ASN Kidney Week is the premier nephrology meeting, a gathering of colleagues and friends, and an opportunity to network with clinicians, scientists, trainees, patients, and other stakeholders from around the globe. Held virtually during the past two years, Kidney Week has succeeded thanks to the tremendous efforts and talents of the Kidney Week Education Committee, faculty, and staff.
We are excited that Kidney Week will take place in person in Orlando, FL, with a virtual component this year. Of course, ASN selected the site for the meeting and signed contracts long before the COVID-19 pandemic and a decade before legislation was passed in Florida that endangers some of our most vulnerable patients, family members, friends, colleagues, and communities—the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and other sexual & gender minority (LGBTQ+) communities. This sort of legislation has the horrifying potential to adversely impact the very future of this country.
Ever since the Governor of Florida signed the "Parental Rights in Education" legislation—better known as the "Don't Say Gay" bill—last month, members of our community have questioned whether we should cancel our meeting in Orlando, move it elsewhere, or move it online exclusively.
The ASN leadership and staff—who come from diverse backgrounds—have thought deeply and carefully about holding Kidney Week in Florida this year. Questions we have considered include: What are the downsides to canceling Kidney Week in Orlando? And, if we go to Florida, are we complicit in supporting racist, anti-LGBTQ+ policies, as some have questioned? Unanimously, we agree that, above all, we must uphold the mission of ASN and its guiding principle, which is to do what is best in the interests of people living with kidney diseases.
In everything we do, from policy to education to funding initiatives, this principle guides us. As ASN Treasurer Keisha L. Gibson, MD, MPH, FASN (she/her), observed, "Many times, our patients—some of the most vulnerable people in our country—live in communities and situations where political views do not align with those of our membership or current council."
The unanimous decision to hold an in-person Kidney Week 2022 with a virtual component comes with the following view, as articulated by ASN Secretary Deidra C. Crews, MD, MS, FASN (she/her): "ASN is coming to Orlando, and we are bringing our values with us." How will ASN bring its values to Florida?
- Making a significant contribution to the onePULSE Foundation in support of the LGBTQ+ community and sharing information about other worthwhile causes for participants to support in Orlando.
- Supporting at-risk businesses in Orlando, including LGBTQ+-owned restaurants.
- Working with local media outlets to raise awareness of kidney diseases in Florida and voicing our opposition to the "Don't Say Gay" bill and other discriminatory practices.
- Promoting ASN's commitment to eliminate disparities based on sexual identity, gender, race, or ethnicity throughout the meeting (such as the Annual Wesson-Himmelfarb Diversity and Inclusion Lunch and the Annual LGBTQ+ and Allies Reception).
- Providing educational sessions focused on transgender kidney health and equity issues. For the first time this year, Kidney Week includes a "health equity" abstract category.
- Celebrating our transgender kidney heroes and allies who are transforming care through their commitment to innovation.
- Continuing to advocate for the health of undocumented immigrants and their access to dialysis care.
Let us use this opportunity as a show of strength and resilience in solidarity with our patients and colleagues in Florida and elsewhere whose dignities and freedoms are threatened. Our decision to stand with these individuals—especially with members of the LGBTQ+ community—is an easy one for our society because it is the right thing to do. We will not abandon our colleagues who fear for themselves and their patients.
I have witnessed firsthand throughout the pandemic how our community unites when there are tough issues at hand and battles to be fought. I ask you to help us do that at Kidney Week 2022.
The ASN leadership, staff, and I invite you to join us in Florida and show your pride in being a member of a community that does not shy away from doing what is right. Together, we will make a difference.
Susan E. Quaggin, MD, FASN (she/her)