COVID-19 and SNACC: Navigating the Unforeseen with Teamwork

Deepak Sharma, MD, DM
SNACC President

George Mashour, MD, PhD

Deepak Sharma, MD, DM

The current pandemic of COVID-19 is far from being over and the members of SNACC across the world are at various stages of being impacted professionally and personally. I want to start by conveying my best wishes to all our members. I hope everyone is safe and healthy as they deal with the challenges created by this unforeseen situation. Neuroanesthesiologists and neurointensivists have played a very important role in the response to pandemic given neurological manifestations of COVID-19 as well as the need for continued care of patients with neurological conditions during the pandemic. Neuroscientists are also actively investigating the effects of coronavirus infection on the nervous system. I am proud to be part of such a wonderful community.

Besides affecting our members, the pandemic has created multiple unforeseen challenges for SNACC like other organizations. However, I want to assure our members that despite the unforeseen challenges, SNACC remains in good health overall. None of us expected our year of service to SNACC to turn out to be what it has. Nevertheless, I am proud of our committed leadership team which is doing everything possible to uphold our mission and to serve our members effectively. From very early stages of this pandemic our motto has been to deal wisely with the short-term challenges without losing the focus of our long-term vision and ensuring the best interest of our members.

On the clinical front, we recognized that there are specific neurological conditions and procedures requiring timely clinical guidance. The choice of anesthetic technique for endovascular therapy of acute ischemic stroke has been controversial and became more controversial during the current pandemic. Additionally, there has been significant controversy around anesthetic management of endonasal surgery, emergent neurosurgery, and electroconvulsive therapy. Hence, two task forces were commissioned to come up with consensus practice recommendations. These assignments were completed expeditiously with inputs from our members. I want to thank our members who served on these task forces and to everyone who provided feedback and inputs. We worked in close collaboration with our journal JNA to ensure timely publication of these practice recommendations, which are now available open access. Importantly, we were successful in receiving endorsement of consensus recommendations on stroke thrombectomy from all major stakeholder groups including Society of Vascular & Interventional Neurology (SVIN), Society of Neurointerventional Surgery (SNIS), Neurocritical Care Society (NCS), European Society of Minimally  Invasive Neurological Therapy (ESMINT), American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) and Congress of Neurological Surgeons (CNS) Cerebrovascular Section. The multi-society endorsement has allowed widespread implementation of these recommendations. The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) invited SNACC to present recommendations on stroke and electroconvulsive therapy during COVID-19 during one of their webinars. I want to thank Drs. Paul Garcia, Alana Flexman and Dorothea Rosenberger for joining me in this webinar that was attended by over 2,500 anesthesiologists. The ASA has also made our guidelines available through their COVID-19 resource page. I believe SNACC has been prominently visible and effective in meeting the clinical needs in neuroanesthesiology during the ongoing pandemic. One of the unique challenges during COVID-19 has been information overload. We created a communication strategy very early to avoid confusion by not duplicating the work already being done by other organizations and focusing only on neuroanesthesia specific issues. A COVID-19 resource page was created on our website where carefully selected and reliable information is posted. My sincere thanks to Drs. Reza Gorji and Arnoley Abcejo for leading this effort.

On the academic front, we have been concerned about the adverse impact of cancelled scientific meetings and presentations on our members. Such activities are essential not only for scientific exchange but also for career advancement and professional development. The annual Neuroscience Symposium has been a platform for scientific exchange for neuroscientists to share their work in progress and get feedback. Although the in-person symposium had to be cancelled this year, SNACC decided to organize this virtually. I am very happy to report the success of the virtual symposium where investigators presented their projects spanning across the spectrum of clinical, basic, and translational science. The attendees included SNACC members from across the world and we have received very positive feedback. My sincere thanks to Drs. Ines Koerner, Bill Armstead, Keith Vogt and Donald Penning for the tremendous success! Thanks also to our management company Ruggles for their help with hosting this event. After carefully considering all options, we have decided to cancel our Annual Meeting scheduled in Montreal this September 2020. While this is certainly disappointing, please rest assured that we are already working on planning an excellent virtual meeting. We remain committed to fostering academic exchange and are very much reassured by the tremendous success of our recent virtual Neuroscience Symposium which received very favorable reviews. Our goal is to offer the best possible platform for academic exchange for our members despite the limitations. I assure you that we will do our best to bring you a unique meeting experience this year. So please hold the dates of the original meeting on your calendar to join a virtual scientific feast this September! SNACC will award the William Young Neuroscience Research Award like every year to support a young investigator and abstracts selected for the Annual Meeting will be published in JNA. I also want to thank our members who offered to serve as ad-hoc reviewers for JNA in response to the recent call from Editor-in-Chief Prof. Martin Smith. It is critical that we work together with our journal to advance perioperative neuroscience.

On the education front, our education and trainee engagement committees are continuing their excellent work of routinely coming up with relevant educational material for a wide range of interests. I am also grateful to our newsletter team for nicely balancing COVID-19 related as well as regular content in recent editions. The International Council on Perioperative Neuroscience Training (ICPNT) is continuing to work on inviting applications and has already provided accreditation to 16 fellowship programs globally despite the current challenges.

Administratively, we have decided to reprioritize our activities. In order to support our committee and taskforce members who are also dealing with substantial clinical challenges, we are being flexible in readjusting the timelines and focusing on high priority areas. Unfortunately, we had to delay some important administrative activities such as strategic planning and updating of by-laws, but we remain committed to revisiting them when the time is right. The pandemic has also posed significant financial challenges and the SNACC leadership team is practicing utmost fiscal responsibility to ensure long-term success of our society. We have put on a temporary hold on new initiatives requiring financial investment while we continue operations and serve the needs of our members by being creative. Adversity has not only challenged us but has also inspired us to be creative and innovative.

Despite the challenges, we are busy and continue to advance our mission. Our key to effectiveness and success is our diversity, inclusivity and teamwork. Our members are the society’s greatest asset and I am confident we will come out stronger at the end of this pandemic! As always, please feel free to directly contact me if you have any questions, suggestions or feedback.

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