As we head into another spring, I realize how much has changed in three years. For many of us, drought has turned into floods, snowy and cold winters were uncustomarily warm, many of us are now seeing colleagues without masks, and the official pandemic is ending – we hope. Forever in our minds, we will remember those early days of the 2019 COVID pandemic like we remember where we were on 9-11, or for the more senior members of our society, where we were when we learned Kennedy was shot. I am not sure I feel life is returning to normal, but for most of my friends and colleagues there has been the loss of a family member, friend, or colleague to the pandemic. I want to keep the context of this communication reflective of what we, our families, our friends, and our patients have experienced. I hope you can join me in a moment of silence and respect for those no longer with us.
Success and Hope
This communication comes as I am three-quarters through my term and live every day truly honored to be able to serve as president of the CNS. We have a great membership, and getting to work with many of you – sometimes on a weekly or monthly basis – has been more rewarding that I ever imagined. The CNS is moving forward, building for the future, and aligning efforts to support our membership in challenges faced by all medical societies. This memo is about success and hope, but I do have some difficult asks along the way.
CNS Annual Meeting
Our 51st Annual Meeting in Cincinnati was a success: 714 members registered for the meeting, with 579 attending in person. A little over 1/3 (37%) of our active membership attended the meeting, and I am excited that almost 20% of the junior membership attended! These numbers do not reflect non-members and industry partners that also attended the event.
Last year, I spoke of the Annual Meeting as being the fabric of the social structure of the CNS. To expand on this comment, I would like to ask all of you, as CNS members, to engage more deeply with each other and with our Society, both at the Annual Meeting and throughout the year. The Annual Meeting is the largest item on our budget, both with regard to expenses and revenues. Much of the cost involves fixed expenses (overhead), regardless of whether 300 people attend or 1,300. We need you to attend to keep that social fabric strong and to help us take full advantage of the gorgeous facility and city that we will visit in October. One reason we are back in Vancouver is because the membership loved the venue and city the last time we met there in 2016.
CNS Activities and Accomplishments
The CNS leadership and the committees remain busy. Monique Terrell, our new executive director, is no longer “new,” as she joined the organization on September 1, 2022, and began her duties before our Annual Meeting. After a break of a few days, we began, along with our President-elect Peter Kang and our Secretary-treasurer Lori Jordan, weekly executive board business meetings. I rely heavily on the executive board and Monique for open discussion and consensus opinion as we deal with issues requiring a timely decisions. Many of these discussions continue via email, generally ending each evening by 10 pm! I continue to have weekly meetings with Anup Patel, the president of the Child Neurology Foundation, as the organizations continue to work together for building a relationship for mutual collaboration and growth. Ad hoc meetings with committees and their chairs are also on my schedule. I want to run down several of our major activities and accomplishments:
The Membership Survey is nearly complete. This survey has been emailed to every child neurologist and NDD post-training we could track down living in the USA and Canada, regardless if they are members of the CNS. Despite all the power of the internet, there is no one database that is near complete or current. About 50% of our colleages have responded to the survey request, and we have made one last push to give everyone the chance to respond. We are taking efforts not to email anyone that already completed the survey. By the time you read this message I expect the survey to be closed and in analysis.
As part of restructuring the society’s database of our members, Monique Terrell has recently updated the CNS membership: there are 1,233 Active Members, 1,021 Junior Members, 330 Medical Student Members (non-dues paying), 309 Emeritus Members (primarily retired), and 12 Affliate Members, for a total of 2,905 total members. For those that reported their sex, 1187 were female and 971 male. We gained 44 active, 91 junior, 233 medical student and one emeritus member in 2022-2023. Over 100 members serve on our 15 committees. Like other associations, we aim to better understand the make up of our membership and will aim to collect additional demographic information in the future.
Speaking of committees, we will have essentially the same committees as before, but there will be new governance and organization for committee appointments and structure. Each committee will now have both a chair and an associate chair, the latter having the responsibility to serve as chair if needed. The chairs and associate chairs are appointed by the president, with an application process for the committee members. To align with best practices, a maximum committee size is being implemented across all committees, allowing them to perform the necessary work while keeping all members engaged. There will be times a committee project may require additional engagement for time-limited roles, and CNS members who are not standing committee members may be asked to help. Committee members will serve one – year appointments that are renewable for up to eight years. An additional six years is allowed for the associate chair and four years for the chair. It is the responsibility of the president to ensure DEI principles, and the Leadership, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (LDEI) Committee will be available as ad hoc consultants to assist in this work with other committees.
One role of the incoming president is to select a new chair and associate chair for the Scientific Selection & Program Planning Committee. Given the need to create new ideas for annual meetings, it has been the practice for the chair and associate chair to serve a maximum of two years. Our bylaws state the chair of the Nominating Committee is a two-year position occupied by the immediate past president. Term limits should help keep the committees fresh, and the hope is to keep interested members engaged in the volunteer work needed to keep the CNS healthy. At times a committee member cannot be engaged because of life and job responsibilities, so if that happens, the process will allow them to rotate off the committee until they have time to serve in the future.
CNS National Office
With Monique’s help, our national office is being restructured. We now have a formal employee manual, job descriptions, and human resources assistance. Many changes were necessary because of regulatory standards and staff living outside of Minnesota. These policies help protect our society and our employees. Most of us only know the CNS office as existing on County Road E in a suburb of St. Paul, where it has been for nearly 40 years. Of course, with the advent of internet billing, I would imagine few of us mail our annual dues and meeting registration to that address anymore. However, our lease on this space is expiring in a year. Although we still need an office, we do not need that large of a footprint, so we are rethinking where in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area a new office would best be located and how large it will be. In the last six months, two of our employees have moved on or retired. Roger Larson, our past executive director said his farewells after 40 years to the CNS when he was awarded the Brumback Lifetime Achievement Award in Cincinnati last fall. Emily McConnell, our professional development manager, decided to move on to another position. We wish them well. We have had two staff members join our national office and welcome Julianne Bruce, who began her role as administrative coordinator. Because of the growth of the CNS, this position was identified as necessary in 2018 but never filled. Julianne will focus on program support, governance, and administrative tasks. Our new membership manager is William (Bill) Stanton, who will focus on membership management, growth, and engagement.
Annual Meeting Programming
With each annual meeting, we do request opinions from the attendees about programming. This year these comments were taken to heart by the leadership of the Scientific Selection and Program Planning Committee. Yasmin Khakoo and Bhooma Aravamuthan organized a terrific meeting in Cincinnati and, based on your suggestions, pivoted to repeating their success by changing some of the flow when we gather in Vancouver. These changes include:
- Although our presidential and award Symposia will remain, we are reducing the numbers of other symposia. This will allow us to cover more topics and get more speakers in front of our membership. This will result in more overlapping sessions, but remember that these are being recorded; they will be available for viewing by attendees after the meeting.
- We have more outstanding programing than time allows us to put into the Annual Meeting. These will be presented to the membership throughout the year as free webinars and remain as enduring material.
- Based on attendees’ feedback, we have noted their disapproval towards the 7 am start time for breakfast seminars. As a result, we have decided to eliminate all 7 am programming. This marks the first occasion in my recollection where we will not have scientific programming at 7 am, and we look forward to observing how this decision plays out. Vancouver is a splendid city, and we want our members to relish the company of their peers during the evenings without the need to set their alarms for 6 am!
- Our Saturday morning presentations are a cherished aspect of the meeting. The scientific session on Saturday afternoon will spotlight the latest advancements in our field over the past year. We aim to provide attendees with more of what you come for: science, education, and the company of colleagues. We will have more time and rooms available for the 20 SIGs (Special Interest Groups). If you are a SIG leader, please make sure to request a meeting time and space. There may be overlap with some programming, but, again, the programming is recorded. We do want to meet the important need for SIGs to do their work.
- This year we are allocating time, without overlapping programming, intended to be used by attendees to take advantage of our Exhibit Hall. Our exhibitors and sponsors represent pharmaceutical/biotechnology firms, patient advocacy groups, hospital systems, and medical publishers. They help us stay current on products, services, and information relevant to our practices and careers. In doing so, they help offset the significant costs of hosting our annual meeting, giving us the ability to limit increases in meeting registration fees. To thank them for their support, I ask that meeting attendees engage with our exhibitors and sponsors as time allows and to be gracious about having your badges scanned. Of course, it is more fun to participate in this activity with friends.
I want to call attention to several items important to our membership’s involvement in education, governance, finance, and programming:
- The CNS now has two official journals! The newer one, Annals of the Child Neurology Society, began publishing articles that are now online. I encourage CNS members to submit their work for publication. Annals of the Child Neurology Society – Wiley Online Library
- We have hard copies and electronic copies of Child Neurology: Its Origin, Founders, Growth and Evolution (Stephen Ashwal, Ed) available for purchase through the national office.
- The Research Committee is hosting monthly educational seminars that are truly cutting edge! In addition to these webinars, as mentioned before the Scientific Selection and Program Planning Committee have selected about 10 additional one-hour programs for broadcast throughout the year.
- Please visit our Podcast series, “Brainstorm: High Yield Facts for Physicians Short on Time”
- Check out our Maintenance of Certification at CNS Lifelong Learning.
- The abstract selection process should be in full swing by now and notifications have started going out for our major awards: the Bernard Sachs, the Hower, the Martha Bridge Denckla, and the Roger and Mary Brumback Lifetime Achievement. And this summer we will have the nomination and elections for two new officers: the councillors from the East and Midwest to replace outgoing board members Sucheta Joshi and Janet Soul.
I wish everyone a safe and fun spring and summer and look forward to speaking with you again. I hope to see you all in Vancouver!