News From CHEST® Physician

From the President: Wisdom of our crowd


About a year ago, I had the opportunity to don the honorary regalia of the American College of Chest Physicians as its 81st President. On that memorable day on the dais in San Antonio, I used the example of James Surowiecki’s book, “The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economics, Societies, and Nations” to explain how we would use the collective wisdom of our members, our committee and NetWork members, and our talented association staff to build and shape CHEST over the coming year. For those of you not familiar with this concept, Surowiecki, a business columnist for New Yorker, outlines the concept that large groups of people are actually smarter than an elite few at solving the problems of an organization, fostering innovation, collectively coming to wise decisions, or even predicting the future. In channeling the lessons from the book, it has become obvious that listening to our members and partners, rather than trying to make all decisions from the top down, has been an effective method for coming to wise decisions about the strategy and operation of CHEST. Now that it’s already time to hand the responsibility of the organization as President over to my friend and colleague Dr. Stephanie Levine, I’ve reflected on actually how effectively we have listened and how smart the collective crowd has been in moving the success of CHEST forward.

Dr. Clayton T. Cowl, president, American College of Chest Physicians

Dr.Clayton T. Cowl

We heard from members that it was difficult to know how to get involved and what happens at the highest leadership levels of the organization. This prompted the development of podcasts dubbed “The Inside Scoop,” recorded live approximately every 2 months and featured various leaders of the organization with an informal way for members to better understand how to become involved in CHEST activities and to feel the pulse of activity of the association between the time the annual meeting ends and the next one begins.

The crowd informed us that communication at the Board of Regents level could be better. To address this, regular communications were sent out to the Board of Regents to update them on activities and discussion of issues between scheduled board meetings, as well as providing board members the opportunity to have access to the minutes of phone calls of the “5Ps,” calls that included the Immediate Past, President-Elect, President-Designate, and current President of the association, as well as the CHEST Foundation President.

We were told by members through focus groups and surveys, then again told by experts we invited to the June board meetings from education, business, design, and venture capital sectors (and who were naïve to CHEST as an association) that we needed to double down on virtual educational offerings to learners across the health-care delivery team and to revamp its information technology infrastructure. To that end, a digital strategy work group was convened with expertise in information technology, social media, and marketing to inventory all digital assets of the College and make recommendations for not just improvement, but for a complete transformation of digital technology created and promulgated by CHEST. The board then approved a budget of nearly $1 million to upgrade and rebuild the user experience within CHEST’s digital environment, including its learning management system. We also opened a multimedia studio at CHEST headquarters, increased the numbers of serious educational gaming opportunities at the annual meeting, and are developing a line of serious game platforms that will allow for “edutainment” opportunities for our members and other learners around the world using various digital platforms.

Colleagues from around the world reminded us that 20% of CHEST membership was international and that our strategic plan included an international strategy. Thanks to the support of our colleagues around the world, we were able to enjoy a tremendously successful CHEST Congress in Bangkok, Thailand, in April, and a smaller regional meeting in June in Athens, Greece. Efforts of the Governance Committee have reshaped the structure of international representation, making it more relevant and allowing its members to have a stronger voice to the Board of Regents. Plans are underway for the next CHEST Congress in June 2020 in Bologna, Italy, to be held in collaboration with the Italian Chapter of CHEST in that country.

In an era when the majority of association annual meetings across multiple specialties are driving toward parity with similar looks, marketing, formats, and expectations, we listened to the needs and desires of attendees of last year’s meeting and have improved CHEST 2019 in New Orleans even more. With the most simulation courses ever delivered at an annual meeting, more serious game opportunities, CHEST Challenge finals, a new innovation competition called “FISH Bowl,” and even a medical escape room, CHEST volunteer leaders and organization staff have worked hard to provide a world class meeting that has a different look and feel from all the others. Plus, the crowd also told us that having CME and MOC credit available for the entire meeting was another variable that was desired, and has now been achieved.

The wisdom of the proverbial crowd of membership has spoken in terms of the need for philanthropic efforts in our specialty. The CHEST Foundation has responded by awarding tens of thousands of dollars to our members to recognize cutting-edge research, community service efforts, and, in addition, has allowed dozens of providers early on in training or in their career to attend the annual meeting with the help of travel grants.

CHEST guidelines continue to be updated and new ones created based on input from expert panel teams. The CHEST journal submission process, review turnaround times, and quality of manuscripts have improved each year thanks to useful feedback from authors and readers. Publications such as CHEST Physician are modified each year based upon feedback from our readers. Critiques from the board review courses have been the driving force keeping live learning formats and the electronic SEEK board preparation questions current and accurate when the science is constantly changing.

Truly, the collective wisdom of our members, talented clinicians and researchers, and colleagues in industry has provided incredibly valuable input to the CHEST leadership team. You have spoken, and we have been listening. Thanks to each of you who have reached out to me during this year as President. Traveling to four continents this past year to better understand the needs of members who are clinicians, educators, researchers, and caregivers positioned in each geographic region has been enlightening, educational, and transformative for me and my family. Your meaningful feedback, keen insights, and passion for outstanding patient care, impactful educational experiences, and life-changing research have helped push CHEST to a higher level of excellence and to offer unparalleled experiences for our members to ultimately provide the very best care to patients.

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