President's Message - Inventing the Future

2015 - 3 June – Targeted Temperature Management
Craig M. Coopersmith, MD, FCCM
Society of Critical Care Medicine's president, Craig M. Coopersmith, MD, FCCM, discusses the Society's integration of past and future through research-focused strategic planning.


Even in the midst of the day-to-day chaos that occurs in the intensive care unit (ICU), critical care professionals are frequently at our best when we stop to reflect and determine how we wish the future to unfold. At the Society of Critical Care Medicine (SCCM), we are committed as an organization to proactively creating the future, rather than simply reacting to the crisis of the day. This occurs, in large part, due to a robust strategic planning process at SCCM.

Of course, it is important to know where we are today and where we will be headed in the weeks and months ahead. However, it is equally—if not more—important to have a clear long-term vision of where we want to head as an organization. Our strategic planning process is designed to focus on what priorities are important to us and to strategize about long-term plans that will successfully meet the needs and goals of our members and the patients and families we serve.

The concept of inventing the future is one that is embedded in the DNA of our organization. The founders of SCCM had a revolutionary vision—one in which all members of the entire multiprofessional team worked together as equals for the good of our patients. While this may seem like “mom and apple pie” today, it assuredly was not so 44 years ago. But through the vision of our founders—combined with the hard work of thousands of volunteers and ICU professionals over time—an idea that was once perceived as radical is now understood to be the gold standard, with this change occurring in less than two generations’ time.

I spent my presidential address and my last two Critical Connections columns on elements of the SCCM strategic plan that will help us invent the future. The THRIVE initiative extends our vision of critical illness long after patients leave the ICU. Our research agenda will allow us to play a leading role in asking and answering questions we don’t yet know the answer to, which we hope to translate into better outcomes at the bedside.

When an organization has a strategic vision, it cannot become reality without a tangible plan to operationalize where it wants to go. So, when SCCM agreed upon a goal to dramatically increase our research footprint, we needed a way to turn that into reality. This led us to look both ahead into the future and back into the past. And from the best of both, the SCCM-Weil Research Trust was born.

As you likely know, Dr. Max Harry Weil was SCCM’s first president. He was a true visionary in every way. Along with colleagues, Dr. Weil first proposed the term critical care in the 1960s, from the concept that the “critically ill” would have a better chance of survival if minute-to-minute monitoring and care could be provided in specialized units. All those who had the privilege of knowing him describe Dr. Weil as the consummate academic triple threat—a renowned clinician, researcher and educator. He was a man with a vision so large that he not only helped found SCCM, he also formed the Weil Institute of Critical Care Medicine. The institute—currently led by Dr. Weil’s long-standing protégée and close friend, Wanchun Tang, MD, FCCP, FAHA, MCCM—performs world-class resuscitation research and leads two highly respected courses, including the cutting-edge, dynamic Wolf Creek Conference on Resuscitation.

When SCCM Council determined that growth in research represents a critical core strategy for our organization, we sought a way to translate this dream into reality. To kick start this goal, SCCM Council made the transformative decision to put aside $1 million to fund research initiatives in perpetuity. Marrying the best of our past with our hope for the future, we named this research trust after our founder, Dr. Weil.

I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am about this first step in our long-term strategic plan surrounding research. However, I want to emphasize that this is only a first step. Much like Dr. Weil was able to envision a world that did not yet exist, we at SCCM envision a world in which the SCCM-Weil Research Trust grows dramatically in size, with contributions from donors both within and outside of SCCM who hold a shared vision of funding researchers who will ultimately transform critical care. In a perfect world, much like everyone knows the Komen Race for the Cure or the Michael J. Fox Foundation, everyone will know the name SCCM-Weil Research Trust. In this way, we will honor the legacy of our founding president by continuing his work in a self-sustaining and escalating way, indefinitely into the future. And using the power of the trust to identify new ways to help patients we cannot help today is a strategic vision that I believe SCCM’s founders would be very proud of.