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President's Message - April 17

Dear Dysphagia Research Society Colleagues,

Our first quarter century has drawn to a close with a remarkable conference in Portland, Oregon featuring record attendance and a rock star lineup of interdisciplinary scientific presentations from our distinguished colleagues from around the world. It’s difficult to imagine that the society began with a small conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1992—the first of many small and somewhat regional conferences that have very quickly grown into the international society that now exists.  I fondly remember my first DRS—New Orleans 1998. There is nothing more exciting than meeting the individuals who produce the outstanding research that you have read and studied—other than enjoying a nice cold beer, a glass of wine, or dinner with those very same individuals. DRS is a place where you not only get to meet the leaders in the field of swallowing and swallowing disorders, you get to know them.  DRS is a welcoming community of talented scientific minds who are focused on improving the lives of others. If you are longing for good company and knowledge in the field of dysphagia, this is your future home.


I am happy to report that the state of the DRS union is strong. We have a dedicated board, a resolute leadership team, and an altruistic body of members who seem to be unstoppable in their quest for improving health and quality of life. In 2017 we are welcoming a new management company, the Center for Association Resources (CAR). We are grateful for the dedicated leadership provided to us by International Meeting Mangers. The CAR team presents us with new ideas to help DRS expand the services we can offer members, increase our international reach, build our base, increase revenue, and make a difference in even more lives. You can anticipate more educational opportunities, a more global presence, and—as always—the best research available.

In addition to our ongoing DRS opportunities, we also look forward to the birth of the World Dysphagia Summit. DRS is collaborating with the European Society of Swallowing Disorders and the Japanese Society of Dysphagia Rehabilitation to initiate the first WDS conference in Barcelona, Spain on September 22nd-23rd. The meeting will occur in conjunction with the ESSD meeting on September 20-23.  The World Dysphagia Summit will then continue to meet every three years directly following one of the other society meetings. The second WDS will meet in 2020 in conjunction with the JSDR, and the third WDS will meet in conjunction with the DRS meeting in 2023. This collaboration presents an exciting opportunity to focus on global health issues and define minimal standards of care and best practices around the world.


Our 2018 meeting is scheduled for March 14-17 in Baltimore, Maryland. The conference will be held at the Renaissance Hotel in the Inner Harbor. With the depth and breadth of interdisciplinary medical knowledge in Baltimore and the surrounding region, as well as the accessibility from Washington, DC, Philadelphia, New York, and other areas, we anticipate another year of record attendance. Moreover, we anticipate a re-solidification of our stature as a truly interdisciplinary society. Swallowing disorders cannot be assessed or treated by one profession. The DRS has been making efforts in recent years to increase the intellectual and professional diversity necessary to propel our clinical science into the next quarter century. We ask that all current members help us recruit new members from a variety of disciplines for the sake of our science and the benefit of the patients who desperately need our help.


Twenty-five years ago something very special began to emerge. We’ve seen the rise and fall of many novel methods of assessment and treatment. It would be inappropriate and short-sighted to name names. We are a society of researchers. We seek knowledge through scientific means and find both success and failure in our endeavors. We have all won and lost, as have our patients. Many tools have come and gone with evidence to support or refute their benefit. Some continue to linger without either. But we, as a society of scholarly activity, are the ones who respond to a higher calling. We are the ones who are willing to take the step into the unknown and then stand at a podium before the greatest minds in our field and declare our best efforts.


It is a noble and humbling calling to work with individuals with dysphagia. The DRS welcomes those who are willing to seek the unsought, query the unasked, and treat the untreatable with a discerning eye for the horizon and a moral compass to guide the way past the tailwinds of financial profit. We are a growing body of like-minded individuals with a vast array of personal and cultural experiences focused on one goal: to ameliorate the lives of those suffering from swallowing disorders, regardless of age, gender, or origin. In my estimation, the best we can do at present is to aspire to make our second quarter century as exploratory, dedicated, and aspirational as our first quarter century. There is no time for self-congratulations. I sincerely thank you all for the phenomenal work you do and ask that you continue to do this work in the face of decreasing financial support and increasing regulatory obstacles. The costs are too high to be daunted by political climate or decreasing funds for research. The impact is too great for us to sigh and cast blame.


Please join me in looking ahead to the second quarter century of the Dysphagia Research Society. The best is surely yet to come.


Gary H. McCullough, Ph.D., CCC-SLP

DRS President 2017-2018

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