Convocation, April 4, 2016: Kim Allan Williams Sr., MD, MACC

Distinguished guests on the dais, newly elected Fellows and Associates of the College, past presidents, Board of Trustees, Board of Governors, Assembly of International Governors, members of the College, ACC staff, family, friends, and guests. It is an honor to stand before you this evening.

I have often said that the College does not exist for its own sake – but for the sake of you, its members. The ACC is a convener – a convener of medical science, technology, education and humanity; all aimed at improving heart health and transforming cardiovascular care.

Tonight we are convened to recognize outstanding leaders – both new and old – as well as formally acknowledge all of the new Fellows and Associates who have chosen the cardiovascular profession as your life’s work.

Let me again offer my congratulations to all of the award winners, Leadership Academy graduates, and to our newly inducted ACC Fellows and Associates. Your dedication and involvement reaffirm my confidence that the future of our profession, and the future of the ACC, is in good hands.

I would like to take a few moments this evening to share some thoughts on the past year, as well as talk about opportunities going forward for the College to continue to serve as a convener and a leader in the cardiovascular space. It has been a remarkably eventful year – leaders in our field have come and some have gone. We have had changes in our reimbursement, our certification and accreditation, our focus on prevention and our governance.

This in many ways was an unprecedented year for the College. We flew right past the 50,000 membership mark and now have more than 52,000 members spanning the entire cardiovascular care team and the world. What an amazing feat! We also continued to grow our Member Sections and Councils, as well as our International Chapters. Everyone has a home at ACC.

We’ve also made significant progress toward achieving our strategic goal of developing a comprehensive health system strategy. We continue to see growth in the use of our hospital and outpatient NCDR registries. The addition of our Left Atrial Appendage Occlusion and Atrial Fibrillation Ablation registries brings us to a grand total of 10! We were also excited to welcome the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care to the ACC family in January – adding accreditation to our quality improvement offerings for hospitals and other facilities and. In fact, more than 20 of our new accreditation staff are in the audience this evening as new AACC members. Congratulations to you all.

In direct response to all of this growth and change within the College, the College’s Board of Trustees approved transformational changes to ACC’s governance structure and processes this year as well. These changes are the result of nearly two years of thoughtful discussion. They position the ACC to be even more nimble, strategic, accountable, and more reflective of the diversity and breadth within the global cardiovascular community.

Reaching consensus around these changes required everyone involved to be honest, self-aware, open to change, and willing to make the College’s strategic success of utmost priority. The resulting structure and process is a testament to each and every BOT member’s unwavering commitment to the College and its mission and are the very reasons these men and women have been chosen over the years to hold leadership positions within the College. Please join me in thanking them for their leadership.

Moving forward, we want to get this right and will be working with all of you over the course of the next two years as these changes are phased in.

One of my personally proudest moments this year was representing the ACC at the White House to celebrate the historic repeal of the Sustainable Growth Rate. This flawed formula was used to calculate Medicare physician payment in the U.S. for nearly two decades.

The ACC, along with the entire House of Medicine, have long advocated for permanent repeal. It was a long, hard fight – a fight that at times felt a bit like the infamous movie Groundhog Day with Congress perennially kicking the can down the road and saying that a fix to the problem was not doable. But at the end of the day our united front paid off – further paving the way for a new health care system that rewards value and improved patient outcomes over volume.

That day at the White House drove home the importance of advocacy. We are on the front lines working with patients and saving lives. Who better to educate members of Congress and other policymakers about the impacts of their decisions on our ability to provide care?

Without advocacy we would not be positioned to encourage creation of a value-driven health care system that improves the care experience for patients, enhances the health of populations, and reduces health care costs. Nor would we be at the table for discussions aimed at fostering research and innovation in cardiovascular care … or, more importantly, ensuring a stable, informed and reliable cardiovascular workforce for the future.

This leads me to “What’s Next?” Where are the opportunities within all of this change for us to be conveners?

Ensuring an informed, reliable AND DIVERSE cardiovascular workforce is one of those areas of opportunity. In the ACC’s 2015 Environmental Scan Update, changing workforce needs ranked among the top issues affecting the cardiovascular landscape. The authors noted that “Health care is possibly the most complicated industry in the United States.” Despite the complications, it is widely acknowledged that a diverse workforce, both in job function, gender, specialty, and race and ethnicity, is necessary to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse and growing cardiovascular patient population.

The ACC understands the importance of a diverse workforce. Our Leadership Academy, Emerging Advocates initiative, and Mentoring program are among our most recent efforts designed to identify, nurture and grow diverse leaders across the cardiovascular care continuum. Additionally, quality initiatives like Surviving MI are providing practices and institutions with best practices for changing hospital culture to improve care. Even the new governance policies I mentioned earlier aim to reflect the diversity of our members and encourage greater involvement in committees and work groups by a broader group of individuals.

Yet in spite of all good intentions there can still be obstacles that handicap cardiology as a profession and diminish an effective workforce. In fact, there were several studies presented over the last three days that suggested our culture tends towards unconscious biases that can create barriers to careers, advancement and other opportunities.

This problem is not ours alone to solve, but one that provides us an opportunity to lead. The College is committed to working with other organizations and institutions, as well as our own Member Sections and Councils like Women in Cardiology, to develop strategies that will locally evaluate and mitigate workforce disparities. Forums like ACC.16 also provide important venues for research like this to be discussed, debated and built upon. Lastly, we all should pause and reflect on our own hiring and compensation practices and make changes where needed. Diversity helps improve and insure the crucial relationships between caregivers, communities and patients.

Population health is another area of opportunity for the College. Addressing disparities in care and ensuring the ultimate wellbeing of patients is critical if we want to see cardiovascular disease move from the #1 cause of death around the world to #2. We are so close!

Doing this successfully, however, requires advocating for state, national and global policies that facilitate patient access to care; developing and implementing substantive strategies for improving the health of populations; and finding innovative ways to put the latest science in the hands of those providing care.

The ACC has the structure in place to do this. We can and should be a convener when it comes to promoting prevention and treatment strategies. Our registries, quality initiatives like CardioSmart, and our large network of domestic and international chapters can move us from event-driven to prevent-driven care. We have also developed key partnerships with global and domestic medical societies that can turn the cardiovascular disease epidemic around.

We have the science, we have the will and we have the implementation strategies. I have no doubt that we will succeed.

Before I close, I would like to recognize many of those who helped make this year a very special one. At the risk of leaving some off of the list, I would like to extend my heart-felt thanks to my colleagues on the Board of Trustees, Executive Committee and Presidential Team, including Drs. Patrick O’Gara, Richard Chazal and Mary Norrine Walsh, and now Michael Valentine.

I also want to thank my colleagues at Rush University for their support over the last year. Mary Lou Briglio deserves a special thanks for keeping track of my nearly impossible schedule. Special thanks also goes to ACC's Kelsi Lane, Shalen Fairbanks, Sandra Spadoni, Julie Cooney, our entire International staff, and in fact, the entire staff and ACC staff leadership. I’m also grateful for the many interactions I’ve had on behalf of the College with my counterparts from other professional organizations, government, foundations, and industry.

Last, but certainly not least, I would be remiss not to thank my wife and family for their unwavering support. I’m sure they will be glad to see me home a bit more often!

On a personal note, as I leave the presidency, and as I shared with our Board, I leave with a sense of tension between the accomplishments of the past year and the urgency of the work in progress and yet to be completed. This has been the opportunity of a lifetime, and please, instead of thanking me, please say "you're welcome" because I am thanking YOU for the privilege of serving you, the College and the cardiovascular community both here and abroad.

As I turn the stage over to our new president, Dr. Richard Chazal, I would like to leave you with one final message for the newly minted Fellows and Associates of the College. We are on this stage today because we love what we do. Yes, we are experiencing changing times, but knowing that what we do is making a difference gives me the strength and wherewithal to find the opportunities within that change and lead. As you embark upon your careers, I encourage you do to do the same. Love what you do! Do what you love! Don’t hesitate to get involved with the College – we exist for you. Don’t be afraid to lead. You are the future of our profession.

Welcome to the ACC!

Thank You

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