As we transition from spring to summer, I wanted to let the membership know what is occurring at the CNS. As this magazine arrives, I hope you and your loved ones have a peaceful, safe and restful 4th of July holiday weekend.
In the months following the 50th Annual Meeting, I began to settle into a crowded calendar of events, which include weekly meetings with our Executive Director and immediate Past President, Phil Pearl, followed by a weekly meeting with Anup Patel, the President of the Child Neurology Foundation. Ad hoc meetings with committees and their chairs are added onto my schedule as are frequent meetings with presidents of the other, international child neurology societies, a tradition Phil helped launch last year. The international community is dedicated to cross-promotion of scholarly content and were wonderful in promoting Child Neurology: Its Origin, Founders, Growth and Evolution (Stephen Ashwal, Ed). Sameer Zuberi, the President of the European Paediatric Neurology Society, asks that I inform CNS members of their partnership with MacKeith Press in developing two interactive courses based on a publication by Colin Kennedy:, ‘Principles and Practice of Child Neurology in Infancy’, to support pediatric health professionals develop best clinical practice for all neurological problems in infancy. More information can be found at https://www.epns.info/child-neurology-in-infancy-online-courses/.
In retrospect, the CNS was fortunate to have our annual meeting occuring after the Delta-surge and before Omicron changed our global lexicon, seemingly permanently. We did not have evidence of any spread of COVID-19 associated with the 50th Annual Meeting of the CNS. Phil Pearl aptly chose as the meeting’s theme; CNS: “Past, Present and Future”, and all can agree the theme was carried off with great success.
It now becomes my job to help usher our society into the next 50 years. Our founders could not have imagined the changes in the Society – examples include the need for new committees such as Electronic Communications, MOC and LDEI (Leadership, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion), the latter reflecting the changing demographics and evolving outlook of our membership. When our Society was born, there was no concept of health care payment regulation that became known as DRG (Diagnostic Related Groups), a concept that came into play in the late 1980s, much less capitated care (a payment model rolling out now in many states).
Later in this letter I will reflect on the importance of a live annual meeting in keeping the social fabric of our society intact, but as we evolve, and as the influx of 150 new residents/Junior members makes the Society younger and more energetic each year, the importance of having an electronic platform that is functional and fun will also be critical to maintaining community. In the last two years we have all met many peers on Zoom or Teams meetings and have working relationships with these people that we have never shaken hands with before. We can only imagine how friendships will germinate in the future. Most of us wish we could return to the pre-COVID norms of December 2019, but that is not likely to happen. The rebuilding of our website began before COVID19, but the pandemic gave added urgency accelerating some website redesign elements making it another helpful and necessary platform for strengthening our social ties.
When I think about what is happening around us, I quickly settle into one core concept: CHANGE. An old quotation by Bob Dylan, “There is nothing so stable as change,” is a truism that may be hard to accept, but leaves open the question “what am I going to do about that fact?” I recently became aware of a quotation by Deepak Chopra – “Every time you are tempted to react in the same old way, ask if you want to be a prisoner of the past, or a pioneer of the future”. If you have gotten this far into the magazine you may be asking yourself, “am I going to find this magazine in my mailbox in the next week?”, and the sad answer is “no…..this is it.” Although I embrace tradition and love holding the hard copy of this magazine, the sad fact is that times have changed: with supply and labor shortages and additional production and mailing costs disrupting production costs and scheduling, it is not just impractical, but environmentally irresponsible to put out a hard copy version other than for the annual meeting. Change has its downsides but provokes us into becoming more creative.
Among the many changes that will unfold over the course of the coming year, few will be more visible or decisive than the hiring of a new CNS Executive Director. As most of you know, Roger Larson wishes to step down from his role as the Executive Director in 2022. The Search Committee, chaired by Phil Pearl, has been active since last November and is now down to a final list of a few highly qualified candidates.
To prepare for that transition, I was delighted to visit our national headquarters last November. Although not an official requirement of the job, I hoped to gain a better understanding of the roles and responsibilities of each of the staff members, and better prepare myself for the transition in staff leadership during the recruiting phase of our next Executive Director. Following an early breakfast, Roger Larson took me on brief tour of St. Paul as we headed to the office. I was most impressed by the beautiful old-world architecture (the Cathedral of St. Paul and statue of F. Scott Fitzgerald stand out), which is quite different than the feel of St. Paul’s larger and more modern twin city, Minneapolis. The outside of the CNS office itself is accurately portrayed on Google Maps – our headquarters have been located in this quiet suburb since the CNS moved out of the Pediatric Neurology offices at The University of Minnesota. When I walked into the office itself, I experienced déjà vu, until Roger reminded me I had seen the color palate of the walls and wall hangings on countless zoom calls. During my time at the office I had ample opportunity to meet with Roger and the three other staff members, including one-on-one sessions with Emily McConnell, Kathy Pavel and Sue Hussman. I took a dozen pages of notes as I learned more about our staff and their journey to and within the CNS. I am moved by the dedication and hard work Roger, Sue, Kathy and Emily perform on our behalf within the unassuming walls of our headquarters. The strategic goals of our Society could not get off the starting line without their efforts and creativity and in many respects they are the metronome that keeps our Society going. When I think of financial stewardship, I can promise you that our money is conservatively and properly appropriated. When we think about how the pandemic altered the business world, we are fortunate that our staff not only remained safe but remained dedicated to their jobs.
The ‘final’ CNS committee structure is posted to the CNS Website. If you had asked to be placed on a committee before 12/31/2021 and do not find your name on the website, please let us know. While we traditionally appoint new members immediately before or after the annual meeting, flexibility may sometimes be exercised. Because we will be transitioning to a new Executive Director in the next year, I have asked the current chairs to remain for another cycle, providing the Society with a buffer of institutional memory. I do want to thank those committee members who completed their terms at the end of 2021 and thank those renewing for a second term. One of the agenda items that will be addressed at the next Executive Board meeting will involve charging the Bylaws Committee with conducting a thorough review and revision of CNS Bylaws to meet the needs of our membership for the future.
51st CNS Annual Meeting
The Scientific Program and Planning Committee has put together the structure of the 51st CNS Meeting, to be held as a hybrid meeting, with the live component held at the Cincinnati Convention Center October 12-15, 2022. As part of the program proposal and abstract submission process you may have noticed new language introduced by the Leadership, Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity Committee asking applicants to discuss their process in developing their program and how that supports and expresses through action our commitment to LDEI. This new requirement for our programs is in line with other scientific and professional organizations. A similar structure used for past meetings is planned, and we will bring back the concurrent breakfast seminars and will have parallel sessions in the afternoon. While only awards lectures and symposia will be livestreamed, due to the enormous costs involved, all additional seminars will be recorded and posted on-line for meeting registrants – live and virtual – to access for one month after the meeting. By recording all sessions, there is no reason for meeting registrants to worry about missing any of the content they pay for.
The social fabric of the CNS membership is reinvigorated during our annual meeting. Attendance at the meeting had increased annually through 2019, the pre-COVID era; live attendees in 2021 numbered about 800, with another 600 attending virtually, yielding combined attendance comparable to Chicago and Charlotte. Members appreciate the chance to meet old friends, find new friends and reaffirm the purpose of our society. As with most holidays, this event occurs only once a year and has been referred to as “our Thanksgiving” or “Homecoming”.
The CNS continues to evolve new methods of delivering supplemental professional and scientific content, as well as content reflecting and reinforcing the social aspect of our careers that we cherish, so I would encourage you visit the new CNS website. You will find a new major section heading, Craft, that houses archives of material that includes the history of the CNS, as well as educational content. Please take a look at CNS Conversations; these are 10-20 minute casual interviews with members of the society and cover many topics related to the Society and the practice of child neurology. Many of these interviews are conducted by Roger Larson, others are conversations among two or more members sharing interests and outlooks. We are going to mix up the content to include a broader swath of our membership, pairing a new member with an elder statesperson (maybe student and mentor), which will add value in 2022 as well as 30, or 50 years from now. It is our goal to record and archive as many of these as possible, as a way to better connect members within the Society. The Craft section also houses our new Podcast series, “Brainstorm”, produced by Kathy Xixis on behalf of the CNS Electronic Communications Committee, as well as our new popular column Synapses, written by CNS Connections Editor, Dan Bonthius. In addition you will find within Craft the old and new practice guidelines, webinars created by CNS members that are broadcast as live events throughout the year but stored for viewing at any time, and industry-sponsored items that are deemed educational. I ask that you dedicate a little time each week to exploring the CNS website and reconnect with your peers living around the globe and enjoy the virtual companionship with your colleagues.
I am going to make one more “ask” before concluding this letter. The comprehensive workforce survey of our membership (to be taken by non-members as well) has been through several revisions and is awaiting approval by the University of Texas – Southwestern’s IRB before it is released. When the survey arrives later this summer, please complete it. This survey was jointly written by our Practice Committee, our LDEI Committee and the wRVU Task force, with editing by the Executive Committee. The design of the survey reflects our attempt to be unambiguous and our intent to discover as much as we can about the demographics of child neurologists. We need to have a handle on our members’ demographic diversity, years in practice, percentage of time spent in patient care, their practice model, numbers of funded researchers, salary distribution, work requirements, heritage, size and location of their practice and more. We are investigating and will adopt methods to ensure data is handled in a confidential and non-identifiable manner, which may require some granular questions to be changed or eliminated (e.g: the state your practice is located may be changed to regions). Although there is no one part of the survey that is more important than another, questions related to salary and wRVU requirements will be immediately important to all child neurologists, as will questions related to gender, sex, age, practice type, and heritage. As a personal note, I have used other associations’ survey results to change the salary structure of physicians within my center (I direct six specialties, including neurology), and those surveys with low participation are deemed “not acceptable” in arguing for higher salaries. For this survey to be helpful, we need to get 80% participation, a reachable goal considering this will take less than 15 minutes of your time. Please participate, even if you choose not to answer every question.
Thank you for your membership and commitment to the Child Neurology Society. I wish to extend my hope for everyone’s health, safety and enjoyment in 2022. Please let me know if you have any questions.