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Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Happy 2020 to all! It is hard to believe that my presidency is half over. Time is flying by! I appreciate you taking the time to read this letter in which I present a snapshot of our 2019 accomplishments in each area of IUGA’s Strategic Plan - knowledge creation and synthesis, knowledge dissemination, advocacy for urogynecology and IUGA, and strengthening our organization.

Knowledge Creation & Synthesis

There is no shortage of knowledge being created through committee projects, research, etc. The Terminology & Standardization Committee has a number of collaborative projects in process to standardize both terminology and practice across the field. The Research & Development Committee published three opinion papers over the past year. All of these projects were included in my last President’s Letter, available online at https://www.iuga.org/news/president-s-letter.

The International Urogynecological Consultation project is bringing together world experts to produce best practice documents and consensus papers regarding pelvic organ prolapse, urogenital pain and sexual dysfunction. The aim is to translate evolving data into knowledge, knowledge into recommendations, and recommendations into improved care for women with pelvic organ prolapse. Chapter 1 is underway, and we are just now finalizing author appointments for Chapter 2, with four total chapters planned. Learn more at https://www.iuga.org/publications/iuc. This year we’ll be forming the committees that will focus on Chapter 3 – Conservative Management of Pelvic Organ Prolapse.

Our members continually create new knowledge through their research. We aid this by awarding two $10,000 USD IUGA Research Grants per year – one in clinical/patient-oriented research and one in laboratory-based/basic science research. Learn how you can apply and view previous recipients and projects at https://www.iuga.org/grants/research.

In 2019 we joined forces with MedShr to connect IUGA members and support case discussion in urogynecology. MedShr enables practitioners to share and discuss clinical cases in a HIPAA and GMC compliant professional network of over 800,000 members in 190 countries. You can join the IUGA International Urogynecological Association Case Discussion Group at https://www.iuga.org/resources/medshr.

Knowledge Dissemination

Disseminating knowledge is at the core of what any association does, and our meetings are at the heart of this endeavor. This year’s AUGS/IUGA Scientific Meeting brought in a record number of abstract submissions (891) from which 739 were presented in formats ranging from long and short orals to poster presentations, scientific salons and video cafes. Over the next few months, key presentations will be made available on the IUGA Academy. Click below to access those presentations that are already available. Twenty-nine (29) workshops provided opportunities to enhance knowledge and skills.

IUGA eXchange Programs disseminate knowledge in areas where economic, political, and/or cultural/language barriers are present. Two eXchange Programs were offered in 2019 – one in April 2019 in Hangzhou, China with 51 attendees, and one in November 2019 in Istanbul, Turkey with 203 attendees. We also offered the first International Symposium in Croydon, UK in June. The symposium focused on Birth Trauma and Pelvic Floor Health for Allied Health Professionals with more than 100 attendees. This type of focused symposium allows us to deliver content relevant and specific to each player on the multi-disciplinary team.

With the help of the Fellows, Trainees and Early Career Professionals Committee, we’ve brought back webinars! Two webinars were offered in 2019 (Making the Transition from Trainee to Early Career Professional, and The Best of AUGS/IUGA 2019 Scientific Meeting). Our next webinar, Is Laparoscopy the Future of Pelvic Floor Reconstructive Surgery?, is scheduled for February 17, 2020. Watch your email for registration information for this free webinar. Podcasts are another knowledge dissemination channel we use that allow members to stay informed on timely topics – from the differing and opposing views on vaginal mesh and physiotherapy in post-operative recovery to how to read and write an article. Access all of the episodes at https://www.iuga.org/education/podcasts.

IUGA Academy is an amazing membership benefit that provides you with educational resources collected in one place. A new E-Lecture is offered every month, as well as Must-see Surgical Videos and 6 CME courses – all free to members! If you haven’t taken advantage of this amazing benefit, I encourage you to login today and check it out!

Immersion in new environments and exposure to new techniques, methods, and practice models is offered through the IUGA Observership Grants. Three (3) grants are offered annually. The Board is also looking at funding opportunities that will allow us to bring back the International Fellowship Program that has been unfunded since before 2017. We’ve realigned the timeline for all of our grant programs so that moving forward recipients will all be announced during the Annual Meeting. We encourage members who head programs to submit a host site application so that we can offer applicants a wider range of options at which to carry out their observerships. Learn more at about both the observership grants and becoming an approved host site at https://www.iuga.org/grants/observership.

Advocacy for Urogynecology & IUGA

The field of urogynecology continues to find itself in the hot seat in the ongoing vaginal mesh controversy. Our position remains focused on making sure women have access to the widest possible range of safe and successful treatment options – including mid-urethral slings for stress urinary incontinence. While there have indeed been complications from the surgical use of mesh – which need to be recognized and learned from – there are also many success stories You can help us demonstrate a balanced view of the issue by asking your patients at their follow-up visits to share their journey to pelvic floor health via our patient website at https://www.yourpelvicfloor.org/your-pelvic-floor-story/.  

Our Foundation also remains committed to making sure all women have access to urogynecology care. We continue to collaborate with and provide support to the urogynecology fellowship program in Ghana. We have also committed our support to a new urogynecology fellowship program that began earlier this year in Nepal. You can learn more about the Foundation’s work at www.fiuga.org. Donations to support this work are always welcome and may be made through the Foundation website.

After a hiatus in 2019, we will be offering another Public Forum in conjunction with the 2020 Annual Meeting in The Hague, The Netherlands. This public event provides an opportunity for discourse and for the general public to learn more about urogynecology – whether they are experiencing symptoms, are a caregiver, or just want to know more about the female pelvic floor. It is a small way to give back to the community that hosts us for our Annual Meeting.

Organization Strengthening

A strong organization requires a strong membership. We aim not only to grow our membership, but also to meet the continually evolving needs of our current members, and to also encourage the next generation of practitioners (medical students) to explore a future in urogynecology.

The Fellows and Trainees Committee has been expanded to include early career professionals (those in their first 5 years of post-training practice) and we are working hard to incorporate fellows, trainees and early career professionals into all of our planning and initiatives, as they are the future of our field. In turn, the Fellows, Trainees, and Early Career Professionals Committee is developing mentoring and other programs to encourage medical students to choose urogynecology as their subspecialty.

To make IUGA and all its benefits more accessible, this year we waived membership fees for those who reside in developing countries (visit https://www.iuga.org/membership/join-us for rates and a list of developing countries that qualify for free membership). We also implemented a new membership rate for fellows and physicians-in-training. Recognizing the care of our patients occurs within a multidisciplinary team, we have focused on increasing the number of physiotherapists and nurses in our membership. This, of course, requires that we have relevant content and activities for each membership group. We have thus established a new Nursing & Midwifery Special Interest Group (SIG), and a new Basic Science SIG was approved at the end of 2019. SIGs and their associated E-Discussion Forums provide a mechanism for members with similar interests to connect, network, and get involved. Great initiatives, such as the ambassador program and the International Symposium on Birth Trauma and Pelvic Floor Health for Allied Health Professionals have arisen from the SIGs. Learn about all of our Special Interest Groups at https://www.iuga.org/membership/special-interest-groups/about-the-sigs and get involved!

We continue to strengthen our relationship with our affiliate societies and add new ones. This year we increased the number of Affiliate Societies from 35 to 39 at the end of 2019.

With so many members (over 2900!) we want to make sure that membership in IUGA doesn’t become impersonal. As we look ahead to 2020, I encourage each of you to think of one thing you will do in 2020 to connect with IUGA. It may be attending the Annual Meeting for the first time, joining a Special Interest Group, or learning about some of our members at https://www.iuga.org/about/member-profiles. Maybe you will commit to reading all of the newsletters in 2020 or following us on social media and commenting on our posts. If you find you are ready for greater involvement, watch for the Call for Committee Volunteers in 2020 or other periodic calls for volunteers – for writing groups, special projects, etc. The future awaits!

On behalf of the entire IUGA Board and Staff, I would like to wish you a very happy new year!

Sincerely Yours,

Ranee Thakar

IUGA President

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