To Members of the Heart Failure Society of America:
The HFSA Annual Scientific Meeting (ASM) in Denver, Colorado, was a clear success, despite the complexities created by the COVID-19 pandemic. For those wondering what transpired behind the scenes, the event was possible only due to the heroic efforts of many people, including the ASM Program Committee chaired by Dr. Larry Allen and the dedicated and talented staff of the HFSA, most notably Jaime Abreu, Vice President, Meetings and Education. The safety of attendees was at the top of the minds of the HFSA leadership and was discussed numerous times at Board meetings and by the Program Committee when another wave of the pandemic surged in the summer. Ultimately, we implemented several important safety measures such as requiring proof of vaccination for all attendees and a policy of mask wearing during all indoor activities. More than 1,100 attendees participated onsite, with a total attendance of 2,302. The feedback I received, and similarly experienced, was that people felt safe at the meeting and were truly delighted that they attended.
A repeated refrain in my conversations with colleagues was how valuable it was to finally see each other in person. While Zoom and Microsoft Teams calls were essential during the height of the pandemic they were no substitute for seeing our friends and colleagues in person. The energy created by such interactions was palpable. In-person, human connection is needed, and the ASM provided such an outlet for the heart failure community to share that amongst colleagues. To get a feel for the energy of the meeting, watch this video and view photos from the meeting here.
Of course, a key part of ASM is to catch up on the latest scientific advances in our field. A highlight for me was a presentation by Dr. Barry Greenberg in the Late Breaking Clinical Trials 2 session, where he presented the first, in-human clinical trial describing gene therapy delivered by an adeno-associated viral vector for patients with Danon disease. This disease is an X-linked condition leading to a profound hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and premature death in the third decade of life in affected males, resulting from impaired autophagy due to a mutation in LAMP-2. While the presented trial enrolled only three subjects and was a phase 1 experience to assess the safety of this therapy, the investigators were able to document expression of LAMP-2B in the myocardium after gene therapy in each subject, while none was present at baseline. The potential impact of a strategy designed to correct the fundamental defect of a cardiomyopathy, both for this condition and many other monogenic cardiomyopathies, seems immense.
I’d also like to remind you of the opportunity to watch any sessions you may have missed with the OnDemand feature, one benefit that I already have accessed numerous times, allowing me to continue to advance my knowledge even after the live component of ASM was over. The Virtual Meeting Platform will remain open to existing registrants through December 13 and new registrants will be able to purchase access to the site through November 30. Components from the meeting will be available to purchase in the HFSA Learning Center once the site closes.
Another wonderful aspect of ASM the ability to network with colleagues, regardless of their career stage, whether they are presenting their first abstract at a national meeting or receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award. Indeed, the smaller size of HFSA ASM, compared to the meetings of the larger cardiology societies, facilitates such opportunities. I personally remember the excitement when I attended the ASM earlier as a junior attending, yes, at Boca Raton, and getting to meet and talk with HFSA faculty whose names I knew well from their publications in prominent medical journals. If you missed hearing the presentations from this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award recipients, I encourage you to listen to a Heart Failure Beat podcast episode recorded onsite at the meeting with Drs. Lynne Stevenson and Inder Anand.
Planning is already underway for next year’s event to be held in Washington D.C. I hope those of you who were not able to join us this year will do so next year. For those who did engage this year, we at the HFSA would be delighted to hear about your experience and look forward to seeing you back.
The Work Continues: HFSA Strategic Plan
In addition to next year’s ASM, the multifaceted work of the HFSA continues as we strive to reduce the burden of heart failure. As described at the plenary session, our Strategic Plan in the coming year includes three critical goals: 1. Establish a community for HFSA members throughout the year, an initiative entitled HFSA365; 2. Establish the Heart Failure Research Foundation to facilitate future investigation in the field of heart failure; and 3. Gather the best available data on the epidemiology of heart failure.
During my tenure as your President, I plan to contribute substantially to the HFSA365 initiative. For the association to thrive, it is essential that we ensure that that the HFSA offers value to you, our members, not only once a year at ASM, but each day throughout the year. Such value can come to you in many ways, including access to the Journal of Cardiac Failure, a source of the latest scientific information related to heart failure, as well as discussions about topical questions relevant to your career in this wonderful field. I would also note the opportunity to participate in the Heart Failure Research Network, host or attend an HFSA-endorsed local symposium, and participate online with a community of your interest on HFSA Connect, as other potential benefits of engaging with the HFSA. I also see great potential for the HFSA to expand our membership base by emphasizing that all multidisciplinary health care professionals involved in the care of patients with heart failure are welcome and important members of our family. I look forward to interacting with you in the coming months, both on this page and in other forums.
Mark H. Drazner, MD, MSc, FHFSA
HFSA President 2021-2022