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Zachary Peura
7 Months

Dr. Peuraís President-elect Address 
May 17, 2005 AGA Plenary Session Chicago, IL

Ian, thanks for that introduction. And, Emmet, thanks for your very informative overview of major Association accomplishments over the past year. We are grateful for all your hard work and that of the many volunteers and staff that made this all happen. We must capitalize on the momentum that we have gained so far.

I enter the A-G-A presidency with great anticipation, excitement and high expectations. Volunteer members and leadership, myself included, have our work cut out for us. While we will be involved in many diverse activities in the coming year, Iíd like to take a few minutes to focus on three issues that are particularly important to me and that will shape my presidency in a profound way ó professionalism, philanthropy and political action Ė the 3 Pís. These three very important concepts have a common theme. Together they deal with who we are (as individuals and as an association), what we do with our resources, and what we must do to ensure the future vitality of our chosen profession.

As the medical community comes under assault from many directions, professionalism must remain the very core of our activities. Often we feel discouraged by daily hassles, endless regulations, and administrators telling us what we can and cannot do. We canít let this overshadow what my wife Kristin reminds me is the ďprime directive,Ē why I worked so hard to become a physician. As physicians, our patients trust us ó they bring us their problems. They share their thoughts, their concerns and their fears with us ó often things that they donít share even with their families.  And they have faith that we will do right by them. Deserving this trust and respect and our commitment to do whatís best are why we chose our profession in the first place. What we as individuals do and what we as an association do must always remain patient centered ó that is our professional obligation and it is the right thing to do.     

Most of us have causes we believe in strongly enough to support with charitable gifts, and I believe that we are seldom disappointed in our giving and that our commitment to philanthropy is well placed. A noble cause close to my heart is our own A-G-A Foundation for Digestive Health and Nutrition. I feel so strongly about this cause that Iím designating my presidency as A Year of Philanthropy. You may not know this, but over the past 20 years, the A-G-A and its related foundations have provided grants to more than 250 physicians and researchers to help advance the science and practice of gastroenterology. I look forward to building on this worthy tradition and to doubling the A-G-A Foundationís current endowment.  The A-G-A is responding through its commitment to increase the number and size of individual awards granted annually. And to ensure the permanence of this commitment, we plan to assemble a 50 million dollar research endowment to fund these awards in perpetuity. The recent generous grant from TAP Pharmaceuticals has provided a huge boost to our efforts; however, we cannot rely solely on industry to support our cause. Itís imperative that we all make a personal commitment to ensure the future of gastroenterology. It makes no difference if weíre basic scientists or in academic or private practice settings. Funding of medical research benefits us all. This too is our obligation and also the right thing to do!

Another very important way to support the Foundation is by asking others to give. While the idea of asking others to contribute to a cause may seem foreign and a bit uncomfortable, it is important to remember that you are not asking for yourself, you are asking for a cause you and your prospective donor believe in.

One example of members volunteering to raise money for the Foundation is the Mentor RSA program where the A-G-A honors individuals by endowing a research scholar award in their names. Once a mentor is chosen, he or she identifies someone to chair a campaign to collect donations in the mentorís name. Some who were identified were not quite sure what to do and had reservations. But with guidance and support, those volunteers who had initial reservations became some of our best champions and most enthusiastic fundraisers.

 The importance of volunteerism is a segue into my final topic ó political action. As Dr. Keefe mentioned, the A-G-A is in the final stages of a reorganization that will allow us to create a Political Action Committee, or ďPAC.Ē A PAC will greatly increase the A-G-Aís power of persuasion on Capitol Hill, and help us to better advocate for  the needs of gastroenterologists, including increased reimbursement and expanded research funding, and the needs of our patients.

What will make the PAC and our legislative activities a success is you. The PAC will rely on our membersí annual contributions and an increase in the number of members taking part in our rapidly growing grassroots advocacy activities.

In fact, grassroots advocacy is a good way for anyone to start being more actively involved with the organization. Every year, the A-G-A hosts an Advocacy Day when members visit their legislators on Capitol Hill to advocate for the needs of our patients and our specialty. If we donít let our members of Congress know what issues are important to us, no one else will. For this reason, one of my goals is to increase the number of members involved in Advocacy Day. Anyone who may be interested in participating in this event or any other type of grassroots activity should contact the A-G-A National Office for more information about how to become involved. Congress has a significant and direct impact on our profession and we must use whatever tools are at our disposal to deliver our message with a strong, unified voice. 

As I conclude my presentation this morning, I want to leave you with one take home thought. We need to remember those who volunteered to help us get where we are today. We need to do the same thing to ensure that the practice of gastroenterology and the professional environment of the future will be vibrant, self-sustaining and full of opportunities. We must get involved- if we donít, who will? This is our legacy, our responsibility and our obligation. And it is the right thing to do. Thank you and enjoy the rest of D-D-W.