Focus on ACC’s TN Chapter: Interview With Julie B. Damp, MD, FACC, and Robert N. Piana, MD, FACC

November 30, 2016 | Benjamin Holmes, MD
Chapter Engagement

Hoping to gain some insight into opportunities for involvement and leadership at the national level, I sat down with two members of ACC’s Tennessee Chapter who have served as chairs on national committees within the College.  Julie Damp, MD, FACC, is a non-invasive cardiologist in Nashville, Tennessee, where she is the associate program director of the Vanderbilt Cardiovascular Medicine Fellowship Program. She currently serves as chair of the ACC Cardiovascular Training Section. Robert N. Piana, MD, FACC, is an interventional cardiologist and director of the Adult Congenital Heart Disease Intervention Program, and is the immediate past chair of the ACC Coding Task Force, serving ex-officio as the College’s CPT Code Advisor. 

Where did your involvement with the ACC start?  

JD: My initial engagement with the ACC began as a fellow when I attended national meetings.  As a junior faculty member, I joined the Cardiology Training and Workforce Committee (which has since molded into the Cardiovascular Training Section) and participated in the ACC Emerging Faculty program.  These both led to other opportunities for involvement within the College.   

RP: As a fellow, I began attending the annual scientific sessions of the ACC, presenting abstracts and learning. I then worked with the society in publishing manuscripts in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. When I came to Vanderbilt, Budd Friesinger, MD, FACC, former chief of cardiology, helped me formulate plans for the next stage of my career.  After learning of my interest in becoming more active in the ACC, Budd very graciously wrote a letter of recommendation for me for several committees. Fortunately, I was accepted as a member of the Coding and Nomenclature Committee. From that point, I have become increasingly involved.

What prompted you to get involved with the ACC at the national level? 

JD: After attending meetings, reading ACC publications and meeting active ACC members, I became very interested in having the opportunity to be involved and make an impact at the national level. 

RP: For me, it is extremely important to understand cardiology from an academic, practice and societal standpoint. The ACC seemed to provide the most balanced perspective for a clinician, incorporating practitioners from all parts of cardiology, rather than focused within a subspecialty. Active participation in the ACC has provided tremendous educational value for me through participation in writing groups, authoring chapters for ACC’s Cath- Self Assessment Program SAP, and learning and presenting at the annual scientific sessions. Participation at the national level has clearly broadened my clinical perspective and forced me to constantly update my knowledge base. From an academic standpoint, the ACC has allow me to leverage off of its tremendous resources. Collaborating with other leaders from around the country through the publication and steering committees within the CathPCI Registry has highlighted many areas of potential research within our own institution. This has been extremely gratifying. Similarly, working on the Interventional Council has provided unique insights into challenges and opportunities for interventional cardiologists from the academic and practice perspectives. 

Collaborating with others at a national level has allowed me to understand many of the other factors exerting tremendous influence on the practice of medicine today. For example, the Coding Task Force has exposed me to leaders from around the country with expertise in many business aspects of medicine. Moving beyond one’s own institution affords a very different perspective on how physicians might approach career decisions, negotiations with hospitals and how we might practice medicine both more effectively and more efficiently.

Can you briefly state the purpose or mission statement of your particular council?

JD: The mission of the ACC Cardiovascular Training Member Section and Leadership Council is to facilitate the training of the future cardiovascular workforce and to serve as a resource for salient issues in the profession.


  1. Coding Task Force: Develop CPT codes to describe work done by physicians and work to obtain approval of these codes by the AMA CPT editorial panel. While this sounds mundane at one level, without such codes, physician work is not reportable. Hospitals, industry, practice managers, physicians, insurance providers and the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services all utilize these codes. This work interacts directly with many propose changes to healthcare reimbursement strategies, and therefore provides unique insights into the future practice of medicine.
  2. Interventional Council: The steering committee works on a multitude of issues with direct impact on interventional cardiologists. We have worked on advocacy, publications and education.
  3. CathPCI NCDR Publications Committee: This is a very invigorating group focused on developing research questions from within the database to facilitate publications. It is particularly satisfying that those leading this group have worked extremely diligently to involve many members of the ACC including FITs. This can be extremely helpful to fellows looking for publishing opportunities.
  4. ACCF Task Force on Clinical Expert Consensus Documents: The development of clinical expert consensus documents

How were you steered towards your particular area of service within the college? 

JD: Much of my non-clinical time has been geared towards medical education. This interest has guided my involvement within the College, leading to involvement in educational initiatives ranging from training to faculty development. 

RP: Dr. Friesinger was instrumental in fostering my commitment and enthusiasm for the College. Ken Brin, MD, MACC, and James Blankeship, MD, served as a tremendous mentor on the Coding Task Force. John Messenger, MD, FACC, provided outstanding leadership on the Publications Committee.

What opportunities are available to FITs on these national committees?

JD: Involvement from FITs is extremely important for the work of the College sections and councils. Fellows provide a unique and key perspective on issues pertinent to the goals of the College, and they have the opportunity to shape the views and the effectiveness of national initiatives. 

RP: The ACC is extremely interested in fostering active participation by FITs.  Many groups try to reserve positions for fellows. Those with sincere interest in committing to work in a specific area should ask your mentors to advocate on their behalf through a letter of support. Once involved, fellows should demonstrate commitment and enthusiasm. They will derive great benefit from their participation, and their participation will be recognized. Further opportunities will then follow.

What insights would serving on a national council provide FITs?  

JD: Serving on a national committee allows exposure to and understanding of perspectives from different practitioners, specialties, institutions, and areas of the world. It provides the opportunity to share ideas and contribute to programs that shape experiences for members of the College as well as cardiovascular care providers more broadly.

RP: Serving on national councils will provide fellows with a much broader perspective on all aspects of the current day practice of cardiology as well as enhance Fellows knowledge base. 

Questions for Dr. Damp:

The recommendations of the Sections on Cardiovascular Training have a significant impact on FITs through its work on medical education – how important is it to have input from those being trained?  FITs provide the most current and real perspective on what cardiovascular training is and how well it is preparing them for practice. Their unique insights into their needs is a critical component to the goals of the Section.

Can you talk about the Educational Research Consortium and the emergence of ‘evidence-based’ graduate medical education?  

Evidence based medical education has a rapidly expanding literature. It is important that cardiovascular medicine educators and trainees keep pace with the best practices that emerge from this literature as well as contribute to our understanding of how to best train specialists in our rapidly changing health care environment.

One of the goals of the section is, “Bringing together stakeholders (including providers, teachers, and learners) involved in the training of the future CV health care workforce.” Are there any particular initiatives the section is working on involving FITs that you would like to share with us? The Section has developed working groups to focus on issues such as education innovation and research, recruitment and diversity, and resources for training programs. The initiatives will benefit greatly from FIT engagement and will hopefully have a positive long term impact on FITs’ learning and experiences.

Do you have any particular advice for FITs who are interested in medical education as part of their career path?  As I developed my interests in medical education, it was very helpful to look for opportunities to learn about foundational concepts in medical education and to implement these concepts in my practice. Finding mentorship from medical educators is very important, as it is in all aspects of career development.  

This article was authored by Benjamin Holmes, MD, a Fellow in Training (FIT) at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

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