F. Todd Wetzel, MD is Chair of NASS’ Administration & Development Council and has been a NASS member since 1990. He currently is Professor and Vice Chair of the Department of Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine, and Professor of Neurosurgery at Temple University in Philadelphia. Aside from a practice in spinal surgery, Dr. Wetzel is the author of over 200 peer reviewed papers, abstracts and textbook chapters.
- 1. What is your mission this year?
The Administration & Development Council is the most eclectic of the four Councils. The Council oversees finances (Audit and Investment Committees), Ethical and Professional Conduct (Ethics, Professional Conduct and Ethics Committees, and the Conflict of Interest Review Panel), membership, industry relations (Spine Executive Forum), Exercise and Strategic Development (Governance and Section Development Committees). Each of the committees has its own goals and agendas.
2. What are your committee’s highlights over the last couple years?
Overall, this is an extremely active council. The dedication and hard work of the COIRP and Ethics Committee have resulted in the formulation and adoption of Conflict of Interest levels for members in leadership position, and rigorous disclosure requirements for scientific presenters, committee member, committee chairs and board members. The timely adoption of these regulations has catapaulted NASS to a position of preeminence in the management of COI. The Governance Committee has developed new courses in Leadership Development, a first for NASS, and committee orientation and evaluation. Membership has revisited and redefined categories and bylaws – membership has been growing at about 15% per year. Finally, the Investment Committee deserves the gratitude of every member of NASS for a management strategy that has resulted in steady financial growth despite the challenging economic times.
3. What are the committee’s long-term goals?
As a Council per se, I would welcome growth in any direction that the Board and membership would require. Given the diversity of the council – ethics, professional conduct, membership, executive, governance and financial – I anticipate that growth will be multifaceted. Specifically, I would like to see NASS recognized for the leadership of the Ethics committee on COI and perhaps even offer educational programs or materials for other societies as to how we did it. Programmatically, I would like to see Leadership Development grow to the point of that offered by the AOA, and would like to see overall membership exceed 10,000 within the next five years.
4. What challenges face your committee?
Each committee has its own challenges. Two of perhaps the most pressing that affect NASS as a whole are the apparent ethics- industry conflict, and, in these somewhat trying times, economic growth.
I say apparent ethic-industry conflict intentionally. This is a perception that is disadvantageous to both sides and really is inaccurate. It is quite possible to manage conflict, disclose appropriately and have significant relationships with industry at every level except that of senior NASS leadership; even so, the recommendation for suspension of ties with industry while in certain leadership positions is just that- a suspension of ties while in that position, not necessarily a permanent severance. This misconception was discussed at a recent town hall meeting, at the end of which the attendees had a much clearer nature of the goals of the COI policies. This education is essential for members of NASS and our colleagues in industry. Hopefully, the upcoming Spine Executive forum will begin to address this need and the misperception.
Finances remain challenging, but the investment committee continues to do an outstanding job. Expanding the membership base is also critical to future solvency.
5. How long have you been a NASS member?
I was a candidate member immediately out of fellowship (1988) and advanced to full membership after Board Certification in 1990.
6. When did you first volunteer? What committee was it?
Committee on Journals and Publications, 1994.
7. What would you tell other people about serving on NASS committees?
To paraphrase the great philosopher, Woody Allen, “90% of life is just showing up.” So, firstly, make time to attend the meetings and participate in the conference calls. Introduce yourself to all of the members of the committee, and the NASS staff or ask the chair to do so at the first meeting. Do not be afraid to participate and be heard, after all this is our society. I would also encourage all new committee members to meet with the NASS staff to learn the ropes. They are universally helpful.