Dear Friends and Colleagues,
It feels like I have just written my first President’s Letter in which I shared my goals for my term as IUGA President. During my presidency, I focused on continuing and enhancing our standing as the premier international urogynecology society. I am therefore delighted to end my presidency with the announcement that we accomplished all of the initial aims I outlined for my term as the President of this fantastic society. Our accomplishments are elaborated upon below.
It is impossible for our International Advisory Board (IAB) members to work alone in the large geographic regions they represent, especially Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. My first goal was to create Regional Advisory Boards (RABs), each chaired by the IAB member from that region. The RABs provide additional support and input to leadership, promote communication among urogynecology leaders within the region, and help IUGA better meet the needs of our members and practitioners in those regions. RABs have now been established in seven regions (Europe, Latin America, Africa, Southern Asia, Southeastern Asia, Central/East Asia, and Western Asia) and are composed of the presidents of the national urogynecology societies or presidents/chairs of the urogynecology section within the national ObGyn societies. In areas where there is no relevant regional society, we have identified and invited key opinion leaders who have an interest in forming a urogynecology society or section in their countries. The African RAB has representatives from 10 countries; the Asian RAB from 19 countries in 4 distinct regions; the European RAB from 14 countries, and finally, the Latin American RAB has representatives from 10 countries. As a multidisciplinary organization, we made sure to identify at least one nurse/midwife/allied health professional (NMAHP) member to serve on each RAB to make sure the needs of these members are also represented.
The RABs facilitate ongoing (and periodic) communications in each region via WhatsApp groups and Zoom Meetings every semester. Integration and collaboration among the countries in each region is so important. The RABs in Africa and Central/East Asia organized very successful webinar series this year. The European, LATAM and Southern, Southeastern and Western Asia RABs are discussing the creation of working groups to conduct multicenter studies and develop regional guidelines. As I always say, together we are stronger. It is magic to see the connections being made among countries in all regions in the world!
My second goal was to establish opportunities for dialogue in the most spoken language(s) besides English among IUGA members to provide even more opportunities to learn, grow professionally, and share knowledge. After careful and technical evaluation, we focused our efforts on Spanish first. We developed a webpage listing all of the IUGA resources in Spanish, including the translation of some important IUGA documents. In addition, we conducted several well attended Interactive Networking Sessions in Spanish. This is such an important initiative as an international society.
The vision of IUGA is to improve the lives of all women worldwide with pelvic floor disorders, at all stages of life, through the provision of excellent healthcare. Therefore, my third goal was to develop a “road map” for use by countries that are trying to get urogynecology recognized and certified as a subspeciality. The document was developed based on the process that other countries have followed to gain subspeciality recognition in urogynecology and addresses how this recognition was important for growing urogynecology within the country. This work was carried out by the Fellowship Development Committee chaired by Sylvia Botros. It is so important, because urogynecology is a field that cares for women with complex disorders of the pelvic floor including bladder, bowel, gynecologic and musculoskeletal dysfunction. The subspecialty requires multidisciplinary expertise and collaboration. In a continued effort to realize IUGA’s vision, we advocate for worldwide recognition of urogynecology as a subspeciality. This document will be very important in aiding the certification process in many different countries.
In addition to working on these goals, we have also been working hard to ensure IUGA remains the best urogynecology society in the world by focusing on our strategic plan. The IUGA strategic plan guides us in setting goals and achieving our objectives and is based on four pillars: Knowledge Creation and Synthesis, Knowledge Dissemination, Organization Strengthening, and Advocacy for Urogynecology and IUGA.
Knowledge Creation and Synthesis
We offered 34 great Webinars and Interactive Networking Sessions on different topics, including one webinar in French and three Interactive Networking Sessions in Spanish in 2021-2022. The recordings of all these sessions, as well as videos about IUGA initiatives and benefits, are available for all members to watch at their leisure in the IUGA Video library.
The International Urogynecological Consultation (IUC) Committees continue to review the literature and develop the best comprehensive, international papers on pelvic organ prolapse. Those completed to date are also available on the IUGA website in the Publications section.
Our various Committees and Special Interest Groups (SIGs) are working hard and have made many advances over the past two years, including the creation of “onboarding” videos that members can view and learn directly from those involved in each of them. The Education Committee continues to organize our online e-learning platform, IUGA Academy, and adds a new E-Lecture every month in addition to must-see surgical videos and selected content from the IUGA Annual Meeting.
The Committees have done fabulous work. Many achievements have been made and I would like to highlight new terminology papers on urodynamics, cosmetic gynecology (with AUGS) and terminology for the assessment and management of obstetric pelvic floor disorders (with ICS), as well as a consensus document on Enhanced Recovery After Urogynecologic Surgery (with AUGS) – the first ERAS consensus paper in our field.
We organized a successful Virtual Meeting in 2021 and our first (and fantastic!) Hybrid Annual Meeting in June 2022 in Austin, TX, USA, in collaboration with AUGS. It was so special to meet people in person again!
As a multidisciplinary and international society, it is so important to provide educational opportunities for all members of the team, in all regions of the world. To that end, we organized our 3rd IUGA International Symposium in March 2022 with remarkable success. It focused on the management, assessment, and prevention of pelvic floor dysfunction for a multidisciplinary audience. We also organized two Regional Symposia to address regional needs – one virtual in 2021 in collaboration with the Thai Urogynecologists Society (TUGS) and the Faculty of Medicine Ramathibodi Hospital, Mahidol University in Bangkok, and a hybrid symposium offered this month in Montevideo, Uruguay, in collaboration with the Sociedad Uruguaya de Perineologia (SUPER). Both were also great successes!
A multidisciplinary approach is so important in treating our patients. We have increased our outreach to allied health professionals, and as previously noted, we include a NMAHP member in each of our Regional Advisory Boards. We also have Special Interest Groups focused on the interests of our non-physician members.
Advocacy for Urogynecology and IUGA
We established the IUGA Patient Advisory Council (IUGAPAC) with 19 members (10 patients and 9 health care professionals) encompassing all regions of the world. The IUGAPAC is chaired by IUGA Past President, Ranee Thakar, and through this group we work towards not only understanding our patients’ perspectives, but directly incorporating their perspective into our activities with the goal of improving care through policy and program changes.
To reach a broader audience of members and practitioners, we also implemented free student membership in IUGA to introduce students to urogynecology and build the future pipeline of urogynecologic practitioners and IUGA Leaders. We also expanded our social media footprint through the creation of an IUGA Instagram account. If you don’t already, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram (@IUGAOffice)!
So, we have been working hard on all fronts, and all of this work is accomplished by our members, especially those chairing and serving on IUGA Committees, Special Interest Groups, IUC Committees, IUGAPAC, our International Advisory Board members and corresponding Regional Advisory Boards. I would especially like to recognize and thank all of them for volunteering their time and talents with IUGA.
I would like to thank the Co-Editors-in-Chief of the International Urogynecology Journal, Rebecca Rogers and Steven Swift, for their excellent work over the past 6 years. At the same time, I would like to welcome Maria Augusta Bortolini and Kaven Bassler, the new Co-Editors-in-Chief.
I would also like to recognize and thank my colleagues on the IUGA Board: Ranee Thakar, Dudley Robinson, Fred Milani, and Lisa Prodigalidad, for their very special contributions. As I always say, the IUGA Board is a great family, and they are so important to maintaining IUGA as the best international urogynecology society.
I give my grateful thanks to David Casalod, Tessa Benitez, and their great team in the IUGA Office for their fantastic and hard work. They have made the board’s job much easier with their guidance and recommendations.
Although this is my last President letter, I know IUGA is in good hands with Fred Milani in charge. He is a special person with a big heart who has always been ready to help as Vice President. I am sure he will be a great President and he has a wonderful Board to help him in our new Vice President, Anna Rosamilia (Australia); our Treasurer, Lisa Prodigalidad (Philippines); and our Secretary, Dudley Robinson (United Kingdom). I will remain on the Board for the coming two years as the Immediate Past President and I am looking forward to working with you all.
Finally, to all IUGA members, thank you so much for your support. It has been an honor and privilege to serve all of you as IUGA President. As I always say, together we are stronger, and together we will ensure IUGA remains the best international urogynecology organization.
I wish you all, and your families, a wonderful, safe, and healthy year in 2023.
With my deeply gratitude,
Jorge Milhem Haddad
IUGA President (2021-2022)