Dear and Esteemed Members of the North American Skull Base Society:
It is one of the greatest honors and privileges of my life to have been chosen to lead this august Society as President. When I consider the talented individuals within the North American Skull Base Society – the gifted surgeons, the precise anatomists, the brilliant radiation oncologists, the insightful ophthalmologists – I am completely humbled to be considered among their ranks. The individuals who have preceded me as President include some of the greatest skull base specialists in history, not least of whom is my immediate predecessor, Ricardo L. Carrau, MD. I owe Ric an enormous debt for handing over a thriving, robust, and prosperous Society. He has indeed left very large shoes for me to fill.
The Society is in excellent shape, expanding faster and achieving membership larger than it ever has before. There are now more than 1,000 members in the North American Skull Base Society (NASBS), for the first time in the Society’s history. This achievement is due to the hard work of Dr. Carrau and our leaders on the membership committee, including especially Brian Thorp, MD, Eric Wang, MD, and L. Madison Michael, MD and their crew of indefatigable skull base proselytizers. Their enthusiasm for the camaraderie and scholarship of the Society has been transmitted to the largest number of new recruits we have ever seen.
In similar fashion, our committees are more streamlined and effective than ever before, one of the many accomplishments of Dr. Carrau and also Jim Evans, MD who preceded him as NASBS President. Committees like our Website & Communications Committee, our Research Committee, our Value Based Healthcare Committee, and our Surgical Education Committee are hotbeds of innovation and accomplishment. I am amazed as what those committees and their leadership have accomplished in the last year. There are too many individuals to name without forgetting some, but especially Erin McKean, MD (Value Based Healthcare Chair), Shaan Raza, MD and Anand Devaiah, MD (Research Co-Chairs), and Chris Graffeo, MD (Social Media Director), who somehow is still in training and yet has the time to post outstanding content on NASBS’ social media accounts with the help of the Social Media Subcommittee. If you are not already following NASBS on Twitter or Instagram, I strongly urge you to do so. I look forward to every new Rhoton anatomy question and NASBS post, and I never have to worry about our Twitter account being permanently suspended, unlike the worries of some other, now former, Presidents.
To achieve all of this in any other year would be a spectacular accomplishment and ample evidence of a bustling, flourishing society, but to do all this in the horrible year that was 2020 defies the imagination. The past year has seen the Society confronted by the same problems and issues that have afflicted all of us personally. The pandemic has had an impact even at the skull base, as many of our otolaryngology colleagues know all too well. We have played our part in trying to keep health care workers and operating room staff in particular as safe as possible during the onslaught of the virus. For the Society itself, the pandemic’s impact has been felt most acutely in our education efforts. This year will be the first year since the founding of the North American Skull Base Society that we will not have an in-person academic meeting for the exchange of ideas and the enjoyment of collegiality. In place of our Annual Meeting in 2021, we will have a Virtual Symposium scheduled for February 13th and held online. It is a one-day meeting and packs into that one day all the important ideas and new clinical and scientific research that one would hear over our usual multi-day meeting. The Virtual Symposium has been brought together and organized by two of the greatest Scientific Program organizers one could ever hope for: Daniel Prevedello, MD, our scientific program chair, and C. Arturo Solares, MD, his co-chair. I cannot possibly thank Danny and Arturo enough for the incredible job they have done in organizing an exciting, informative meeting that will (almost literally) keep you glued to your Zoom screen. They have done spectacular work in picking the highest impact abstracts for presentation and in recruiting moderators and commentators with enormous insight and experience. We will harness and maintain the enthusiasm and energy of our very successful November Virtual Skull Base Course organized by Chris Rassekh, MD and our Surgical Education Committee. The honored guest for the meeting will be Prof. Michel Kalamarides from Paris, France one of the world’s experts on the genomics of meningiomas and leading light in NF2 as well. We expect a day filled with the best that our unique Society has to offer about the skull base. Registration is open now, so don’t miss out on the definitive meeting about the Skull Base.
Before I close, I want to mention the other unfathomable events of the year that was 2020. It was a year that saw my hometown, New York City, convulsed by the loss of innocent Black American lives. If there is any silver lining at all to the pandemic, perhaps it is the reflection that people of color in America have suffered far too much for far too long. The pandemic itself has laid these inequities bare, exposing them for all of us to see. To me, the North American Skull Base Society is in a unique position to show the way and help. We are a Society deliberately composed of physicians who approach the dividing line of the skull base from different directions and with different ideas. We all have conflicting notions of what is right and wrong at the skull base, and yet, through collaboration, discussion, and collegiality, we together arrive at answers better than any of us could achieve on our own. The North American Skull Base Society is proof that a surgically diverse team can accomplish more than any individual could – proof of the deep, intrinsic value of diversity. Even more, through our international scholarships and our other educational ventures, the Society remains devoted to improving the delivery of medical and surgical care throughout the world, devoted to the idea that every single person deserves the same level of outstanding care and expertise.
The year that was 2020, a true annus horribilis, has forced unique circumstances upon the NASBS. Above all, we will miss the ability to come together in person at our annual meeting, which had been scheduled for Atlanta. Our Virtual Symposium will take its place. Because of the unusual events, and in order to preserve continuity and unity, in a time marked by social distance, the Board of the NASBS voted to preserve the current leadership in their current positions. I will serve as President until our next annual meeting in Phoenix in February 2022. I can tell you that the decision was not made lightly, and it was made unanimously. (It was also made well before the storming of the US Capitol!) By keeping the leadership team in place for two years, we will best be able to ensure a smooth run-up to our first opportunity to come together in person and celebrate with the warm shaking of hands and, one hopes, even hugs. Drs. Prevedello and Solares, our Annual Meeting Scientific Program Chairs, will stay in place, bearing the largest burden of the two years of service, but I doubt anyone is better prepared for that task.
Let us not miss the opportunity to see each other at least virtually this February. Join us all at the Virtual Symposium. Stay in touch with what is going on at the Skull Base, and see your colleagues on the screen during our scientific program and our social hours. It will be a refreshing respite from the turmoil of the world around us and will recharge all of us until we can finally see each other again in person. Don’t miss it and get left out!
Until then, please stay safe and be well, and continue the excellent care of patients in need that is a hallmark of the members of the North American Skull Base Society.
With warmest and most sincere regards, I remain yours,
John G. Golfinos, MD
President, North American Skull Base Society