How many of your New Year’s predictions come true? 

At our 2019 ISA HOD, who could have predicted we would face something called COVID-19 that placed our specialty as a key frontline responder in Illinois?! Our last House of Delegates on April 27, 2019 had an outstanding turnout and a strong program by the distinguished Dr. Asa Lockhardt of Texas on new quality initiatives demonstrating our value.

Last year the ISA asked for an enhanced mission of advocacy, education, leadership initiatives, physician support including resident outreach. The ISA expected increasing challenges serving the 1300 active members of the ISA, 400 resident members and ultimately 12.6 million residents of Illinois 

I have been a member of the ISA House of Delegates since 2008, and in residency served as an officer in the Resident Component. While I thought I knew plenty, I was humbled to learn plenty more this last year. Bet every active member since ISA was founded in 1948 has felt similarly each year.

This Legislative Session saw at least four bills introduced that would have been unfavorable to safe patient care and reduce physician participation standards. Sponsors of bills included the chairs of the specific Committees of responsibility, Senator Emil Jones and State Representative Anna Moeller. With ISA advocacy and physician engagement, we stopped SB 1683 and HB 2813: they never made it out of committee. We had two other bills of concern appear which went nowhere, including HB 4579.

The ISA had a record number of physician meetings with Illinois legislators this year, including Senators Chuck Weaver, Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, Iris Martinez, Don Harmon, John Cullerton, and Emil Jones, and State Representatives Anna Moeller, Mark Batinick, and Stephanie Kifowit. In addition, there were meetings with numerous US Representatives, including Sean Casten, Lauren Underwood, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Danny Davis, and Robin Kelly, along with US Senator Dick Durbin and others.

Members gave tremendously with advocacy and representing our patients in Illinois. We were also reminded that legislative visits are always educational and helpful even if a legislator may not agree with us on some points. Thanks to all of you – too numerous to count – who signed petitions, met legislators, responded to an alert, and donated to the ISAPAC. Special thanks go to Drs. Lisa Solomon, Kumar Buvanendran, Eric Werner, Audrey Oware, Ori Gottlieb, and Tripti Kataria.

The ISAPAC is one of the tools we utilize in our advocacy efforts. As challenges increase, ISA members are responding. The ISAPAC had the best fundraising year since 2004! Thank you and please continue with the contributions, especially since we are not currently in a position to meet easily with legislators.

The legislative process is a science and an art that benefits from an expert navigator. After our previous excellent legislative consultant John Potts retired, we retained the respected firm of Dorgan Butcher and Phelps to represent us in Springfield. They have been outstanding, but the bottom line of their success is enabling ISA member engagement.

As an organization, legislators respect the voice of a professional society – they know we are all volunteers while our profession is caring for patients. There is no substitute for the ISA, and if we didn’t exist, our talented individuals would soon come together to create a new ISA. 

We continued to provide practice support with successful practice management dinner programs, including presentations by Dr. Asa Lockhart, Mark Rust, Dr. Vineet Aroraand Dr. Mark Deshur. 

The ISA expanded outreach to all of our communities. In March, ISA sponsored the annual Resident Jeopardy and expanded to include a Job Fair. The event featured representatives from twelve group practices with employment opportunities across the state. Definitely a smashing success with record turnout and just plain fun. We are fortunate to be in a state with strong residency programs at Northwestern, Cook County, the University of Chicago, Loyola, Illinois Masonic, the University of Illinois, and Rush University.

Our annual Lobby Day in Springfield, as well as the accompanying Practice Management Dinner, were canceled for COVID safety. I am proud to say members made up for those lost opportunities to represent in the biggest way.

Every ISA member showed their value a million times over, navigating the challenges of this deadly virus with administrative work, direct patient care, and stepping into the ICU. We worked with other specialties to improve diverse challenges of afflicted patients. While some conversations were necessarily tedious, (repurposing anesthesia machines), the bottom line is we were saving lives with our skills. Member Dr. Luke Northern of Alexian Brothers even volunteered to help our friends in New York State. Dr. Cory Deburghgraeve of the University of Illinois was profiled in the Chicago Tribune on his work and described care as, “you’re basically right next to the nuclear reactor.” 

The ISA had volunteers to cover McCormick place who were ultimately not needed. I would also like to recognize distinguished ISA Past Presidents David Rothenberg and Joe Szokol and others for their direct work in the ICU and in research on clinical care of COVID patients. 

While we have focused on caring for patient challenges during COVID, we were all shocked by how far the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) lobby placed politics front and center. Local legislators appear to be turned off by this aggressive posturing. While we will always strive to show respect and value the work of nurse anesthetists on our own care teams, we may never see similar respect in return from the AANA. We’ve always won by rising above strident messages and putting patient safety first.

Leadership is an intangible, necessary skill each one of us can develop to help raise everyone up. The ISA has continued to encourage conversations on the meaning of leadership in our world. Our society supports the American Society of Anesthesiologists (AMA) management program at Kellogg, as well as other executive skills programs that help each one of us bring our best talents forward. Each individual ISA member mobilizing our work together improves patient care. 

While no person alone can meet all the responsibilities of representing our profession, together we, as the Illinois Society, can meet any challenge. I thank every one of you for the opportunity to serve as President. The ISA, with its tremendous members, our great executive director Mary Hines  and seven Illinois residencies, has proven itself able to rise to overcome any obstacle. Our individual strengths magnify themselves in our voluntary association.

Now I turn over the gavel to Tripti Kataria and a new leadership team, including Dr. Brian Birmingham, Dr. Adamina Podraza, and Dr. Ajay Gopalka, with many past presidents available to help. I have learned to expect and can predict that they and our ISA membership will overcome all challenges down the road. The best years of our profession are ahead for us.

Illinois is a great state to be an anesthesiologist, and a patient seeking quality care.

Sean S. Adams, MD, FASA
ISA 2019-2020 Past President