The ACC is a member-driven organization and from its inception the Board of Governors (BOG) has been called to be the voice of the College’s members. The core of our mission statement is bidirectional communication between members and leadership. The chasm between members and leadership can have a natural tendency to seem wider when the organization is large and when pressures facing the organization increase in complexity. The ACC has not been immune to these forces. For the past four years I have been a first-hand witness and participant as the BOG distilled a host of relevant member issues from around the country, raised specific member concerns to ACC leadership, and monitored accountability. Further, I have had the privilege of serving on the BOG Steering Committee – a committee that is charged with establishing processes within the existing college structure to encourage constructive resolution to issues identified by ACC Governors on behalf of the members. The BOG Steering Committee is responsible for the content and structure of BOG meetings with the task of facilitating maximal effectiveness. In my day job in northeast Tennessee, I am directly in the fray and sensitive to the changing landscape of medicine and cardiology. My position on the BOG and as an invited member of the BOG Steering Committee has put me in a position to observe the occasionally messy process of the “sausage being made” at the national level. The net effect has made me more appreciative of the depth and breadth of the ACC and has also left me optimistic that leadership will position us to be stronger in the future.
I’m thankful for the myriad friends and acquaintances that made it easy for me to connect inside the BOG. I crossed paths with one Governor that I had as a medical student on the cardiology service (he was outstanding even back then), several Governors that I trained in fellowship or trained with me, academic colleagues, and private practice colleagues. The collective commitment and capabilities of the physicians elected to the BOG is remarkable. The BOG Steering Committee has given me a more intimate glimpse into how our leadership strives to serve our membership. Thad Waites, MD, FACC, Dipti Itchhaporia, MD, FACC, David May, MD, PhD, FACC, and Michael Mansour, MD, FACC are the ACC BOG Chairs that I have known well. They are a beautiful, eclectic and transformative cadre of servant leaders. The work these BOG Chairs did behind the scene is extraordinary. A sampling of the complex topics they focused for us inside the BOG includes appropriate use criteria (AUC) refinement, effective communication, digital strategies, and American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) and Maintenance of Certification (MOC) discussions. Bob Shor, MD, FACC will bring a new energy and approach as BOG Chair this year. He is inclusive, a good listener, committed to mentorship, and speaks with clarity. BOG Chair-Elect Matt Phillips, MD, FACC will bridge practice leadership and passionate advocacy for the grassroots cardiologist as effectively as any individual is capable within the ACC. Improving relationships through the work of brilliant practice liaisons such as Cathie Biga, and collaborative cardiology organizations such as MedAxiom are signs of an informed, attentive, and inclusive leadership. The ACC is indeed in good hands.
I have learned first-hand the wisdom and humility of the extended ACC leadership – our Presidents, Board of Trustees and staff. The equanimity and competence with which Dr. O’Gara and team have represented the ACC in the ABIM/MOC imbroglio has been the most recent reminder. Passions are appropriately high – I put myself firmly in the passionate camp – and the stakes are high for our members. The effectiveness of Dr. O’Gara’s approach to this hot potato has been inspiring. The BOG has identified a major problem. Our ACC leadership is effectively communicating our position. I believe the right outcome will ultimately be achieved for members. Once again, the ACC is indeed in good hands.
In 2015, in order to provide maximal value, cardiovascular specialists should view themselves as being in the cardiovascular disease management business. Our patient interactions can span many decades and involve the spectrum of preventative care, critical care, advanced imaging, percutaneous intervention, surgical therapy, and secondary prevention. Some patients have the need for only one interaction while others weave in and out of our care throughout their adult life. For some patients, we need to act swiftly and aggressively, while for other patients our most important value is to simply listen. A highly functioning ACC with its scientific, educational and advocacy pillars gives us the structure to make this possible throughout the world and the BOG is a catalyst. I come from a background of college sports and the appeal of participating on a team is engrained in me. Individually striving to be the best you can be while submitting to the greater good of a team is rewarding. Leadership is sometimes required. Being a committed follower is sometimes required. The ACC BOG exemplifies this dual privilege of individualism and teamwork. We lobby not for special interests, but for solutions that provide maximal value for members and patients in our mission to improve cardiovascular health.
Retired Harvard professor and respected author John Kotter describes the key role of leadership as one of coping with change. The role of management is to cope with complexity. Both roles are important and necessary. Inside the ACC BOG and the BOG Steering Committee, I have had a first-hand exposure to committed men and women working to cope with and lead change – so that our members can manage the resultant complexity in the fashion best suited for their organizations and patients. The process is not perfect and healthy tensions are frequently released in the process. However, I am certain that the process is honest, effective and needed.
I now formally pass the Tennessee ACC torch to a colleague more capable than me – Doug Pearce, MD, FACC. In three years, Doug will humbly pass it to a more capable colleague. May the cycle never break anywhere in the ACC. Whether we are incoming, current, or past BOG members may our servant leadership commitment never diminish.