.  Please contact me if you have any comments or suggestions or if you are interested in joining in a particular effort (gelbermanr@wustl.edu).

I look forward to seeing you in September.

Richard H. Gelberman, MD