With a new worldwide executive director and vision, the Drug Information Association (DIA) has grand plans for 2010 and beyond.
Some of them were shared at the Media Roundtable during the DIA EuroMeeting in Monaco this month, where a panel of five DIA representatives made short statements and took questions from the media who made up the audience.
Paul Pomerantz became worldwide executive director of DIA in December. He has a broad-ranging background that includes serving as executive director for the Society of Interventional Radiology, executive director for the Clinical Laboratory Management Association and, most recently, executive vice president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. In opening remarks, he said, “I guess you’re wondering why someone from plastic surgery would come work for DIA. I’m here to give DIA a ‘lift.’”
Pomerantz wasted no time in helping to create and promote a new vision statement for DIA, which was approved by the board soon after he took office. The new vision statement is: DIA is the global forum for knowledge exchange that fosters innovation to raise the level of health and well-being worldwide.
“As a transformative organization, we’re moving from focus purely on pharmaceuticals to all types of regulated medical products,” Pomerantz said. “It also means that we’re looking at the entire ecosystem of medical products that deal with not only drug development and design but also the regulatory process and its use in the patient care environment. And through that, we’re heavily involved in informatics and also expanding our reach to patients, making sure they have a role at DIA and that their perspectives are included in our program and our decision-making as well as that of clinicians. It’s a new world for DIA, a very exciting time.”
Patient perspective initiatives in the U.S. are going to be launched this year based on the success of programs at DIA’s European office. The patient fellowship program for the DIA EuroMeeting started in 2005. It involves sending out applications to patient organizations in Europe, which are filled out by patients and submitted. DIA Europe supports 20 to 25 patient delegates in full and waives the registration fees for another 20 to 25 patients every year.
“Many of [the patients] speak now at the sessions. They are actively involved in the making of the program,” said Brigitte Franke-Bray, director, DIA Europe. “We’re doing it all for patients. We can’t leave them outside.”
In the U.S., DIA has just joined The National Health Council (NHC) as an associate member. The NHC is an umbrella organization that comprises patient advocacy organizations, such as the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, the American Diabetes Association and many others. It represents 133 million people with chronic diseases and disabilities and their family caregivers. According to Pomerantz, the NHC is actively involved in the DIA Annual Meeting and a number of forums.
“We’re also looking at the role of issue groups in governance much as the advisory council in Europe has embraced patient organizations as part of their decision-making. We look at that as a model, and we will take to our board [in June] a discussion of whether, at the board level, we should have patient representation and what shape that may take,” Pomerantz said. “It seems to be something that we’ve missed as the central part of the process for a long time.” Pomerantz is interested in implementing other initiatives from one of DIA’s five offices in the U.S., Europe, Japan, India and China to the others. He is specifically interested in rolling out DIA’s training programs to the newer offices.
“As I’ve had the opportunity to travel, one of the things I’ve learned is that probably one of the greatest assets that DIA has is its training programs. Regulators and people from industry worldwide are really in need of very similar training. We have tremendous training experience in Europe and the U.S. These are the things that we can move globally,” Pomerantz said. “There’s a dramatic need, for instance, in India, which has this growing clinical research community to tap into some of our established courses. In fact, it’s something that Brigitte and I are actively working on and want to take to the next level. We’ll be hiring a director of education to help us develop a worldwide curriculum.”
DIA is also working on creating an alliance with the Healthcare Information Management Systems Society with a launch planned for the DIA Annual Meeting in June. DIA plans to tap into their expertise for a number of initiatives, one of which is developing programs in Asia.
While there are no immediate plans to open any more regional offices, Pomerantz explained that DIA was looking into different models of expansion into various regions that could serve them best.
“We need to look at alternative models of how we organize. We need to be more nimble in [meeting] those global needs. So, it might be that we find partners locally. We might find volunteer groups or other organizations,” Pomerantz said. “Some of those areas would be best served by an office and some areas maybe by another organization that will work for us. As we move forward, I want to look at those types of models.”
Pomerantz made clear his intention to make DIA a global organization in a broad sense. “Whereas we served a constituency that was perhaps considered heavily pharma, as the industry changes, it will be expanded to those who are in medical devices, health technology assessment, informatics, biotechnology, diagnostics, patient groups, etc. The idea is that our forums will become larger and more diverse as we move forward. We’ll both expand globally and deepen on a regional basis.”