May 6, 2016

What works best in your Chapter for member/patient benefit?

This week's update is brought to you by Jesse Adams III, MD, FACC, Former Governor of the Kentucky Chapter of the ACC.

ACC Chapter Cotard's Syndrome? A Case Report of a Possible Cure

As of 2009, the Kentucky chapter was moribund. Not dead exactly, but certainly suffering the symptoms of Cotard's Syndrome (look it up!). Our annual meeting boasted a grand total of eight attendees, six of whom were our Board members, one of them a speaker who gave a one hour CME talk, and the eighth was a Fellow in Training (FIT) who undoubtedly came for the free refreshments. It wasn't a pretty sight in Kentucky, but we had a small core group of enthusiastic members and excellent chapter staff. What we needed was a bit of a Chapter revival. Our overarching goal was to get more people involved in our ACC chapter and to demonstrate that the Chapter had relevance and value in this changing health care landscape.

Step one was to look at our Board of Councilors and bring in new members – outsiders who hadn't been involved in the Chapter before but were well qualified to help steer the ship. We brought on the fellowship directors at both University of Kentucky (UK) and University of Louisville (UL) – the two cardiology training programs in the state, and also appointed two FIT liaisons to the Board from UL and UK respectively. We stressed to these four individuals that we were going to support the FITs to the best of our ability, and that we would be working closely with our Cardiovascular Team State Liaison.

Our sights were set on boosting the visibility of and registration to our next annual meeting. To draw in varying attendee groups, we focused on a few additional strategies – programming, pricing, prizes and partnership. We held the meeting at one of the hospitals, which in return for providing facility space and a free box lunch received recognition at the meeting as well as in our subsequent newsletter. We had a low registration fee for physicians and free attendance for FITs, CV team members, members of the Board, and anyone involved in the meeting. It was structured as a 5.5 hour event, splitting time between continuing medical education (CME) and a business meeting with a national ACC speaker. Additionally, we organized a competitive poster session that garnered more than 15 presentations in the first year, and we awarded cash prizes to first, second and third place winners. Another carrot for attendees was a drawing for free ACC Annual Scientific Session registrations for two lucky winners – a physician and a CV team member.

We had two of our hours that first year dedicated to echo, and we were able to get a number of the echo techs to attend. We had everyone on our Board that first year talking up the meeting to get folks from their institutions to attend, and we enlisted chairs for each session, and asked the most influential cardiologists that we thought would drive involvement of the heads of cardiology for UK and UL, as well as the managing partners of the major cardiology groups in the state. None of these had ever been involved, so this was a big win. We deliberately looked to ask individuals who we did not think would otherwise attend that first meeting. They got the recognition from being in a leadership position at the meeting, and we asked for their support at their institutions/groups to get cardiologists and staff to attend. All of these strategies ended up being incredibly successful.

Following the first year, which brought in 50 attendees – an enormous increase from our days with only eight attendees – we had a model to grow the size of the meeting. Another benefit? We then had a stronger story to sell to exhibitors. The goal was to run a profit each year to allow us to finance the other initiatives of the Chapter, so the attendees were the carrot for the exhibitors. Over the course of 3 Governors (Juan Villafane, MD, FACC, myself, and now Susan Smyth, MD, FACC, who has just taken over as Governor) we have been successful in reaching that goal. We progressively added focused breakout sessions, now consisting of Echocardiography, CV Team Members, CV pharmacology (led by a group of CV pharmacologists), CV management and Business of Cardiology as well as a FIT Jeopardy session. We also have an active promotions committee (independent and separate membership from our Scientific Committee) that focuses on encouraging sponsors as well as driving attendance. We have all of our board members, Scientific Committee members, and Promotion Committee members make personal outreach to sponsor representatives and to potential attendees. At our 2015 meeting, counting pre-registrations as well as on-site registrations we had over 300 as well as greater than $100,000 in sponsor support, both new records for us.

One of the keys to programmatic and overall Chapter success in my opinion is embedding partnership and collaboration in all that you do. As a Governor, you represent something greater than any other institution in your state – your area of responsibility encompasses the entire state! Approaching individual organizations to bring them in to work in a collaborative environment is a fantastic way to work across institution and organizational lines. The ACC is one of the few apolitical areas where competing health care organizations can collaborate. Organizations that partner with the College and its Chapters end up truly benefitting from involvement, thanks to the extremely positive reputation of the ACC as the gold standard and the professional home for cardiology.

But what about the unsuccessful endeavors – those happen too, right? Sure! We certainly have had things that we tried at individual meetings that "did not resonate:" (a polite way of saying "in retrospect that was a stupid idea and let's not do that next time"). As a leader, it is important not to dwell on every "what if" or potential "flop." Every event you deliver is of value, and your ACC colleagues have much to offer to help "Make Your Chapter Great Again" (would be a catchy phrase on a hat, for example!). One of the biggest reasons that we were successful, and a reason that I suspect is critical, is that there is a core group of a few passionate individuals who are willing to spend some time to accomplish something special through the ACC that they would not be able to accomplish on their own. As Governors, we are such a group, and when we work together – there's no stopping us!