Eva Feldman, MD, PhD, Russell N. DeJong Professor of Neurology and director of the A. Alfred Taubman Medical Research Institute at the University of Michigan Health System, began her two-year term as president of the American Neurological Association (ANA) in September of 2011 — but she has wasted no time in making her mark. Dr. Feldman, the third woman to hold the ANA presidency in 137 years, told Neurology Today that the ANA hopes to make a major change in the way the 1,800-member organization chooses its membership. In order to foster a more inclusive environment that better serves its mission of reaching all academic neurologists — junior- and senior-level — the new member selection process would no longer require individuals to be voted in at the ANA annual meeting. This shift would also promote a closer relationship with the AAN in reaching towards a common goal of improving American neurological practice.
Dr. Feldman said she was very excited about the ANA Council's unanimous recommendation and is hopeful that all ANA members will share these sentiments. Here, she discusses how and why some of these ideas came about, and what the ANA hopes to accomplish if these changes are approved by the ANA membership at its next annual meeting in Boston on Oct. 7-10, 2012.
THE MOVE TO OPEN UP MEMBERSHIP IS INTENDED TO REVITALIZE THE ORGANIZATION. TELL US WHY THE DECISION WAS MADE.
The ANA elected to sit back and carefully re-examine its mission statement, which states that the goal of our organization is to serve all individuals in academic neurology. In order to meet this goal, which includes advancing scholarly and clinical activities, we saw the need to change our membership policy. We also thought it was very important to be able to offer young faculty, who are just joining neurology academia, the assets and faculty development courses of the ANA and the ability to interact and network with other senior members in academia from many different institutions.
HOW WILL THE CHANGE IN MEMBERSHIP BE INCORPORATED?
Under our new policy, which still needs to be approved by our membership at the Boston meeting, once an individual becomes an instructor or assistant professor at any of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education-approved departments of neurology in the United States, he or she will automatically become a junior member of the ANA. Upon advancement to the level of associate professor he or she will automatically become a full member of the ANA. In our opinion, once an individual has become an associate professor at their institution, they have passed their own institution's tenure and promotion committee's qualifications, supporting their commitment to academic neurology. All current professors and chairs would also be welcomed into the ANA.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE NEW PROGRAMS THE ANA IS WORKING ON? INCREASED MENTORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES?
We're interested in everybody in academia, as you can tell, but we're particularly interested in the instructors and assistant professors. There are new challenges for junior academic faculty — from the electronic medical record and more pressure to earn clinical revenue to lower NIH-funding paylines, to increased regulations and the emergence of the new field of “regulatory science.” So, it's a bigger mass of new issues.
We are forming several programs at the ANA. At our annual meeting, there will be a daily two-hour session in the morning focused on issues unique to junior faculty. These sessions will address manuscript and grant writing, networking and negotiation. In addition, each day there will be lunch sessions — many of which are focused on junior faculty, addressing their specific needs or giving them an opportunity to have time with the NIH program officers, editors of neurological journals, leaders in specific neurological fields such as cognitive disorders, movement disorders, neuromuscular disorders, epilepsy and stroke, just to name a few. We also will have daily Special Interest Group Symposia, where junior faculty will be asked to give a research presentation.
Importantly, too — we're going to begin a mentoring program for junior faculty where they have a list of mentors, a “mentor menu,” and they can pick from individuals that they would like to meet with and that they would like to have correspondence with throughout the year. So, say there's an individual whose research is focused on diabetes, an area that I'm very interested in, I would be on that menu and they could select me. I would then meet with them at the meeting, and also take them through the meeting and introduce them to other individuals who are interested in diabetes. I would continue corresponding with them via e-mail after the meeting.
YOU HAVE HIRED A FORMER REPORTER FROM THE DETROIT PRESS TO DO SOME PUBLIC RELATIONS FOR THE WEBSITE. HAVE THERE BEEN OTHER ADMINISTRATIVE CHANGES?
The main administrative change to the ANA at this point is that we have added a communications director. His purpose is to help us get this new message out, which we believe we can do initially through the website, and also through our newsletter. I may be getting ahead of myself because our membership needs to approve the change, but we hope that our members will be as excited as we are. Our new plan will allow the ANA to fully serve academic neurology.
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE FOCUS OF THE ANA AND THE AAN, AS WELL AS HOW THE TWO MIGHT BE WORKING TOGETHER?
I think that the ANA and the AAN have a very common purpose and goal: to enhance American neurology. (Of course, we are also interested in international neurology.)
The Academy brings to the table substantial and impressive strengths, particularly aimed at enhancing the practices of private- and hospital-based neurologists. They also advocate for fair and equitable compensation and governance of all neurologists. Their work, for example, with Neurology on the Hill, is invaluable. Their annual meeting is superb and their clinical and disease-based teaching courses are, in my opinion, unsurpassed. They are also wise stewards of their money supporting the research of young neurologists. I think you can tell I am proud of be a Fellow of the AAN.
The ANA brings to the table parallel strengths for academic neurologists. We are the individuals who are responsible for training the next generation of neurologists, enhancing and growing the neurological research enterprise and translating basic science findings into concrete neurological treatments. We work closely with NINDS and our meeting, which is much smaller, is focused on faculty development and highlighting the most recent basic and clinical breakthroughs in neurology. I think you can tell I am again proud — this time of being president of the ANA.
A Venn diagram of our two groups shows much more overlap than separation. Neurology will thrive as the ANA and the AAN partner together, which is now happening in very productive ways. For example, members of both of the education committees of the ANA and the AAN are looking at their entire portfolio of course offerings focused on junior faculty and new clinicians and making sure we're not duplicative. We're going to put the information respectively on both of our websites.
The ANA hopes very much so to partner with the Academy on funding of the post-doctoral fellowships that the Academy offers. We're very impressed with the Academy's fellowships and think they're an essential part of the future of academic neurology. This is a great example of where the Academy serves not only clinicians and private sector neurologists, but also individuals in the academic sector.
We have many issues in common, and we have some issues that are different — in those issues that are different and separate, our two organizations will serve their different and separate constituencies. Nearly every member of the ANA is also a member of the AAN, and we hope soon that every member of the AAN who is in academic neurology will become a member of the ANA, if they are not currently one.
We have a common vision, we have common goals, and we want to work together. As I said, we are all American neurology.
For an extended conversation with ANA President Eva Feldman, MD, PhD, Russell N. DeJong Professor of Neurology and director of the A. Alfred Taubman Medical Research Institute at the University of Michigan Health System, on the ANA decision to expand its membership and how she hopes it will rejuvenate the academic organization, listen here: http://bit.ly/wT0M2f.