Opening Ceremony Keynote Speaker Envisions an Evolution in Health Care in 10 Years

Opening Ceremony keynote speaker Stephen K. Klasko, MD, MBA, used a little science fiction — in the form of time travel — to kick off his address on Saturday at the ATS 2023 International Conference.

Stephen K. Klasko, MD, MBA
Stephen K. Klasko, MD, MBA

He appeared by video as his “future” self from the year 2033, when Taylor Swift is president of the United States and health care has evolved from sick care to health assurance, thanks to the work of the professionals like those who make up the ATS.

“We need you to find your toolkit for optimism,” Dr. Klasko challenged. “We need your hope, and we need you to take action.”

He encouraged conference attendees to adopt a practice linked to Steve Jobs, founder of Apple: Envision what will be upon us 10 years from now, and just start doing it now.

He took that exercise to Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia after being named president of the institution in 2013.

“The whole concept became, can a 195-year-old academic medical center start acting like and thinking like a start-up company?” Dr. Klasko said.

Jefferson started out by investing $35 million in telehealth that year. In subsequent years, under his leadership, the two-hospital, one-campus university with $1 billion in revenue transformed into an 18-hospital, two-campus university with almost 10,000 students and a Medicaid and Medicare Advantage health insurance plan, making Jefferson the first “integrated delivery and financial network” in Philadelphia.

Goals for the next 10 years should include marketing appropriate for health care, education, and ethical choices that build trust with the people they are treating, Dr. Klasko said. The road map for the future of medicine involves teaching medicine in new ways and developing new curricula that focus on the parts of health care that are less visible, such as effective communication, equity, and public health.

Dr. Klasko’s outline for responsible innovation includes creating strong, sustainable partnerships between technologists and health care providers; re-centering the health care experience to focus on people’s individual needs; evolving the payor-patient-provider system to one where incentives are aligned; and building a system in which most people view the health system as key to their health, even when they’re not patients.

“Nothing will change until we start to look at people as people, not patients,” he said.

Gregory Downey, MD, ATSF
Gregory Downey, MD, ATSF

President’s Message

ATS President Gregory Downey, MD, ATSF, opened the ceremony with gratitude to past members in leadership as well as committee chairs and public advisory and industry colleagues. He also offered congratulations for the 2023 Respiratory Health Award winners and new class of ATS Fellows.

Dr. Downey also welcomed to the stage the leaders of the ATS’s partner societies around the world.

“Over the course of this year, we have collaborated with all of them to help improve patient care,” he said. “What an amazing group of individuals.”

He pointed out some major accomplishments for the ATS from the past year, including pursuing pollution, climate change, and tobacco product regulations. He then introduced a video message of thanks from Jon Stewart, a political commentator, actor, and comedian who advocates for military veterans with respiratory conditions following exposure to toxic burn pits while serving overseas.

Tisha S. Wang, MD, ATSF
Tisha S. Wang, MD, ATSF
Jon Stewart

“Thank you, guys, for all of your hard work and all the great things that you do,” Mr. Stewart said. “Without your expertise, the PACT Act, which brought benefits to men and women who served this country for their exposure to different toxins and burn pits, never would have gotten through.”

Climate change has been a focus of the ATS, including research into its social and health costs. Dr. Downey recalled a workshop that the ATS held with experts in respiratory medicine and cardiology to review research on heat health from a warming planet and its functions.

“The workshop resulted in a higher cost of carbon estimate that will likely be used by the U.S. government and in fact other governments around the globe to evaluate climate change policy, and hopefully it will tip the scales toward policy action to reduce future greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.

Tisha S. Wang, MD, ATSF, chair of the Education Committee, gave an overview of the Education Committee’s recent efforts, including the launch of ATS Ed+, an online learning portal for Continuing Medical Education and Maintenance of Certification.

Dr. Wang outlined the new governance structure that will help develop opportunities for building and growing educational offerings for the ATS.

“We really want everyone involved on this big, multidisciplinary team,” she said.


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