Introducing ACC’s New President: Mary Norine Walsh, MD, FACC
“I’m one of the few people who knew from childhood what she wanted to be,” says Mary Norine Walsh, MD, FACC, president of the ACC. The presidential chain was passed on to Walsh by Richard A. Chazal, MD, MACC, at the Convocation ceremony at ACC.17 as he closed out his term as president.
As a child, Walsh grew up as part of a large family in Minneapolis, MN, and when she was seven, she underwent a hospitalization that had an enormous impact on her, planting the seed for her future in medicine. While the dream began with a career aspiration to become a nurse, Walsh’s interests shifted to medicine after she had a few high school science courses under her belt. “The summer I turned 19, I got a job as a nurse’s aide in a community hospital emergency room and that clinched my decision to pursue medical school,” she said. Walsh was initially drawn toward pursuing a residency in emergency medicine, but it was during her third year as a medical student at the University of Minnesota that her cardiology rotation changed her mind.
Walsh went on to complete her internship and residency at the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas, and her cardiology fellowship at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO. She spent a few years working at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania before joining what is now St. Vincent Medical Group in Indianapolis, IN where she still practices today. Walsh serves as the medical director of the heart failure and cardiac transplantation programs and director of nuclear cardiology at St. Vincent Heart Center. Additionally, she is program director of the St. Vincent Advanced Heart Failure and Transplantation fellowship.
"We need to make our voices heard on Capitol Hill and at our state houses by advocating for patient access, quality care and even public health issues that result in a decrease in cardiovascular morbidity and mortality."
Walsh’s first involvement with the ACC began by stepping up and reaching out at ACC’s Annual Scientific Session. “I attended a luncheon panel at an ACC Scien-tific Session sponsored by what was then known as the Women in Cardiology Ad Hoc Task Force,” she recalls. “Marian Limacher, MD, FACC, moderated the session and I approached her after the session was over with an offer of help. I joined the task force and eventually succeeded her as chair.” Walsh’s involvement didn’t end with that chair position. She went on to participate in other committees of the ACC and her state chapter, of which she eventually became chapter president and member of the ACC’s Board of Governors.
“Volunteering as a member of the ACC has been a very important part of my life,” says Walsh. “I realized early on that the mission and vision of the College meshed with my own and I really found a home at the ACC.”
While serving as president of the ACC, Walsh plans to focus on a few primary areas – in addition to and in concert with the College’s strategic plan and priorities. With the health care environment in a constant state of flux, and as it moves from a volume-driven to a value-driven environment, Walsh says that equipping members to most effectively and efficiently function – and thrive – is critical. “Helping practices and institu-tions make the pivot to payment for value will be a major focus this year,” says Walsh. She adds that the ACC is in a prime position to provide help in this area. “Team-based care has been a passion of mine in my own practice and the College will continue to have a focus on this in the next few years to come. Working in teams will allow us to better serve patients.”
Walsh says that another goal of hers throughout her presidential year is to engage more members in ACC’s advocacy efforts. “We need to make our voices heard on Capitol Hill and at our state houses by advocating for patient access, quality care and even public health issues that result in a decrease in cardiovascular morbidity and mortality,” she says. “Being an advocacy leader can be a goal for all of our members and I hope to help foster that leadership.”
Walsh notes that one of the biggest challenges facing the field of cardiology is the ability of the profession to adapt to the rapidly changing landscape of cardiology and patient care. For example, Walsh notes that many of the procedures that used to be solely in the wheelhouse of cardio-vascular surgeons – like coronary bypass and valve surgery – are now completed through less invasive techniques, and in some cases – by cardiologists. “When we see radical shifts in care techniques, our profession must be nimble enough to adapt to the changes,” she says.
“The time for training in both interventional cardiology and electrophysiology has recently been expanded to provide adequate experience for fellows who seek to perform structural procedures and ablations. We will need to continue to make similar course corrections in training as our field evolves.” Additionally, Walsh notes that fellows will need to remain aware of changing market forces as they choose their preferred practice setting and sub-specialty.
As the third female president in ACC’s nearly 70-year history, Walsh points out that another challenge in cardiology is the continued underrepresentation of women.
“Although nearly half of all internal medicine residents are women, only slightly over 20 percent of cardiology fellows are women,” says Walsh. “Our field is missing out on many talented women who are choosing other fields.”
Fortunately, the ACC has engaged members working to meet these challenges head on. Walsh notes that the College’s Academic and Training Directors Sections are well-versed in the needs of Fellows in Training (FITs) and issues involving graduate medical education, and our FITs are a very engaged group. “The constant feedback that they provide to the College leadership is invaluable in the planning of programs, outreach and skills development,” she says. “The continued efforts of the Women in Cardiology member section, and a newly created diversity task force will help to bring a focus on the issue of the underrepresentation of women.”
Walsh’s simple words of wisdom to those looking to become ACC’s future leaders are to get involved – and seek out opportunities at both the chapter and section level. “I always ask members who are seeking to be involved in the College to contact the governor of their state chapter,” she says. “Many members are unaware of the work being done at the chapter level where our members can really make a difference in their patients’ lives through local legislation, insurance and malpractice reforms, as well as public health advocacy.” She also adds that every ACC section has work groups that need committed volunteers who want to contribute. “Don’t miss an opportunity that comes your way,” she urges. “Watch your email for announcements of open positions, reviewer and editorial roles and leadership and advocacy academies – and remember that you can’t win if you don’t play!”
Walsh’s engagement with the ACC began decades ago, and now after participating in many leadership roles along the way, she steps into the role as ACC’s president for 2017-2018 with gratitude, humility and passion. “To succeed the many gifted leaders who are past presidents of the College is truly a dream come true for me,” says Walsh. “I am so inspired by the dedication of so many of our staff and members who contribute their talents to make our organization better. It is truly my honor to take the helm and lead this year.”
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