Acronym Confusion in Wound Care: AAWC vs. SAWC

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medical identity

by Thomas E. Serena, MD, FACS, FACHM, FAPWCA

"This is my brother Darryl and this is my other brother Darryl."
—Bob Newhart show

Mistaken Identity

Have you ever run into an acquaintance at a reception and called him or her by the wrong name only to realize it later that evening? I blush with embarrassment reflecting on those faux pas. My grandmother infamously perfected the art. She would run through the list of names of all her grandchildren before coming to my name then exclaim she was pleased to see me. I loved her. In a health care world riddled with acronyms, confusion abounds. You might, for example think that HONDA is an automobile-related acronym. But it could just as easily mean Hypertensive Obese Non-compliant Diabetic Adult, of which I have cared for a few. I could go on, but it would be NQR, Not Quite Right of me to do so; you might even think my ruminations were the result of VSGP, a Very Shallow Gene Pool.

Recently, I experienced a Monty Python-type case of mistaken identity. You might even call it an identity crisis. On an evening in April of this year, I matriculated to the presidency of the Association for the Advancement of Wound Care (AAWC). At dinner, several friends congratulated me on becoming President of the Symposium on Advanced Wound Care (SAWC). I joked that somewhere back in our evolution, the mutation from an "A" to an "S" must have turned our society into a meeting. Nothing kills a punch line like having to explain attempted humor: Change the first letter of AAWC (a wound care society) to an "S" and you get SAWC (a conference). I politely clarified that the SAWC was a meeting and the AAWC was a distinct medical society and that I was president of the society, not the meeting.

Shortly thereafter, I lectured in the AAWC track of the spring SAWC meeting. One of the attendees commented that Dr. Serena, although humorous, spent far too much time promoting his society and had the poor taste to ask individuals to join up. I was dumbfounded. I was the President of the premier society dedicated to promoting wound care professionals and professionalism. I was speaking in the society's session. We had just completed a branding campaign.

"This is my brother Darryl and this is my other brother Darryl." The humorous line from the Newhart show is indicative of the current state of confusion. Yesterday, I had a teleconference with the president of a company that plays an important role in the wound care space. He was completely unaware that there was a difference between SAWC and AAWC. He thought erroneously that the AAWC benefited from the support his corporation paid to hire a booth in the meeting exhibit hall.

Clearing the Wound Care Acronym Confusion

The SAWC is a terrific meeting held twice a year and dedicated to educating wound care clinicians. You could call it a meeting, an event, a happening, a conference, a congress, a summit, an assembly, a convention, a conclave, a trade fair, or a get-together. But what you can't call it is a society. It is a conference run by a for-profit publisher and event planner. When the exhibit hall is broken down, the event planners move on to serving cold wraps and mini glasses of iced tea under the bright lights of company booths to clinicians of another ilk who, like us, will gather candies and trinkets into overflowing conference bags as they wander about the booths in the hall.

The AAWC is a society. Its volunteers work for its members year round. The government affairs committee tirelessly surveys the local coverage determination drafts to look for regulations that adversely affect wound care practitioners. The society meets with lawmakers and regulators on behalf of the wound care community. For instance: until recently the FDA recognized only one end point for clinical trials: complete wound closure. The AAWC has partnered with the agency to examine alternative end points. This will lead to the approval of new products for our patients. Last year, in response to the suggested change in terminology from "pressure ulcer" to "pressure injury," the AAWC held its first pressure ulcer summit. The society plans to develop a descriptive tool and new staging system for pressure ulcers that does not expose our members to potential civil or criminal penalties. This is only a fraction of the issues the AAWC is addressing right now, but we need clinicians passionate about wound care to join the cause.

I gratefully acknowledge the confusion between the Darryls, my grandmother's grandchildren, the wound care society and its meeting, and the endless tangle of medical acronyms. They constitute the fodder for humorous tales retold over drinks at medical conferences and fill the pages of bloggers bewildered by a cryptic alphabet soup.

IHISYAIN—I Hope I See You All In November.

DTS—Dr. Tomas Serena

About The Author
Dr. Thomas E. Serena is the Founder and Medical Director of The SerenaGroup®, a family of wound, hyperbaric and research companies. Dr. Serena has been the lead or Principal investigator in over 100 clinical trials, including gene therapy, antimicrobial dressings, growth factors, topical and parenteral antibiotics and CTP therapy. He has more than 200 published papers and has authored several medical textbooks and numerous book chapters. He has given over 1000 invited lectures throughout the world. He has been a member of the Board of Directors of the Wound Healing Society and served two terms on the board of the Association for the Advancement of Wound Care (AAWC) and is now the President.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author, and do not represent the views of WoundSource, Kestrel Health Information, Inc., its affiliates, or subsidiary companies.

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