By Ronald J. Sokol, MD, FAASLD, AASLD President
Complex relationships with for-profit and not-for-profit organizations and entities may, by their very existence, present a perceived or real conflict with the missions and values of the AASLD. In as much as the existence of real or perceived conflicts of interest (COI) has the potential to undermine the stature, integrity, creditability and function of the AASLD, AASLD must insure that its members, leadership and the public-at-large understand the importance it places on identification and resolution of conflicts. The independence and the credibility of AASLD requires a clear policy that can be enacted in a fair and transparent manner. Many of you are aware of the importance of this issue in our own institutions and hospitals. In this regard, AASLD has recently revised its Code for the Assessment and Management of Conflict of Interest. As we developed this document, we tried to be aware of the fact that this should guide us in both assessing and managing potential COIs. AASLD has an abundance of members who are highly qualified to perform vital tasks for the Society. We recognize that very often the most highly qualified individual for a given task has a potential COI. Having a transparent process that informs all of potential conflicts is essential. Just knowing, however, isn’t enough. AASLD needs to be able to gauge, manage and, at times, resolve potential COIs.
AASLD requires the annual completion of a COI disclosure form from those who play certain roles in our Society and those forms will be made available through our website. Special attention is being paid to the Governing Board, the four Journal Editors-in-Chief, Chair of the Ethics Committee, the CME Committee and the Chairs of the Practice Guidelines Committee and the Practice Metrics Committee, and committee members and writing group members. As I stated above, management and resolution of potential COIs is essential, and any resolutions must be made within six months.
As with many other medical societies, creating a COI policy that allows us to enlist the expertise of our members while maintaining transparency and minimizing both conflicts and the appearance of COIs, is essential. The help of our AASLD Ethics Committee was invaluable as we developed the new policy and performed this delicate balancing act. Drs. Stephen Zucker and Michael Fried wrote an excellent article for Hepatology that describes this process, especially as it relates to the development of our practice guidelines and guidances. That article is published online.
Liver Capitol Hill Day
We will be continuing the momentum from last year in our visits to Congress this April. It has probably never been so important for the voice of the hepatology, liver science and patient communities to be heard in Washington D.C. I am delighted that we have had a strong response to our requests for AASLD member participation for Liver Capitol Hill Day (LCHD), which is scheduled for April 18, 2018. That does not mean that we cannot make room for a few more members to take part this year, so please consider joining us. Although we are just past the deadline for registration, we are willing to make exceptions if you write to us this week.
Please note that we do not call it AASLD Capitol Hill Day, because one of the goals of the event is to represent the entire liver health community. This year we are partnering with six groups:
- Alpha-1 Foundation
- American Liver Foundation
- Community Liver Alliance
- Caring Ambassadors Program
- Hepatitis B Foundation
- National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable
AASLD truly appreciates the perspectives and efforts of all participating partner organizations. We are also committed to providing a forum for our patients to participate in LCHD, which is why AASLD pays for both AASLD members and a patient of each AASLD member to participate in this important event. We are very aware of the strength of the community’s message when it is delivered by both patients and healthcare providers.
The Right Meeting for You
We have an outstanding offering of upcoming education and scientific events for you, so please join AASLD soon at one or all of these meetings:
- Emerging Trends Conference: Cholangiopathies: The Dawn of Curative Treatments?
- HCC Symposium, which will be hosted by AASLD, EASL and ISVHLD and presented at the International Symposium on Viral Hepatitis and Liver Disease (ISHVLD) meeting in Toronto, Ontario
- Digestive Disease Week – a full AASLD program
- AASLD/EASL NAFLD Endpoints Conference