AAGL in 2020: Blooming in the Face of Adversity
It has been my greatest professional honor to serve as the President of AAGL during this year. No amount of education or coaching could have prepared us for 2020. That said, our incredible organization more than rose to the challenge, and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to spend this year as your partner at the helm.
The membership of AAGL is a force of motivated, intelligent people who dive in to make the world a better place. The AAGL spans the world in membership, with over 7,500 members from over 100 countries, and we have pioneers from every latitude and longitude who strive to elevate gynecologic surgery, improve women’s health, and change the world. I am grateful for the partnership of each one of you. AAGL is a unique organization, and because of you, the possibilities are endless.
While others shrank from COVID-19 and retreated into solitude, we at the AAGL found motivation for innovative partnership. Virtual webinars now seem routine, but we pioneered this at the beginning of the pandemic with the sole goal of helping people across the world. The staff at the AAGL office dove in and made the impossible possible. Through our connections, we hosted 12 weekly webinars to educate our members and others about COVID-19 related topics, and we pulled in our contacts who had useful information to share. In a time where there was an information vacuum, we provided the knowledge that our members and others desperately needed, and we brought in people from all over the world to accomplish this. Ted Lee and the fabulous 2020 Scientific Program Committee, with the technical directorship of Roman Bojorquez, conducted an entirely virtual meeting that “Broke Barriers” and records! We are now ending the year and the pandemic with a Joint Statement on Public Health Measures endorsing COVID-19 vaccination,; this was lead by AAGL in solidarity with the 11 leading societies in women’s health care following a round table discussion with the Commissioner of the United States Food and Drug Administration.
These are a few of the incredible highlights that tell the story of our AAGL. Though I might run out of space because the AAGL does so much, I’d like to share the wealth of progress that the AAGL has made in 2020:
- International Secretary: We have added the position of International Secretary to our Board of Directors – congratulations, Shailesh Puntambekhar! AAGL is the global organization dedicated to advancing gynecologic laparoscopic surgery, and the creation of this position allows us to be globally impactful. Please let us know your ideas and how we can facilitate international progress!
- Strategic Planning: The AAGL held a strategic “Think Tank” in New York in January 2020 with transformational plans to prioritize initiatives for the future.
- Then came COVID-19… As a global organization, we reached out to our friends throughout the world. In under a week, we put together the first COVID-19 Preparedness Webinar to share what we were learning. This became our platform to help each other and the world. That first video received over 11,000 views in the first week from over 100 countries.
- COVID-19 Preparedness Webinars: We released 12 weekly webinars and became a global resource in COVID-19 preparedness. These webinars remain on demand in our video library as a resource.
- Joint Society Statements: As the pandemic advanced, we exercised our leadership by reaching out to other women’s healthcare societies to create a collaborative effort. Very quickly, we had the support and participation of the 12 lead organizations in women’s health care and their commitment to work together to establish cohesive joint statements. To date we have released seven powerful joint statements including elective surgery during the pandemic, a collective action addressing racism, and a statement endorsing public health measures and COVID-19 vaccination. This consortium of women’s health care societies has never been done before, and I am excited to have lead this effort for an enduring partnership for change.
- JMIG: Our amazing journal continues to grow in readership and impact factor. We are transitioning to a paperless and monthly format which will streamline access and help our planet.
- Foundation of the AAGL: Our fundraising arm has been extremely active and has grown and matured, providing research grants and awards for scholarly work.
- SurgeryU: This continues as the premier site in medicine to find educational materials outside of print. We partnered with the International Gynecologic Cancer Society to produce a 3-part series for both societies.
- Fellowship of Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery (FMIGS): We expanded internationally and we celebrated the graduation of 46 fellows this year!
- Essentials of Minimally Invasive Gynecology (EMIG): The Manual Skills Examination was validated and was published in Obstetrics & Gynecology in June. The didactic component, comprised of 80 narrated videos, was made available to members through the SurgeryU portal, and was shared for free with all residents and fellows during the pandemic. The Cognitive Exam is now in its final stages of validation. We see that through the work of EMIG, the future is a different world.
- MIGS has become a focused practice designation through the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Our commitment to help women through minimally invasive surgery has been recognized, and this is a cause for celebration.
- Diversity and Inclusion Committee (DIC): with the board of directors, the DIC published a strong statement opposing racism and joined with all women’s healthcare societies in releasing a statement condemning racism in medicine. We also convened a writing group for a perspective piece in JMIG surrounding the experience of racism in healthcare. We are actively working to ensure that we demonstrate equity in everything that we do. With the AAGL Foundation, the Young Alumni Network and the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, we are developing funded research surrounding racism.
- Partnerships with other organizations: We expanded our influence and value through many partnerships this year. We solidified relationships with many leading women’s health organizations to produce joint statements and a consortium. We partnered with the FDA and the CDC on tissue extraction, uterine cancer, and vaccination strategies. We partnered with international societies from all over the world for educational meetings, webinars, and interactions, and we value each personal and societal relationship. The AAGL has a seat at the table. We are global. We are stakeholders.
- 2020 Virtual Global Congress: With very little notice, we transitioned to an entirely virtual congress due to the pandemic. This was unprecedented and done to a scope that is unique. This exceptional quality experience spanned 9 days and had multiple channels of simultaneous education, live surgery, and interaction, and are now available for continued on-demand learning. With over 2,400 attendees from 90 different countries, AAGL elevated the quality and safety of women’s health care throughout the world. Ted Lee, your next president, engaged leaders from every continent to give you this incredible “novel” Congress.
- Who are we? We are considering a name change. We are not just American – we are the Association for Advanced Gynecologic Laparoscopy and we are global! You will hear more about this consideration in the next year, and I’m excited to have brought this forward because it is who we are.
This incredible level of quality, innovation, and scholarly activity make me so proud to be your President. Thank you for trusting me with the well-being of the AAGL. I hope I have steered this ship through the crazy storm of 2020.
I would like to end my presidency by sharing my gratitude for those who were the reason for the success of the AAGL this year and those who provided support, perspective, and guidance for me. Thank to you my husband (Wendel Naumann) and family, my mentors, friends, colleagues, and the AAGL Past Presidents and Board of Directors. Board: thank you for always volunteering for webinars, articles, phone calls, and hard decisions. Thank you for being candid and for serving our AAGL. You always pivot, you always say yes, and you serve with no benefits. I also want to thank Linda Michels for her leadership, Roman Bojorquez for his expertise, and the AAGL staff for their execution of every detail. The AAGL has transitioned into a media-forward organization and a model for other societies. All of our initiatives, webinars, Annual Congress, NewsScope, and more rely on the tireless work of this incredible team.
AAGL is stronger now than before. We have learned to think outside the box and grow the mission globally. We now have stood with leading organizations and have a seat at the table. It all matters because helping others is the reason that we are here. We do it for our patients. Your AAGL is leading. We are bringing up the future. We are blooming through adversity. Some people turn lemons into lemonade. In 2020, we grew a tree! In 2021, we will plant even more.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve.