Experience of a Puerto Rican Fellow in Training at ACC’s 2016 Legislative Conference

October 20, 2016 | Anthony D. Osterman-Pla, MD

ACC’s Legislative Conference brings together ACC members from across the nation to discuss the most pressing issues affecting cardiovascular professionals and to advocate for improved health care delivery. The conference began with a delightful Sunday-night welcome reception that allowed me to network with colleagues from across the country and exchange ideas on the practice and challenges in cardiovascular medicine. The reception was followed by a wonderful dinner sponsored by the ACC Political Action Committee (ACCPAC) that included remarks by Michael Beschloss, a renowned presidential historian and best-selling author. Beschloss graced the crowd with anecdotes of the presidencies of Lyndon Johnson, John Kennedy and Harry Truman. Throughout his remarks, Beschloss eloquently linked these stories with lessons regarding leadership and civic duty which inspired all the attendees to continue to work to advance the mission of the ACC to improve cardiovascular care across the nation.

Monday morning began with the president’s address from ACC President Richard A. Chazal, MD, FACC, who reviewed the history of the ACC, the relevance of its mission today and the challenges of tomorrow. This was followed by an excellent introduction to the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA), where attendees learned about the intricacies of MACRA, the different strategies adopted by some practices to comply with this mandate, and the definition of quality and value that will guide cardiovascular care for Medicare patients.

Later that morning I was able to participate in a pair of exceptional breakout sessions covering the topics of “Advocacy training for first time attendees” and “Interacting with Congress through Social Media”. Both sessions were outstanding and showcased the expertise of several remarkable FITs who have taken leadership roles within the ACC. The afternoon started with a session called “Best practices for State Advocacy Programs”, which reviewed a variety of topics ranging from medical malpractice reform to strategies for effective advocacy.

Afterwards, we participated in a very interesting lecture about the current political landscape by Nathan Gonzales, editor and publisher at the Rothenberg and Gonzales Political Report. He discussed the status of the U.S. presidential election and possible electoral scenarios regarding the composition of the Senate and the House of Representatives. At the end of the day, we participated in a briefing session with members of the ACC Advocacy staff to review the primary topics for the Congressional visits and develop strategies with other ACC members to ensure effective meetings during our visit to Capitol Hill. 

On Tuesday, the day began with the presentation of the 2016 President’s Award for Distinguish Public Service to Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI). Subsequently, we started our Capitol Hill visits. Our mission was to raise awareness among members of Congress on the need to ensure that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services work with cardiovascular practices and medical societies to ensure a seamless transition during the implementation of MACRA. We stressed the need for additional funding for the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in order to continue quality medical research which leads to scientific advancements and ultimately, improves the cardiovascular health of our patients. Finally, we advocated for approval of a proposed legislation that would expand access to cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation services by allowing non-physician practitioners to supervise these programs. Over 400 cardiovascular professionals met with their respective Senators and Representatives.

Overall, the ACC’s Legislative Conference was a wonderful experience that allowed me to learn more about the political process; participate in the ACC’s mission to improve cardiovascular health; and engage with lawmakers to build a better healthcare system for our patients. I encourage all Fellows in Training to participate in future editions of the ACC’s Legislative Conference in order to obtain the tools to be successful advocates for patients and to be part of the future generation of cardiovascular professionals that will shape the healthcare of our country. It was an honor to be a part of the 2016 ACC Legislative Conference and I look forward to continued participation in ACC’s national advocacy activities and will continue to be an advocate for my patients at the state level.

This article was authored by Anthony D. Osterman-Pla, MD, a Fellow in Training (FIT) at the University of Puerto Rico.

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