Get to Know Your Leaders | A Look Back to Look Forward: Dipti Itchhaporia, MD, FACC
Dipti Itchhaporia, MD, FACC, set many historic firsts for the College when she took on the role of ACC President in April 2021. Not only was she the first Asian-American president, Itchhaporia was also the first woman to succeed another woman as president. Itchhaporia also led the College through the second year of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic – a year that brought with it continued challenges for clinicians and patients alike, while also providing increased opportunities to make headway on critical strategic priorities like digital transformation, innovation and health equity.
As she prepares to wind down her presidential year and pass the torch to incoming ACC President Edward T. A. Fry, MD, FACC, Itchhaporia shares her thoughts on some of the College's greatest accomplishments, her favorite memories as president and the legacy she hopes to leave for future ACC leaders.
What are the College's top accomplishments during your presidential year?
Obviously, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a source of ongoing challenges. I am proud of the College's continued leadership in this area. Our COVID-19 Hub continues to be a trusted source for clinical guidance, the latest research and science published in our JACC Journals, as well as education and expert commentary. We also united as a community to give back and support on-the-ground relief efforts to countries hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic as part of our collaboration with Americares.
Aside from COVID-19, we ramped up our focus and action around digital transformation and the opportunities inherent in leveraging new technologies to radically change the way care is managed and delivered.
We also started to actualize our goal of health equity by creating a task force and developing a strategic plan to incorporate health equity in all the work we do. Our goal: to create a world where everyone has an opportunity to be as healthy as possible.
Optimizing our clinical guidelines is another priority for the College. We released two new guidelines in 2021 – one for chest pain and one for coronary revascularization – which reflect much of the work that has gone into enhancing and improving the process to date.
I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention the College's incredible advocacy work resulting in a stop to massive Medicare cuts, which would have significantly impacted patient access to cardiovascular care had Congress not taken action prior to the New Year.
If you could sum up your presidential year in one word, what would it be?
Adam Grant, host of the TED podcast WorkLife, wrote in a New York Times piece last April that "languishing" may be "the dominant emotion of 2021." I would say the opposite. If I had to choose one word for the College and my past year as president, it would be "flourishing." Yes, there were many challenges, but we did not languish. Rather, we united in creative ways to leverage innovation and optimize global cardiovascular care and outcomes; advocate for health policy solutions that advance patient access and equity in this new environment; and grow the next generation of cardiovascular clinicians and leaders.
What are you most proud of this past year?
I started my presidential year recognizing the need and desire for reconnection. After a long year of social distancing and limited interactions, finding ways to bring ACC members together was one of my personal goals. My monthly "Coffee With the ACC President" events, featuring informal discussions with thought leaders in the world of cardiology, medicine, health care and beyond, are among the things I'm most proud of. I'm excited that we will be able to incorporate similar types of discussions and forums within ACC.22 in Washington, DC.
While we were still largely limited to virtual meetings in 2021, I am so proud of how we were able to take advantage of all the lessons learned from 2020 to encourage global discussions and connections at meetings around the world. Our State and International Chapters, Member Sections and our partner cardiovascular societies were all important collaborators in these efforts.
Last, but certainly not least, I am incredibly proud of the progress that has been made on our diversity, equity and inclusion work, with the launch of several new initiatives (several of which are funded through our recent Campaign for the Future) designed to foster and grow a diverse and inclusive workforce and improve health equity for patients around the world. Solving for health equity is not easy, nor will it happen overnight, but we cannot achieve our Mission or Vision without action.
Do you have a favorite memory from your time as president?
I have a couple of favorite moments. One revolved around Convocation 2021. With the transition to a virtual meeting, I did miss being on the stage for the historic passing of the presidential chain from one woman to another and celebrating this personal milestone with my family. As such, it was so special and humbling to see the photo announcing my presidency on Times Square in New York City. I also greatly appreciated the opportunity to go to Heart House with my friend and colleague, Athena Poppas, MD, MACC, to put on the Convocation robes, exchange the chain and give our speeches that would be shared around the world.
The year has also held a series of COVID moments, from writing a vaccine statement with our sister societies, to raising money with Americares, to numerous meetings both virtual and in person. These have harkened for me the concept of "HERO" (Hope, [Self] Efficacy, Resilience and Optimism). It was so important to encourage our members to be their own "HERO" in 2021 because the more we can share and foster hope, efficacy, resilience and optimism, the better we will be as a profession and a College.
What legacy do you hope to leave as president?
My aim has been to achieve what I have termed the "Quintuple Aim" – to create healthier communities and a more robust economy via the following five pillars: better care, improved outcomes, lower costs, enhanced clinician wellness and health equity. To make this a reality, I have worked both within the College and our larger cardiovascular community. Alongside our Board of Trustees and our staff, I strategically guided the College towards our goal of transforming cardiovascular care and improving heart health. I also helped raise awareness of the importance of innovation and digital transformation to achieve our goals. These have been important themes this year. I hope the work we have accomplished has laid a solid foundation upon which we can further build in the future.
What advice would you offer future leaders?
You can't do it alone! A true leader is only as strong as their team. I am so very grateful to have been surrounded by a diverse group of colleagues, ACC staff, friends and family who were there to offer perspectives, ideas and solutions to move us closer to our goals. We often hear that leadership is sometimes lonely, but I have found it to be invigorating and revitalizing.
Another piece of advice I often give to new and emerging leaders is not to be afraid to try new things, ask questions and/or take advantage of opportunities that present themselves, no matter how small. So many of the connections – and, in many cases, friendships – I've made throughout the course of my career are due to my willingness to connect with others, step away from my comfort zone and ask questions.
Look For "President's Picks" at ACC.22
New this year, the Heart 2 Heart stage will be the home for dedicated sessions hosted by ACC President Dipti Itchhaporia, MD, FACC, and featuring discussions with special guests JACC Editor-in-Chief Valentin Fuster, MD, PhD, MACC; TAVR pioneer and Presidential Citation recipient Alain Cribier, MD; and past ACC women presidents, Mary Norine Walsh, MD, MACC, Pamela S. Douglas, MD, MACC, and Athena Poppas, MD, MACC. Click here and search "President's Picks" in the ACC.22 Online Planner.
Keywords: ACC Publications, Cardiology Magazine, ACC22, ACC Annual Scientific Session, ACC History, Women, Physicians, Women, Women in Cardiology, Friends, COVID-19, Goals, Leadership, Consensus, Health Equity, Myocarditis, New York City, Pandemics, Physical Distancing, Return to Sport, Self Efficacy, Trustees, Wind, Medicare, Cardiology, Chest Pain, Workforce, Vaccines, Writing
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