UFFC-S Presidents Message - August 2023 - Mark Schafer

8 months ago
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As I near the end of my two-year term as UFFC-S President, it’s time to reflect on what we’ve done, what worked, what didn’t, and what remains to be accomplished.

One of the challenges that I mentioned at the start of my term would be how we implemented hybrid conferences. Last year, as we slowly emerged from the pandemic, hybrid was recognized as a requirement because of continuing travel restrictions and health-related concerns. Indeed, based on post-conference health reports, our conferences were small but distinct “spreader” events. Each of our flagship conferences used different hybrid approaches, including livestreaming and remote Zoom presentations. My stated goal was that we would experiment and learn (and fail, perhaps). We did learn that there is a segment of our conference attendees who need to have remote/hybrid access. Even in 2023, with the pandemic issues further behind us, we still have significant virtual participation. However, the costs are high: the Society spent around 400,000 dollars on hybrid in 2022. While there may be some who propose returning to in-person only, this is a disservice to our members who cannot physically attend. The reasons may include family responsibilities, personal health, delays in obtaining visas, budget cutbacks at companies and universities, and most recently, restrictions on travel arising from climate concerns. So we will continue to have hybrid conferences, and now we need to find a balance between access and costs. That is still a work in progress, and we will continue to require presentation videos before the conference, to ensure availability for our colleagues joining remotely. (Coincidentally, pre-recording also serves as a backup in case unexpected issues arise with conference travel.) More details will be forthcoming soon about the videos and how they will help the Society in the long run. Again, I don’t think we’ve completely optimized the hybrid experience, so it will be an ongoing experiment.

Another area that I have been focused on is forming relationships with other groups in ways that benefit all of us. Last year, we co-hosted a Hackathon with the American Society of Echocardiography, bringing engineers and clinicians together to work on a significant problem in patient care. We worked with the Focused Ultrasound Foundation to exhibit at one another’s conferences; next year, the Foundation will sponsor clinical speakers at the Joint symposium in Taipei. Of course, our Ferroelectrics and Frequency Control communities had their conferences jointly with other groups, as they always do, and we’re working to strengthen those ties. We have also promoted technical co-sponsorships with other organizations, allowing co-promotion and the sharing of ideas. Examples include the Ultrasonic Engineering for Biomedical Applications meeting, the Ultrasonic Industry Association, the Acoustical Society of America, and others worldwide. We have also participated in the IEEE Student Honor Society (Eta Kappa Nu, or HKN) annual meeting, introducing bright undergraduates to the UFFC. If you have any suggestions for other organizations we should work with, especially in Ferroelectric and Frequency Control, please let us know!

On the topic of worldwide outreach, we’re continuing our Latin America Ultrasound Symposium, now moving to a hybrid configuration. We’re planning a similar meeting in India as the South Asian Ultrasound Symposium. This is in addition to our Technical Schools program, which are week-long and held at locations that rotate around the globe. I’ve also had the pleasure of approving several new UFFC chapters, from Seattle to Boston to Glasgow to Madras, India. 

As we move to next year, we have set the stage for continued growth of the Society as a global organization. Dragan Damjanovic will be our first president based outside the United States; a significant number of our AdCom members are based in Europe and Asia. While it makes picking a time for a Zoom meeting a bit problematic, it shows that our leadership reflects our geographic diversity. To that end, we must continue our outreach, especially to Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LMIC), and support remote access to our conferences and resources.

It has been a pleasure leading the UFFC, mostly because I’ve been able to interact with so many colleagues and students from all our technical areas. I have also enjoyed representing UFFC at other meetings and at the IEEE level. Finally, I look forward to seeing “everyone” at the Joint symposium next year, be sure to mark your calendars!