Dear Friends and Colleagues,
They say time flies when you are having fun! While many of us would not characterize 2020 – pandemic and all – as fun, I nevertheless find that my 2 years serving as IUGA President have flown by and serving you and IUGA has been fun! Thank you to all for being part of this adventure with me!
It seems like just yesterday that I sat down to write my first President’s Letter in which I shared with you my vision for my term as your president. That vision included ensuring our activities are applicable to our geographically-diverse and multidisciplinary membership; continuing to provide IUGA members with opportunities to learn, grow professionally, and share knowledge; and building on and fostering collaborations with our affiliates and other societies.
As I reflect on that vision, I see that the global coronavirus pandemic, while devasting in the toll it has taken on our lives, also helped us to realize many of my hopes for IUGA. As in-person meetings were postponed, then cancelled, due to COVID-19, we quickly pivoted to rely more heavily on virtual options. We opened IUGA Academy to non-members, we transitioned our Annual Meeting to a virtual meeting and offered scholarships to attend it, and we increased the number of webinars (all free!) we offered to provide ongoing educational opportunities in the absence of physical meetings. Our virtual outreach allowed us to connect with a great number of practitioners who traditionally cannot afford the expenses associated with attending regional and international meetings in person.
Over the last two years we have continued to partner with our affiliate societies and other related organizations. Our collaborations include the joint 2019 Annual Meeting with the American Urogynecologic Society; many joint writing projects completed or in progress with organizations such as AUGS, ICS, and SUFU; and webinars. We look forward to continuing and further strengthening these collaborations in the future, as I truly believe that together we are stronger!
We have continued our efforts to make IUGA a truly multidisciplinary association. Our Pelvic Floor Rehabilitation Special Interest Group (SIG) is very active, and the number of physiotherapist members continues to grow. We also established a Nursing and Midwifery SIG and offered our first International Symposium for Allied Health Professionals in 2019, with another planned for 2021. 2020 was the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife. Be sure to check out our special thank you video and thank your nurse and midwife colleagues for all they do! During my presidency I am delighted that the number of Allied Healthcare Professionals has increased. We have also increased our global reach through the addition of 7 affiliate societies since the beginning of 2019.
We have continued our strong tradition of member involvement in IUGA. You may have seen the recent International Volunteer Day email calling attention to this. In 2019, over 1200 volunteers assisted IUGA in moving the association – and the field of urogynecology – forward. And in 2020, despite a global pandemic, we still had over 900 volunteers assist us. Thank you to all of our volunteers for all that you do. When you see these numbers, it is obvious that we truly could not do what we do without you! Click here to see the list of this year’s volunteers. If you see anybody missing, let us know! My sincere gratitude to the chairs of our numerous committees and Special Interest Groups for all your hard work during my tenure.
It is hard to convey our many accomplishments over the last two years in a short letter. I highlighted many of our accomplishments in my Presidential Address at the IUGA 45th Virtual Annual Meeting, which you can view here.
I have always believed that our patients need to be at the center of everything we do. While our collaborations and affiliations with other societies are important, none are more important that our responsibility to our patients. Until now, we have not had a formal mechanism for hearing, and incorporating, the patient perspective into the work of IUGA. I am therefore delighted to end my presidency with the announcement that we are developing an IUGA Patient Advisory Council. This group will provide the patient perspective to directly inform IUGA activities, with the goal of improving patient care through policy and program change.
As I look ahead to the next 2 years, I know IUGA is in good hands with Jorge Milhem Haddad at the helm. He has a huge heart, and it is clear to me that he cares deeply about IUGA and its members. Since his election as Vice President, he has taken an active role on the Board, learning all the intricacies of leading a global organization. He is a recognized expert across the South American continent and provides a gateway for IUGA to increase involvement of practitioners from Latin countries. Jorge has a highly competent leadership team to assist him, including our new Vice President, Fred Milani (Netherlands); our new Treasurer, Lisa Prodigalidad (Philippines), and continuing Secretary, Dudley Robinson (United Kingdom). This board is truly representative of a global association with wide diversity. As is customary in IUGA, I will remain on the Board for the coming two years as the Immediate Past President to provide insight and continuity and look forward to my continued work with you all.
It has been my sincere honor and privilege to serve as your IUGA President, and an experience that has taught me much, and touched me deeply.