The American Society for Surgery of the Hand has been a consistent leader in the advancement of the science and practice of hand and upper extremity surgery. It has done this by ensuring the competency of its members for the betterment of patient care and for the advancement of effective new technology. This has been successfully accomplished through an extensive array of courses and meetings, as well as the development of educational materials and specialty training curricula. Over the last 10 years our content and offerings have steadily increased, providing ever-increasing value to our members. This is an expensive mission and its execution could not have been possible without the financial support gained from industry.
ASSH has led the way in developing standards to both embrace the support of industry partners while at the same time ensuring that any such support is accepted without condition or restriction. In 1999, the Corporate Support Committee (CSC) was formed by the ASSH Council to monitor and develop such clean and ethical relationships. This committee has provided careful oversight of these important ethical issues, with Council guidance and leadership. At the same time, it has been recognized that industry leaders also value their partnership with our society as a conduit to improve upper extremity care by providing the tools that surgeons need, to successfully train surgeons on appropriate use of their products, to successfully market these products while providing greater awareness and to understand future needs of surgeons and patients.
During the May 2009 Council Meeting, the first Corporate Advisory Council (CAC) meeting took place. Despite having already developed a “no strings attached firewall” to maintain an ethical relationship with industry, ASSH leadership and its key industry partners recognized the importance of forming a combined leadership council to set specific guidelines for clinical upper extremity care and to be a model for other medical societies to follow in establishing corporate relationships.
The Corporate Advisory Council leadership consists of a Chairman, the ASSH Executive Vice President, members of the ASSH Presidential line and the President of the AFSH as well as key high-level industry executives who possess decision-making power within their corporate structures. These stakeholders agreed that at each meeting taking place in conjunction with the bi-annual ASSH Council meetings in May and December, we would, as a group, meet to tackle major issues currently confronting surgeons and industry alike.
Our first task was to establish the ethics involved in our combined relationship. It was the intent of the CAC to provide a set of clear guidelines demonstrating the appropriate and transparent interaction between a professional society and industry. This led to the formation of the “10 Commandments,” which laid the foundation for the creation of our “Corporate Advisory Council Guidelines.” This in turn resulted in publication of a white paper on the subject and a press release, all of which can be found on the ASSH website.
In 2010, both ASSH leadership and corporate executives agreed that we had not done all we could to investigate the needs of our surgeons and future directions of our specialty. It was decided that mechanisms for developing reliable market research data would be desirable. The data generated could be used by ASSH to further improve and focus member needs in, terms of educational content, and help industry understand trends and areas in which they need to concentrate to benefit surgeons and patients alike.
Our first foray was a great success. The result was a market research survey conducted by ASSH with a very high (35%) response rate by our members. This has allowed the development of new programs and directions for graduate medical education, promoting hands-on surgical skills courses regionally (the Regional Corporate Workshops or the so-called “Traveling Road Show Program”), based on the highly-successful Product Demonstration Workshops at our Annual Meetings and the historically important ASSH Regional Review Courses.
Through these CAC meetings ASSH came to recognize the interest of many of our members in caring for the entire upper extremity. Fueled by the intent of Past-President Bob Szabo, MD to develop mechanisms for providing complete upper extremity fellowship training, CAC discussions led to philanthropic industry support for our pilot Two-Year Complete Upper Extremity Fellowship Programs, which will begin this year (funded without restriction by our industry partners).
Other areas that have been embraced and supported by the CAC include improved coding initiatives, spearheaded by Past-President Dan Nagle, MD and Practice Management Division Director, David Ruch, MD. Input from our industry partners has aided in advancing new treatment-specific codes for more appropriate reimbursement.
The Corporate Advisory Council’s future agenda includes several important initiatives:
- The development of methods for incubating innovative ideas through a “technology greenhouse,” (the “brainchild” of Past-President Terry Light, MD)
- Finding ways to bring industry and surgeons together to think outside the box for creation of innovative new technology development
- Understanding the new Affordable Healthcare Act and how it will impact reimbursements of the cost of implants, surgeon services, and hospital care while recognizing the need to provide access to all patients
These are just some of the challenges which have been addressed by CAC, and which we will continue to address going forward. ASSH leadership has worked tirelessly together with our industry partners to represent you, our membership, in all interactions. We are eager for you to provide feedback and suggestions for future CAC agendas.
The ASSH Council and the AFSH Board of Trustees continue to collaborate with the highest level executive leaders of our major industry partners to continue to embrace the challenges of today and tomorrow facing our society and its members. Because of the recognition of the work we do and the importance of supporting our members, our industry partners have funded between 30 and 50 scholarships for young trainees in our specialty to attend the Residents and Fellows Conference at the ASSH Annual Meeting each year. Industry recognizes that among this group are tomorrow’s leaders in upper extremity care and want to make a positive impact. They have provided the funding for the Two-Year Upper Extremity Fellowship Pilot Program and continue to support many of our educational initiatives. Additionally, as a result of these collaborative interactions , support for ASSH initiatives has steadily increased, while ASSH membership dues have not increased in 17 years, a feat that is unparalleled amongst medical societies.
We encourage our members to review the information available on our website concerning the CAC and provide recommendations regarding future endeavors.
This “think tank” is still in its infancy and with the help of ASSH leadership and our very engaged membership, it will continue to grow and expand to confront the challenges and demands of the future. We are doing everything we can to promote our specialty and we have demonstrated that appropriate collaboration with industry is one of the ways we can achieve this objective for our members and our patients.