Keynote Address From ACC President William Zoghbi, MD, FACC

Dr. Holmes, distinguished members on the dais, ACC Past Presidents, Board of Trustees, Board of Governors, new Fellows of the College, new Associates of the College, members, guests, families and friends.  I am deeply honored and humbled to take on the leadership of the College and further its mission, that is to transform cardiovascular care and improve heart health. I thank Dr. David Holmes for his service to the ACC, and I will strive to be a worthy successor.

I also feel the thrill of possibility —not just for the coming year of the ACC, but for all of you, newly inducted Fellows and Associates. Congratulations on your achievement, and welcome to our great profession of cardiovascular medicine. You should hold your achievement and your profession in high esteem. It is my sincerest wish that your future careers exceed your expectations for professional fulfillment and success.

You are being inducted at a time when the field of Cardiology is exciting, yet challenging. Our capacity to diagnose and treat heart disease has never been greater. Over the past 4 decades, we have reduced mortality from cardiovascular disease by 50%.  Yet, the sobering fact is that heart and vascular disease remain the leading cause of death around the globe. Equally sobering, the current American healthcare system is not sustainable. Our healthcare has become too costly not just because modern technology is expensive and our system is wasteful, but because we always pay a higher price for treatment than prevention.  This was the motivation for the College to refine its mission recently, to focus more on the patient, on the transformation of care and the betterment of health. The thematic focus for the ACC in 2012 is patient-centered care, a style of care that emphasizes educating and involving patients in medical decision making; integrating medical care, and applying principles of disease prevention and behavioral change. It’s easy to be enthusiastic about innovations in research and treatment, but we need to be equally enthusiastic about a future in which, fewer people develop cardiovascular disease in the first place. You will be leading this effort going forward. Be an advocate for health, not just for medicine.

As I look over this audience, all our new fellows and associates, I am in awe of the breadth of talent, the depth of expertise, and the diversity of background. I never imagined, even in my wildest dreams, that I would be standing in front of you tonight. I grew up in the Middle East, 8000 miles from here, in the beautiful but comparatively tiny country of Lebanon. I lived both in Beirut and my native, small town of Ghazir overlooking the Mediterranean.  I attended the American University of Beirut for medical school, but my education was cut short due to the civil war. I was fortunate to be able to transfer to Meharry Medical College, the only place in the country that would accept me midway through the academic year.  I was so grateful to be able to continue my medical training in the U.S.   Such challenges and experiences teach you to be flexible while keeping focused on what is most important. Tumultuous changes and challenges can bring about many opportunities. As further changes in health care are eminent, you are called upon to look for opportunities to lead and make a difference. Be committed but Be adaptable.

As we aspire and dream about the future, we must focus on ways to improve health care. The patient-physician relationship, an essential component of quality care, is under unusual strain. Physician time at the bedside is dwindling. Our ability to personally connect with patients may be threatened by our connection to electronic gadgets. Yet, it is the same technology that will make us more efficient, allow instant access to information at the bedside and evaluate quality. This calls for a balanced approach, and for innovative ways to engage patients with the whole care team: physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners and nurses. CardioSmart is the College wide initiative which focuses on health, empowers patients and involves them in their care decisions. This year we will work on revamping the Cardiosmart website to increase mobile access and enhance your effectiveness in the office and between visits for better patient outcome. Our message to patients is: Be Smart…be Cardiosmart.  We will continue our strong advocacy efforts for patients to have access to quality care and for the sustainability of the care team and the health care system. The ACC is engaged with governmental agencies and payers to develop integrated models that emphasize quality and outcome,  rather than volume of care. The type and appropriateness of diagnostics and treatment are integral to our profession, and should not be dictated by non-expert entities. To this I say, Get involved,  Be an advocate for your patients. 

Every year at this ceremony, we honor and value the participation of American and international leaders of cardiology from all over the world. Many of you world leaders are being inducted into the College tonight. Our international ties are stronger than ever and unify us in our common goal to combat cardiovascular disease. Consider that more than 25% of cardiologists and physicians in the US are foreign medical graduates and close to 5000 of the College membership is international—the  fastest growing segment of our membership. This coming year, we will exceed 20 international chapters worldwide. We have tremendous opportunities to share knowledge and strategies for improving quality. The College is determined to foster this kind of exchange to improve care locally and worldwide. Be collaborative. Stretch your boundaries.

As individuals and professionals, we are shaped by our environment, experiences, teachers and mentors. I am grateful for the supportive environment that the Methodist Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine have provided throughout my career. I am particularly indebted to individuals who have been my role models and mentors: Mike Quinones introduced me to the wonders of imaging and rigors of science, Bob Roberts inspired me with his relentless drive and innovation, Bill Winters was the very model of a compassionate clinician, and the late Michael DeBakey was driven by the pursuit of excellence and practice of medicine, even at the ripe age of 99. As you fill your schedules providing care and conducting research, do take time for your professional development. Attend face-to-face meetings like these scientific sessions;  in-person meetings do complement online education and bring a human face to science and discovery. Help mentor the newer generation of physicians. It is part of your legacy and the advancement of Medicine. Be an educator, Be a mentor.  

As devoted to us as mentors can be, the most influential individuals in our lives are often our parents and family. Although my parents did not have the opportunity to get a higher education, they led by example, instilling the values of curiosity, trust and compassion. I want to acknowledge my love and appreciation for my sister Carmen, my brother Joseph and their families, who travelled from Lebanon for this occasion. Closer to home is the amazing dedication and love of my life partner Dr.  Huda Zoghbi, whose support is immeasurable. Together we have raised 2 wonderful children, my daughter Roula and my son Anthony. In the coming year, I will definitely need their support even more, as they track my travel on a large world map, given by dear friends, with the title of www—Not the world wide web, but… where in the world is William.    

I look forward to serving the College and all of you during the next year. This is a time of transformation: new stages in our careers, new challenges in our practices. Our task is to envision better possibilities and turn them into reality. Whatever comes to fruition over the next 12 months and beyond, will be a credit to the longstanding and often unrecognized labor of many individuals, many of whom are here tonight—our past presidents, executive officers, Trustees and Governors, our wonderful staff led by our CEO Dr Jack Lewin, and so many devoted members and volunteers. I encourage all of you, our newly elected Fellows and Associates of the ACC to call me or email me with your ideas or concerns. Congratulations again to all of you on your induction today. I invite you to become active volunteers in both your local Chapter and national ACC. The time you spend will be well worth it and the experience most rewarding.
Let’s identify the possibilities and shape the future of cardiovascular care, together.
Welcome to the ACC… your ACC.

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