VOLUNTEER CODE OF CONDUCT AND CONFLICT OF INTEREST/DISCLOSURE STATEMENT

VOLUNTEER CODE OF CONDUCT

The American Society of Echocardiography (ASE) is a professional organization of physicians, cardiovascular sonographers, nurses and scientists involved in echocardiography, the use of ultrasound to image the heart and cardiovascular system. The organization was founded in 1975 and is the largest international organization for cardiac imaging. This document serves as a code of conduct for members in their capacity as ASE volunteers. Volunteers affirm their endorsement of this Code and acknowledge their commitment to uphold its principles and obligations by accepting and retaining volunteer positions.

Volunteer members will uphold their commitment to the ASE Code of Ethics. A member serving on behalf of ASE or in any other professional capacity shall endeavor to base his or her opinions on objective data and avoid personal bias. A member shall honor his or her fiduciary, legal, and professional obligations in serving the ASE. A member shall work to ensure the attainment of the ASE mission and objectives.

Volunteer members of the ASE shall at all times abide by and conform to the following code of conduct in their capacity as volunteer members.

Duty of Care: Exercise reasonable care when you make a decision for the organization.

Duty of Loyalty: Do not use information obtained for personal gain and act in the best interest of the organization.

Duty of Obedience: Act in a way that is consistent with the central goals and/or mission of the organization.

Volunteer members must exercise a duty of care to act in a reasonable and informed manner when participating in the decision-making process and when acting in an oversight capacity of the Society’s management. The duty of care includes regularly attending all scheduled meetings, exercising independent judgment based solely on what is in the ASE’s overall best interests, irrespective of other entities with which the leader or volunteer is affiliated or sympathetic, or to which he/she owes the appointment. Further, this duty requires ASE leadership to act in accordance with the Society’s articles of incorporation, bylaws, and policies and association-related laws.

Volunteer members must exercise a duty of loyalty that requires performance of duties in good faith and in the best interests of ASE, rather than in their own interests. The duty requires that all volunteers be conscious of the potential for conflicts of interest (COI) and act with candor and care in dealing with such situations, and that all volunteers treat as confidential all matters (minutes, financials, etc.) involving ASE until there has been public disclosure.

Volunteer members must exercise a duty of obligation when they agree to serve as an ASE representative to external organizations or to represent ASE in an official capacity with individuals, members, vendors, companies, nonprofit groups, or other entities. The duty of obligation requires ASE volunteer representatives to articulate and support the decisions of ASE’s leadership and to represent the reasons for such decisions, irrespective of any individual interests, opinions, or positions. This duty is not meant to preclude or dissuade one from voicing concerns to ASE’s elected leadership or from participating in deliberative processes for which one may have been elected, but rather to ensure that an ASE representative provides a clear message to others stating ASE’s official position and reviewing the deliberative processes that lead to such decisions, without regard to one’s own personal opinions or bias. If, at any time, a representative of ASE is unclear on the Society’s official position on a matter or is uncomfortable carrying out this duty, the matter should be discussed with ASE’s president or chief executive officer.

In addition, all volunteer members must exercise a duty of disclosure as the importance of his/her volunteer position is acknowledged and, as a result of that position, any felony charges, restrictions, suspensions, or revocations of licenses or hospital privileges or dismissals from other professional organizations may negatively impact ASE. Therefore, volunteers must disclose any of these to the ASE president, Chair of the Bylaws and Ethics committee or chief executive officer. For good cause, and with prior notice to the member whose information is at issue, such information may be disclosed to the Board of Directors and the Bylaws and Ethics Committee. Volunteer participation in ASE activities may be limited or prohibited as a result of these disclosures.

VOLUNTEER BEHAVIOR

ASE volunteers will be viewed as the representatives for the organization. As such their behavior reflects on the Society. Volunteer members will exercise appropriate authority and good judgment in their dealings with the ASE staff, suppliers, and the public and will respond to the needs of the ASE members in a responsible, respectful, and professional manner.

In addition, volunteer members shall:

– Avoid placing (and avoid the appearance of placing) their own self-interest or any third-party interest above that of ASE;

– Not abuse their position by improperly using their volunteer position or the ASE staff, services, equipment, materials, resources, or property for their personal or third-party gain or pleasure, and shall not represent to third parties that their authority as a volunteer member extends any further than it actually extends;

– Not engage in or facilitate any discriminatory or harassing behavior directed toward ASE staff, members, officers, directors, meeting attendees, exhibitors, advertisers, sponsors, suppliers, contractors, or others in the context of activities relating to ASE;

– Not solicit or accept gifts or any other item of material value from any person or entity as a direct or indirect inducement to provide special treatment to such donor with respect to matters pertaining to ASE without fully disclosing such items to ASE’s president, Chair of the Bylaws and Ethics committee or chief executive officer;

– Not persuade or attempt to persuade any member, exhibitor, advertiser, sponsor, supplier, contractor, or any other person or entity with an actual or potential relationship with ASE to terminate, curtail, or refrain from entering into a relationship with the ASE or in any way to reduce the monetary or other benefits to ASE of such relationship.

CONFLICT OF INTEREST

As the development of and need for close, constructive, and effective collaborative relationships between the healthcare profession and the pharmaceutical, device, and medical equipment industries become essential for research, innovation and education, the Board of Directors, volunteer members and/or Society staff may be subject to potentially compromising ethical situations and/or potential COI. These collaborative relationships should not only be impartial but should be honest and far beyond the reach of suspicion.

COI may arise or exist when: a) an individual’s activities are in opposition to, detract from, or in some manner might become detrimental to the purposes of ASE as described in its articles of incorporation, bylaws, mission statement, policies, and procedures; or b) a covered individual is in a position to directly or indirectly benefit him-/herself, a family member(s), other individuals, or another organization with which the individual is affiliated through the use of his/her role in ASE.

It is the responsibility of the Executive Committee, members of the Board of Directors, editors-in-chief, CEO, and any committee or other body that makes decisions for ASE to recognize, identify, disclose, and resolve actual or potential COI involving matters that come before them or bodies on which they sit. Such individuals shall disclose all relevant information to the body regarding the COI and shall remove themselves from all discussion and voting on the matter. Committees chairs will be apprised of any  financial and uncompensated relationships annually or whenever new information is submitted by members of  the committee. If these conflicts cannot be resolved at the committee level, they will be forwarded to the Bylaws and Ethics Committee and/or Executive Committee.

The Bylaws and Ethics Committee shall resolve all COI prior to the activity through one or more of the following steps:

– Abstaining from discussions related to the conflict

– Abstaining from voting on a matter related to the conflict

– Requesting reassignment to a committee that will not result in a conflict

– Divestiture of the relationship

Each committee chair will open each meeting of the group by reading the association’s COI policy statement to remind the committee participants to disclose conflicts or potential conflicts and review the resolution procedures noted above. The resolution of each conflict shall be recorded in the notes or minutes of the meeting.

Prior to each Board meeting the staff will distribute the draft agenda, the members of the Board will disclose and/or recuse themselves after review of the agenda items but in advance of the meeting.  In addition, the president will open each meeting of the group by reading the association’s COI policy statement to remind the participants to disclose conflicts or potential conflicts and review the resolution procedures noted above. The resolution of each conflict shall be recorded in the notes or minutes of the meeting.

KEY SOCIETY LEADERS

Due to the public nature of their positions, members of the ASE Executive Committee (officers), members of the ASE Board of Directors, and Chairs of the Advocacy, Education, CME and Scientific Sessions Program committees and the Journal editors, are held to standards that exceed those other volunteer members.

Key Society leaders (defined as the president, president-elect, vice president, secretary, treasurer, council representative,  immediate past president, and editors-in-chief of the journals (JASE/CASE), and CEO, may not have direct financial or uncompensated relationships with cardiovascular-related companies* during their terms of service in these capacities. Uncompensated services, scientific advisory committees, research support, stock ownership, book royalties, and other permitted relationships should nevertheless be disclosed to ASE and to the public.

* direct financial relationship with a company is defined as a compensated relationship that generates an IRS Form W-2 or 1099, or is taxable as income in any amount for services provided or ownership interest in a company. Mutual funds and other comingled investments in which the Key Society leader has no direct control is not considered a direct financial relationship. Key Society leaders may accept in-direct research support from companies as long as grant money is paid to the institution (e.g., academic medical center) or practice where research is conducted, not to the individual.

*an uncompensated relationship is a formal documented relationship with a company for which the individual receives no financial benefit for services provided. This includes but is not limited to diverting payment for services to charitable organizations (like donating the funds to the ASE Foundation).

A company is a for-profit entity that develops, produces, markets, or distributes drugs, devices, services, or therapies used to diagnose, treat, monitor, manage, and/or alleviate health conditions. It is also a for-profit entity that develops, produces or markets products to the medical community including medical journals, educational bodies, etc.

– Executive Committee members may not serve in simultaneous leadership positions on any other cardiovascular-related organization’s executive committee (as an officer) while serving on ASE’s executive committee.

– Executive Committee members may not provide testimonials, expert witness testimony, and/or endorsement or participate as a speaker for a commercial entity relative to the cardiovascular field (e.g., device and pharmaceutical companies) where that endorsement has not been specifically approved by the ASE. ASE’s positions can be ascertained by contacting the CEO.

– Executive Committee members, Board members, and chairs of the Advocacy, CME, Education, and Scientific Sessions Program committees must declare any volunteer roles with other organizations, societies, or cardiovascular-related organizations where their cardiovascular expertise is utilized.

– Board Members and chairs of the Advocacy, CME, Education, and Scientific Sessions Program committees may not have direct financial relationships with cardiovascular-related companies during their term of service.  Uncompensated services, research support, scientific sessions advisory board participation, stock ownership, book royalties, and other permitted relationships are allowed but should also be disclosed to the ASE

CONFLICT OF INTEREST OVERSIGHT

The Bylaws and Ethics Committee and/or Executive Committee will review and resolve COIs that arise and are not resolvable at the committee level or whenever there has been a complaint by an individual member (whistleblower).

Conflict-of-Interest Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can a Board member serve on the board of another professional society while serving on the ASE’s Board?

A: Yes, it is acceptable to serve on boards of two professional societies contemporaneously. Board members should recognize that ideally they would not serve on the boards of two societies contemporaneously if there is any realistic possibility that the two societies could function in a competitive paradigm. If such a circumstance occurs, yearly disclosure is required and the Board member may need to recuse him-/herself on a per-agenda basis. In addition, the Board member may need to recuse him-/herself from discussion and actions of both professional society boards.

Q: Can an Executive Committee member serve on the board/executive committee of another professional society while serving on the ASE’s Executive Committee?

A: The standards regarding avoidance of COI for the EC are higher than those for Board in general. The major concern relates to organizations for which the realistic possibility of competition, and thus conflict, exists.

Q: Should Executive Committee, Board of Directors, and ASE appointed liaisons to other organizations have the expectation that any member serving in the leadership (or appointed committee) of another professional society will keep ASE abreast of that society’s developments?

A: Liaisons, appointed by ASE, are asked to complete and regularly report on items that may have direct impact on ASE members. Such a person should be able to keep ASE abreast of materials and plans available to the general membership of the other organization, but there should be no request or expectation that individuals would breach their fiduciary requirements to another group for ASE’s interest. ASE leadership shall model high ethical standards and actions.

Q: Can the chair of an ASE committee simultaneously serve as a committee chair or member of another society?

A: Yes, it is acceptable to serve in such a role for more than one professional society. Committee chairs should recognize that ideally they would not serve as the chair of such major committees of two societies if there is any realistic possibility that the two societies could function in a competitive paradigm. If such a circumstance occurs, yearly disclosure is required and the committee chair may need to recuse him-/herself on a per-agenda basis. In addition, the committee chair may need to recuse him-/herself from discussion and actions of both societies.

Q: Can members of Board utilize material or information garnered from their role on Board in order to advance a project with another organization, including their employer?

A: No. Such an act would be considered a breach of the duty of loyalty. The duty of loyalty requires Board members to exercise their powers in good faith and in the best interests of the organization, rather than in their own interests or the interests of another entity. The Board member cannot experience a personal gain either directly or indirectly from such materials, information, or discussion.

If a Board member desires to utilize such information in a manner that can provide personal gain, directly or indirectly, then he/she should:

– Discuss that intent with the president or chief executive officer as there may be extenuating circumstances that could allow for an exception.  Exceptions would have to be managed by full disclosure to the Board and/or via discussion by the Bylaws and Ethics Committee.

WHISTLEBLOWERS

The COI Whistleblower Policy is intended to encourage and enable ASE members to raise concerns related to COI within the organization for investigation and appropriate action. With that goal in mind, no volunteer who, in good faith, reports a concern shall be subject to retaliation. Moreover, an employee or volunteer who retaliates against someone who has reported a concern in good faith is subject to discipline up to and including termination of employment or dismissal from the volunteer position.

A whistleblower, as defined by this policy, is an ASE member who reports an activity that he/she considers to be in violation of the ASE COI policy. The whistleblower is not responsible for investigating the activity or for determining fault or corrective measures; the Bylaws and Ethics Committee is charged with these responsibilities.

Every ASE member has an obligation to report matters to the ASE president or CEO if he/she suspects that violations of the COI policy have not been adequately addressed by the Bylaws and Ethics Committee.

VOLUNTEER PRODUCTION

The Society encourages the members of its Board and its volunteers to participate in the creation and development of creative and useful works in connection with their service to the Society. The works created can be classified either as works created for the Society or works previously created.

Through participation in the Society, one may, either individually, through committees, and/or in conjunction with ASE staff and/or outside consultants, participate in the creation and development of works that are subject to copyright protection. Volunteers agree that all such works created, in whole or in part, in connection with ASE membership (collectively, the ‘Works’) shall be considered specially commissioned works of ASE and shall be owned by ASE. Content creators assign to ASE ownership of all right, title and interest in the Works.

VOLUNTEER DISCLOSURES

As a sponsor accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME), and others, ASE must ensure balance, independence, objectivity, and scientific rigor in all its individually sponsored or jointly sponsored educational activities. All committee members participating in an ASE-sponsored activity are required to disclose to the Society their relevant financial relationships. Please note that an individual has a financial relationship if the financial relationship is in any amount occurring in the past 12 months with a commercial interest whose products or services are discussed in the ASE activity over which the individual has control. The intent of this disclosure is not to prevent a member with a financial or other relationship from making contributions to ASE, but rather to provide unbiased and balanced contributions.

An individual who refuses to disclose relevant financial relationships will be disqualified from volunteer activities and cannot have control of, or responsibility for, the development, management, presentation, or evaluation of the volunteer activity. Volunteers will be asked to complete an online Volunteer Disclosure Form each year and agree to notify the organization when material changes occur.

Any person disclosing potential COI must agree to work with the ASE toward resolution as disclosures or disclaimers alone are not appropriate mechanisms to resolve COI. ASE educational opportunities are held to a higher standard than simple disclosure in assuring independence from commercial influence. It is necessary for all parties to work together toward resolution.