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September President's Update

By Currents Editor posted 09-13-2022 20:22


August is running to its end; the daylight has started to narrow in the northern hemisphere and families are slowly returning from those vacation escapades to deal with the new school year’s adventures. Have you seen this before?

NCS is again preparing for the Annual Meeting, this time in San Antonio! This is our second hybrid meeting, with expected record attendance. As we focus more and more on the event of the year, we are also fervently working on multiple other fronts, some distant from the Annual Meeting. The most important of those is next year’s budget. If you have never been involved in developing one, I can tell you: it is a complex, challenging “game,” where the past years’ experience counts, but still with a lot of unknowns and guesswork. Paul Vespa, the Finance Committee, and Alexia Malamis and her Smithbucklin colleagues are working through, and ironing version after version to finalize it and present it to the Executive Committee and Board. In parallel, the new three-year strategic plan will also take its form in September but has to be distilled through various additional filters and will not be completed before the last months of the year.

Two other important task forces are currently ongoing. The first group is working on the relationship between the Society and the Neurocritical Care FoundationAs with the development of any new endeavor, we discover specific details to further define. The Boards of NCS and the Foundation are working collaboratively through the task force to resolve outstanding questions and move the Foundation forward as an independent entity.

As an example, access by the Foundation to NCS members is not as simple as it seems on the surface, and we had to receive legal counsel for clarifications. There are more issues, some more complicated than others. The task force is comprised of Board members from both organizations, and with the assistance of our Smithbucklin partners, we will attempt to reach a solution.

The second task force group is working on NCS statements about new or present broader, social issues. We read last month the statement on criminalization of care. Thanks to Sarah Livesay, Mona Kumar and the INCC members, we were able to develop it in a short period of time. But because medical or general, social or political issues emerge every day, we need to have a process in place to respond as a Society to these challenges based on relevance and importance to us. We have had beautiful and rich debates that have personally made me proud of the multiculturalism and open-mindedness of our Society and have made significant progress. Please stay tuned!

Lastly, on the ACGME Program accreditation front, I do not have to report a breakthrough. I had a very encouraging discussion though with the new President and CEO of the ABPN, Dr. Jeffrey Lyness, who succeeded Dr. Larry Faulkner. ABPN and Dr. Lyness are well aware of the accreditation roadblock of having a Neurosurgeon certified in NCC serve as program core faculty. The “grace period” ending in July 2026 may buy some time for this requirement to be met by some programs, but, without any doubt, not for all or even for the majority. Dr. Lyness has complete understanding of the problem and promised me to work with ACGME, the AAN and us to find permanent, realistic solutions.

As we are moving towards my last letter in October, I decided to end my ancient quotes with this month’s thus giving you a well-deserved break. In March, I mentioned my favorite ancient Greek philosopher, Heraclitus of Ephesus. If you remember, this pre-Socratic giant was called the “obscure” or “dark” philosopher, because of his ability in few words to express deep, universal truths. I have not told you my favorite one yet: the extraordinary “Ήθος ανθρώπω δαίμων» A man’s character is his fate. Not gender-specific, it could be easily translated A woman’s character is her fate. Ecumenical, for every location and time, where and when humans lived. Walking into my sixties, I have not encountered anything truer than this three-word statement. Our deepest, our core, our character, will lead us to become who we are, eventually. I, and I am sure you too, have learned about or met powerful, famous people, who are in the limelight, have reached the tops in life, because they were smart or lucky or ruthless or born to wealth and power. But some of those who we admire and consider models are hollow, shallow, empty. And one day, when this lack of character, this lack of substance, is revealed, they spiral down, sometimes faster than gravity. And I have also met other people who consciously decide to keep their beliefs, their core values unadulterated, who close their ears to the mesmerizing songs of the daily Sirens. Who do not dwell on the treetops, but eventually reach them. Slowly, painfully, with toil, sweat and blood. Those who make you feel (as you age, like me) that you have been privileged knowing them and living during their times…

Panayiotis (Panos) N. Varelas, MD, PhD, FAAN, FNCS
President, NCS Board of Directors
Professor of Neurology and Chairman, Department of Neurology
Albany Medical College


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