From the President: Resilient Leadership

By: Scott K. Swanson, MD, FACS | Posted on: 03 Sep 2021

As I reflect on my term as AUA President, there are 2 words that come to mind: leadership and resiliency. The COVID-19 pandemic brought challenges we’ve never faced before, but through resiliency and strong leadership, we’ve been able to navigate through these difficult and challenging times. I am so very proud to be part of an organization that remains at the forefront for tapping into the innovative spirit of our specialty.

We had to do our jobs despite not being face-to-face, adapt to new methods, keep our focus and learn to effectively work from home among many other new transitions. We swiftly adjusted from a canceled in-person meeting to a full virtual program, making virtual education advantageous and better than before. We’re thankful our membership resiliently responded proactively to the new delivery models.

This past year, we’ve written compelling new chapters in the AUA narrative. Our book, thick with 121 years of stories, has a new chronicle: stories that prove our strength as a global community and our unwavering commitment to advancing urology beyond the ways we might traditionally think.

The AUA represents all facets of the urology community, from retired urologists to those just starting out in medicine. I am proud to say 2020 was another record year for membership growth with the AUA welcoming 3,149 new members, with an increase in medical students, residents, fellows and advanced practice providers. The 2020 Urology Residency Match was also a banner year with 353 positions filled, 142 registered programs and 122 female applicants, of whom 86% matched. I want to express my sincere gratitude to all members of the AUA. We wouldn’t be where we are today without you and your unwavering dedication to advancing your professional mission.

I am also honored to have welcomed the AUA’s Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, which is chaired by Dr. Tracy Downs. The Task Force aims to identify specific and actionable steps for how the AUA can advocate for, and foster, a diverse and inclusive environment within the association as well as the urology community. Under the direction of Dr. John Denstedt, the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force promptly turned around the first-ever issue of AUANews dedicated to Diversity and Inclusion.

Throughout the pandemic, the AUA has remained committed to providing quality evidence-based education for urologists and urological health care providers worldwide, with an increase in opportunities for virtual or video-based technology. Through the combined talents of our Board Secretary, Dr. John Denstedt, coupled with the expertise of outgoing Education Chair, Dr. Victor Nitti, and incoming Education Chair, Dr. Jay Raman, we came out with more capacity to meet the educational needs of our members around the world. I want to personally thank all members, authors, speakers and moderators who submitted abstracts and participated in the presentations of the programs. All of your hard work contributed to the success of the virtual education. In 2020, more than 100 AUA faculty members participated in more than 45 national and multinational society programs across 20+ countries. I’m looking forward to new AUA programs, such as the Business of Urology.

Our commitment to the research community remained steadfast under the leadership of outgoing Research Council Chair, Dr. Aria Olumi, and incoming Chair, Dr. Stephen Kaplan. The research we pursue in urology and other areas of medicine help us to generate new knowledge, new connections and new insights into patient care. In 2020, nearly $1.5 million was provided in research funding. We partnered with the Society for Basic Urologic Research to establish the first Urology Care Foundation Research Scholar Award dedicated to supporting women and underrepresented minorities in urological research. We also received a $2 million donation from Urovant Sciences to develop the Leadership in Education, Achievement and Diversity (LEAD) program. The LEAD program will support 3 urology residents per year from racial and ethnic backgrounds underrepresented in urological research to conduct mentored research, engage in research education and be championed through networking, as they develop successful research careers and better serve the urology patient community.

The Urology Care Foundation also launched its Humanitarian Award and Grants program, an initiative led by Dr. John Lynch. These new humanitarian initiatives will support missions that will improve urological health in underserved areas around the globe. The impact will go beyond the mere physical, providing hope, dignity and improved quality of life. Congratulations to Dr. Catherine Rhu deVries, the first Urology Care Foundation Humanitarian Recognition Award winner, and all of the nominees.

As a leading advocate for the specialty of urology, the AUA is always working on behalf of its members and their patients to ensure critical interests are promoted to a wide array of decision makers. The AUA remained focused on its advocacy agenda in 2020, which included such initiatives as physician reimbursement, access to care and urology/cancer research funding, and telehealth. Under the leadership of Dr. Eugene Rhee, the 2020 and 2021 Annual Urology Advocacy Summit successfully transitioned to a temporary virtual platform. Collaborating with patient and research advocacy organizations, the AUA ensured the voice of the specialty was heard on federal, state and local levels. Thank you to all who have donated to the AUA Political Action Committee.

I would like to thank outgoing Board members Drs. John Lynch, David Green, Barry Kogan and Ann Gormley for their hard work and dedication to the AUA. I would like to welcome Dr. Raju Thomas in his new role as AUA President and Dr. Thomas Stringer in his role as Treasurer. I would also like to welcome Dr. Edward Messing, who will serve as President-elect, and Drs. Hassan Razvi and Arthur Tarantino as incoming Northeastern and New England Section Representatives, respectively. The AUA is a better association thanks to the hard work of these individuals, and the future of the AUA is in good hands.

The AUA wouldn’t be the premier urological association it is today without the hard work of the staff and executive team, under the leadership of CEO Mike Sheppard. I cannot commend the team at the AUA enough for their resiliency during this time.

While it might seem far away, the team at the AUA is already planning for the 2022 AUA Annual Meeting with new educational programming, features and virtual options for attendees. I have no doubt the hard work and dedication of the team at the AUA will produce a phenomenal meeting with only 8 short months between AUA2021 and AUA2022. I’m looking forward to seeing you all in New Orleans!

In a year like no other, the AUA remained deeply focused on serving its members and staying active in all areas of its mission: education, research and advocacy. I am proud of the actions taken to meet the needs of our specialty, and I am thankful for the more than 500 urologists who volunteered to help us deliver on our mission.

The AUA and urology community endured this past year with resilience, leadership, flexibility, drive and compassion. I thank you all for your continued support and encouragement. It has truly been an honor and privilege to serve as the President of this outstanding organization

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