SPOTLIGHT ON A Look into AUA's Global Leadership

By: John D. Denstedt, MD, FRCSC, FACS, FCAHS | Posted on: 01 May 2022

In 2017, the AUA Board of Directors approved the addition of 3 Assistant Secretary positions to AUA’s leadership structure, with the goal of helping to shape and execute AUA’s International Education Plan by providing key assistance to the Secretary, Education Chair, Chief Executive Officer, and AUA staff regarding the AUA’s international strategies and activities. Responsible for a specific geographical region, the first group of Assistant Secretaries consisted of Drs. Sam Chang, for the Europe, Middle East and Africa region; Aseem Shukla, responsible for Asia and Australia; and Angela Smith, for North, South and Central America (Americas), and the Caribbean region (fig. 1).

Figure 1. AUA Assistant Secretaries at the 2018 AUA Presidents Reception in San Francisco, California. Left to right: Dr. Sam Chang, Dr. Angela Smith and Dr. Aseem Shukla.

Figure 2. Dr. Smith and Dr. Monga discuss collaborations with AUCA (Asociación Urológica de Centroamérica y el Caribe) leaders in Roatan, Honduras. Left to right: Dr. Ingrid Perscky, Dr. Federico Suero, Dr. Manoj Monga, Dr. Celeste Alston and Dr. Angela Smith.

Figure 3. Drs. Denstedt and Smith show off their awards from the SAU (Sociedad Argentina de Urologiá) in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Left to right: Dr. John Denstedt, Dr. Angela Smith and Dr. Gopal Badlani.

Figure 4. Dr. Chang teaches residents during the AUA Summer School course in Montegridolfo, Italy.

Throughout their tenure, Drs. Chang, Shukla and Smith have been instrumental in expanding AUA’s international programs (figs. 2–5). They realized significant achievements including the identification of new international opportunities and collaborations with both national and multi-national urological societies, and maintenance of relationships with global leaders in urology and other strategic partners throughout their geographical regions of responsibility. Although the pandemic canceled urological congresses around the world and completely restricted their ability to travel for nearly 2 years, these leaders all managed to connect with AUA’s international partners through virtual leadership meetings and educational programming. In 2021, AUA still held over 35 international leadership meetings and 45 virtual educational programs. In comparison, prior to the pandemic AUA conducted over 60 leadership meetings and 50+ educational programs annually worldwide. The strong bonds of friendship and collaboration established through these engagements ensure that the AUA is able to continue to meet the needs of our members. The AUA’s greatest strength is our members, and the Assistant Secretaries have been vocal advocates of the benefits and value of AUA membership to urologists and residents worldwide; with their leadership, the AUA has been able engage more urologists across the globe than ever before.

The Assistant Secretaries are also very active with the AUA Annual Meeting, where nearly 15 international society programs are held each year. The Assistant Secretaries help identify AUA experts for these sessions, provide welcome messages and network with our partners. The meeting culminates with the President’s Reception, where more than 40 International Society Presidents attend, along with other international leaders. This event provides an excellent forum to nurture friendships and enjoy great company from around the world (fig. 6).

Figure 5. AUA faculty with SIU leaders in Montegridolfo, Italy. Left to right: Dr. Kevin McVary, Dr. Dean Assimos, Dr. Giuseppe Carrieri, Dr. Gopal Badlani, Dr. Vincenzo Mirone, Dr. Sam Chang and Dr. Drogo (Karl) Montague.

As part of their positions, Drs. Chang, Shukla and Smith also served as Section Editors for AUANews, contributing noteworthy scientific contributions within their specialty areas. They invited key clinical research articles from global leaders in urology. During their tenure, AUANews is now available in Spanish and Portuguese translations, and content has almost tripled on a monthly basis, which includes an increase in international content.

After 4 successful years of leadership, Drs. Chang and Smith will finish their terms in May 2022. The AUA is extremely thankful for their service and for developing the foundation of the Assistant Secretary role. Dr. Shukla will continue in his role through 2024, creating stronger ties with our Asian and Australian colleagues. As part of this transition, the AUA recently announced the selection of Dr. Jorge Gutierrez-Aceves for the Assistant Secretary position for the Americas and Caribbean beginning in June 2022. The search for the new Assistant Secretary position for Europe, the Middle East and Africa will begin in September 2022.

Because the terms of Dr. Chang and Dr. Smith are coming to a close, I asked them to share their thoughts on the progress they have made over the last several years and what they see for the future of AUA’s international programs. Please join us in congratulating all of our Assistant Secretaries on their achievements.

Dr. Angela Smith

As an incoming Assistant Secretary 3 years ago, what were your goals for the AUA’s international programs? Have these come to fruition?

Figure 6. AUA leadership with International Presidents from around the world at the 2019 AUA Presidents Reception in Chicago, Illinois.

Figure 7. Dr. Smith participates in a Women in Urology event at the SBU (Sociedade Brasileira de Urologia) Congress in Curitiba, Brazil.

As an incoming Assistant Secretary, my goal was to expand urologic educational opportunities in the Americas and Caribbean while also increasing the diversity of speakers to enrich learning. Three years later, I am excited to have achieved these goals, albeit not in the way I had envisioned. The pandemic created many challenges—but also afforded numerous opportunities through virtual programming. Virtual lectures, webinars and meetings allowed for cross collaboration and more frequent educational opportunities. We also created an AUA Speaker Database that expanded our list of speakers (partnering with leaders from organizations such as the Society of Women in Urology and the R. Frank Jones Urological Society) to include a wide variety of experiences to enrich clinical and research education.

How has the practice of urology changed with globalization?

Globalization has expanded the practice of urology in wonderful ways, creating avenues to share operative techniques, engage in research collaborations and learn from one another. I firmly believe that globalization strengthens our field by understanding similarities and differences that can impact and elevate the quality of patient care and research.

What achievement, in terms of international programs, are you most proud of during your tenure as Assistant Secretary?

This is a tough question to answer because I’m proud of so many things: expansion of educational opportunities through brainstorming with international partners, international exchange programs, rapid pivoting to virtual programming. However, I am particularly proud of the growth of women in urology that I have seen in such a short time. I had the privilege of meeting many strong women in the region, each leading efforts to increase diversity of their membership. Over the past 3 years, many groups have organically evolved—including in Brazil (the Orchids), Mexico, Colombia and Peru, among others. Women leaders from these and other countries are now partnering with the Society of Women in Urology to learn from one another, increase diversity in speaker engagements, and facilitate mentorship and networking. The energy behind these initiatives is incredible, and I am so proud to be a part of it (fig. 7)!

What was the biggest surprise during your tenure?

Perhaps the biggest surprise was the number of friends I made during my tenure as Assistant Secretary. I cannot express my gratitude to countless individuals who welcomed me with generosity, kindness and trust. I have met families, listened to beautiful guitar melodies, sat on rooftops while overlooking historic buildings, enjoyed home-cooked meals and danced with friends. Every memory is deeply treasured. I have made lifelong friendships that will continue to enrich my life—and for that I am forever grateful.

What do you see on the horizon for global urology?

We are only beginning to see the great potential of global urology. Given the rapid expansion of virtual programming and global research, I foresee continued expansion in the areas of global research, cross-cultural educational opportunities and exchange programs. We are more similar than different—of this I am certain. Global urology reminds us of this, affording us an opportunity to grow the field more rapidly together rather than alone.

“Given the rapid expansion of virtual programming and global research, I foresee continued expansion in the areas of global research, cross-cultural educational opportunities and exchange programs.”

Figure 8. Dr. Chang enjoys a faculty dinner with leaders from SIU (Società Italiana de Urologia) at the Fundamentals in Urology course in Venice, Italy.

Dr. Sam Chang

As an incoming Assistant Secretary 3 years ago, what were your goals for the AUA’s international programs? Have these come to fruition?

My goals were to learn as much as possible about the organizations within my region and strengthen relationships, but also develop new ties with other urologic organizations.

What do you view as the AUA’s biggest strength internationally?

Respect—internationally, the AUA is still held in very high regard. And internationally, all the current and future efforts by the AUA to provide education, resources and benefits to our global partners are recognized by countries throughout the world. The AUA continues to work actively to maintain and legitimize its role as the global leader in the practice of urology for education, research and clinical initiatives.

What has been the biggest challenge in implementing AUA’s international programs?

Undoubtedly, the pandemic contributed to a real impact on all groups’ efforts. Priorities shifted, as they should, to providing patient care as many countries required their physicians to help care for COVID patients.

What was the biggest surprise during your tenure?

It probably should not have been a surprise, but what is quite telling is the same difficulties of financial constraints, hospital bureaucratic requirements and work pressures exist. What did not surprise me is the overall sense of responsibility of every individual I met for their patient, their trainees, their institution and their organization.

What is your favorite memory from your international travels as an AUA Assistant Secretary?

Too difficult to choose a single favorite memory, but 2 memories will always remain. First, the willingness of AUA members to lend their expertise all over the world and how all of them without fail were excellent, committed and engaged teachers, but more importantly, colleagues and peers. The mutual respect between the AUA and all of the organizations with which we have developed relations is very strong. Second, the true friendships I have personally been able to develop throughout the world on behalf of the AUA but that will always remain as others assume the Assistant Secretary position (fig. 8). These friendships include residents-in-training, young faculty members and academic leaders; all of them have been incredibly gracious, warm and welcoming.

How did the pandemic impact your role as Assistant Secretary and collaborations with society partners?

The pandemic has impacted everyone, and every training program, every hospital and every country. Our ties with our partners throughout the world remain strong but it has made making new relationships much more difficult. Everyone, I think, believes that there is no substitute to an in-person discussion and social interaction. I marvel at all of the close relationships that Dr. Smith has fostered in a short period of time and that success and warmth depended on in-person contact and meetings. Virtual meetings have been hugely important and beneficial not only for discussions but for ongoing education, conferences and academic meetings. But as leadership changes and new individuals assume positions, strengthening and developing relations will depend on at least some form of personal interaction, in my opinion.

What do you see on the horizon for global urology?

The question answers the question. Urology and all of medicine is becoming global, but I think we need to raise our level of diagnosis, care and treatment for the too many underserved populations throughout the world. At the same time, sharing the innovations and encouraging research initiatives with our partners throughout the world will reap benefits now and in the future.

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