This post was authored by Rebecca Napier, MD, chief cardiology fellow at Georgia Regents University.

There is no better time than the present for Fellows in Training (FITs) to get involved in advocacy roles to help promote the field of cardiology and empower our members to better provide accessible and affordable care to our patients. Many FITs may find it difficult to balance such tasks with the demands of fellowship training. However, decisions made daily by legislators will directly impact the future of our practice and our patients. Our goal is to make FITs aware of current legislative issues and encourage participation in ACC Advocacy and the ACC Political Action Committee (ACCPAC). An excellent place to start is by attending ACC's 2015 Legislative Conference on Oct. 18 – 20 in Washington, DC, where you will have the opportunity to explore pertinent issues and network directly with congressional policymakers.

FITs were a significant constituency at the 2014 Legislative Conference, with 92 FITs attending and representation from nearly every state. Fellows have the unique opportunity to interact with both ACC leaders and legislators to help shape the future of cardiovascular care, and the College has made a significant commitment to ensure that we are integral to the conference. As a first time attendee last year, I had the privilege of attending the ACCPAC-sponsored dinner to hear an entertaining and enlightening debate between James Carville and Mary Matalin, followed by a day of educational review on current health care-related policies. The conference culminated in a trip to Capitol Hill for meetings with members of Congress and their staff. Attending a breakfast on Capitol Hill with the Women in Cardiology Section – featuring remarks from Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) – was a personal highlight for me. I was overwhelmed by the participation of so many College members, including FITs, uniting to advance shared goals on behalf of our profession and our patients.

This year's ACCPAC dinner will kick off with a keynote speech from Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist, author and political commentator Charles Krauthammer, MD. The dinner will provide FITs with a unique opportunity to hear directly from one of the country's foremost political experts on the current political climate and the outlook for the 2016 elections during a special Q&A session. In addition, FITs are invited to meet Dr. Krauthammer at a special VIP reception prior to dinner.

FITs are encouraged to participate in the conference at every level, including attendance at the educational sessions, which will facilitate open discussion of the hot button issues in preparation for Tuesday's trip to Capitol Hill. Fellows are recognized as the future of ACC Advocacy and ACCPAC, and our input is welcome and appreciated.

ACC's advocacy efforts, strengthened by grassroots outreach and ACCPAC, have resulted in numerous victories and over 9,000 letters sent to Congress in just a couple of months. These efforts must continue to grow to ensure the future of cardiovascular care. Recent advocacy efforts include:

These issues underscore the importance of ACC Advocacy's work to advance legislation and policies that improve health care for patients with cardiovascular disease, facilitate the delivery of high quality, cost-effective cardiovascular services, and fund cardiovascular research and innovation. On behalf of the ACC, I encourage all FITs to get involved.

Hope to see you on the Hill this October!

Learn more about the conference on ACC.org. Registration for FITs is complimentary. To register for the 2015 Legislative Conference, click here and enter code "FIT." FITs also receive a discount on the ACCPAC dinner ($50 for general admission, $250 for VIP admission). To register for the ACCPAC dinner, contact Kendra Adams at kadams@acc.org or 202-375-6440.