Dr. Jeffrey Wang reflects on time as NASS president, discusses 2019 annual meeting in Chicago

Alan Condon -   Print  |

Jeffrey Wang, MD, co-director of the USC Spine Center at Keck Medicine of USC in Los Angeles, is approaching the end of his time as president of the North American Spine Society.

Dr. Wang will spearhead the NASS Annual Meeting in Chicago from Sept. 25 to 28, exploring new technologies and high-quality, tailored education.

After serving as president of the NASS for the past year, Dr. Wang reflects on the initiatives he established, accomplishments achieved and how he managed to juggle his clinical practice with the added responsibilities as president.

Question: What initiatives or accomplishments are you most proud of in your time as president of the NASS?

Dr. Jeffrey Wang: My year as NASS president has been an amazing, fulfilling and extremely busy year. I have had a wonderful time, but it has taken a lot of my time. I cannot think of a more worthwhile way to devote my time, so I am happy and honored to serve. There are so many things that have captivated me during this year, but the accomplishments that I am most satisfied with include the development, formalization and launching of the NASS international program. NASS has had an amazingly busy international activity list, collaborating with many international societies across the globe, but now we have a new international commission, board seats and a formalized committee covering all areas of international activities, education and the development of NASS chapters around the globe. 

NASS is increasingly international, both in the number of members in the society, as well as attendees at our annual meeting. The number of collaborative international activities has grown exponentially over the past five years and has been a primary focus of my presidency. We are now in discussions with long-term planning of formal collaborations with numerous international societies, the establishment of an International Distinction Program, and the establishment of NASS international chapters in multiple countries. This is an exciting time for NASS, and I predict this international commission and the various activities, will become one of the largest areas of activity for NASS in the future.

Q: How will this year's annual meeting be different?

JW: This year's annual meeting will be completely different from past years. This year we will have focused, contemporary and expert-level surgical content to satisfy the vast number of surgical attendees at the annual meeting. The percentage of surgeons attending the annual meeting is astronomically high and this year the programming will reflect this fact. There is amazing surgical content for all spine surgeons at all levels of training. We will have surgeon experts demonstrating surgical techniques in the lecture halls on cadaveric specimens, teaching the latest expert surgical techniques. The variety of content will be delivered in new and exciting ways. 

For the non-surgeons, there will focused content on the non-operative side. The non-surgeon attendees will also have focused content throughout the entire meeting, which will captivate their interests. In the past, NASS has forced each activity to be a blend of surgical and non-surgical content, which has neither satisfied the surgeons or the non-surgeons. There was simply not enough content for the non-surgeons, and the surgeons were left wanting more. This year, everyone will have focused content in their area of interest, which will hopefully satisfy all attendees.

There are so many other accomplishments that we have made this past year, with the help of the board, the leadership, and the presidential line, working with the amazing NASS staff. It is impossible to mention all the proud moments, however, I do feel I have instituted improvements in how the organization runs. I am hopeful that I have left my mark on the organization as I conclude my presidency.

Q: What areas of spine have NASS members been most interested in exploring in 2019?

JW: I believe that we have approached all our activities this past year, perhaps with a new perspective on really listening to the membership and industry sponsors as well as acting appropriately in line with our goals and ethics. I believe that NASS has an open and transparent attitude towards dealing with all issues, from the member needs, to policies, and to our industry sponsors. I see that there is more of an interest from membership to get more for their time. Time is so limited, and our members are working harder than ever. 

NASS continues to advocate on behalf of our members in the most appropriate ways. In addition, we want to be considerate of our members' time. We want to deliver the best education or best policies and recommendations that advocate for our members, but in a time-efficient manner.

Q: How have you managed juggling your clinical practice with your role as president this past year? 

JW: One of the most difficult themes of my presidency has been all the work that one just has to do. Thankfully, I have the support of the best staff in the world. The NASS staff really drive the engines, and I could not have done anything without their tireless work. I also have the best CEO in Eric Muehlbauer, who is the most experienced CEO of any spine professional medical society. 

On a personal basis, I have used every minute of every single day during this year. It has forced me to be efficient, to take care of all issues immediately and to never put anything off. There is the old saying, if you want something done, give it to the busiest person. This year has forced me to prioritize and just take care of things. Any procrastination would use up valuable time. This has hopefully resulted in thoughtful, efficient, but swift and decisive action for all issues that we faced this year.

However, the last thing I wanted to convey, is that if you really enjoy your work, it is easy to get it done. Although this has been the busiest year of my life, it has also been the most fulfilling. There is no way one can devote this much time to the office, unless one is sincerely passionate about the work. 

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