How to Get Involved With Your State Chapter
Now that half the academic year is over and you may have figured out work-life-sleep balance, the next thing on your checklist is to learn more about how you can get involved with other cardiology endeavors, right? Consider joining your local ACC chapter!
My experience with the state chapter of ACC. Why and when did I join?
A state chapter of the ACC aims to transform cardiovascular care and improve health in the local community. I was introduced to the Louisiana chapter of the ACC (LA-ACC) as a medical student while presenting a research poster at LA-ACC's annual meeting. Since then, my involvement as a resident and fellow has offered opportunities to help in local and national meetings, meet incredible co-fellows and mentors, be part of the change to advocate for patients, and have an opportunity to pay it forward in recruiting the next generation of cardiologists! Here are some ways in which FITs benefit from joining their local state chapter:
Attend meetings at the local and national level
Participating in ACC meetings offers FITs an opportunity to share research to compete for prizes, receive feedback from experts in the field and potentially collaborate amongst institutions. It also offers an opportunity to network with colleagues from across the state, meet program directors of various subspecialties and converse with physicians in different models of practice to find a job that fits your priorities.
For women in cardiology (WIC), it's a fantastic avenue to meet other WICs, discuss gender disparities and share strategies on how to manage conflict in the workplace. WIC of the LA-ACC chapter had the unique opportunity to participate in the Southeast Women's Council in Fairhope, AL where female FITs and attendings from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee met to discuss "does the perfect mom, wife and physician really exist?" Attendees shared career advice for sub specialization, discussed how to negotiate a contract, how to deal with burnout, strategize financial planning, and juggle personal and professional responsibilities. Led by Mary Norine Walsh, MD, MACC, and Toniya Singh, MBBS, FACC, FITs were guided on how to tailor their journeys to be the cardiologists they want to be.
In addition to networking, conferences can be a great venue to discuss new literature and test clinical knowledge in FIT jeopardy. FITs from each institution can compete at the state level to win the opportunity to represent their state at the ACC's Annual Scientific Session. Winners receive cash money, prizes and most importantly the recognition of being masters of cardiology!
Be part of the change
At local state council meetings, an FIT can learn how the ACC functions at the local level, access a platform to exchange ideas for improvement and advocate for training resources. For example, at the last council meeting, we brainstormed how to involve more members of the greater Louisiana area via regional (now virtual) meetings and involve more FITs in the chapter. In 2020, LA-ACC reecognized a need to help prepare first year fellows for call and launched a 2-day virtual extravaganza called the FIT Bootcamp. It was a unique session led by program directors across the state, covering a range of topics including hemodynamics, basics of echocardiography, ventricular tachyarrhythmias, how to interrogate pacemakers and activate the cath lab at their respective institutions.
FITs can influence policy making by participating in the annual ACC Legislative Conference. In October 2020, I was amongst many FITs who were mentored by leaders within the ACC on policies affecting health care and how sharing our personal experiences can help legislators gain perspective for taking care of patients. I advocated for extending coverage of telehealth services under Medicare for at least 90 days past the COVID Public Health Emergency Act because telehealth has offered many patients access to health care who otherwise would not physically be able to come to clinic. Other topics included increasing access to cardiac rehab, promoting clinician well-being by providing liability protection during a declared emergency and streamlining process of prior authorizations to provide resources for flexible spending amidst COVID-19. Although the meeting was via Zoom and we missed the opportunity to go to Capitol Hill this year, the experience was still a powerful reminder of our value as a physician to advocate for our patients outside the hospital.
Pay it forward
In addition to personal professional growth, the ACC offers many opportunities to mentor the next generation of cardiologists. When LA-ACC received the Young Scholars Grant, 20 talented and aspirational high school and freshman/sophomore college students were chosen to pair with FITs, visit our hospital and see the different aspects of clinical cardiology. In addition, they were asked to identify a research question and work with fellows and attendings to design a simple project and present their findings at the ACC's Annual Scientific Session. Exposing this eager and ambitious group of students to cardiology encourages the next generation to pursue careers in science and medicine, and also rejuvenates my gratitude for my journey so far.
Additional grant opportunities exist within the ACC to raise awareness about cardiovascular health in your local community. Members of the LA-ACC are using the 2020 Women in Cardiology grant to raise awareness among girls aged 9-11 years about hypertension and its complications. This unique initiative aims to educate the community through girls, who often become the primary health care advocates in their current and future homes. Called Teach a Girl: Blood Pressure (TAG:BP), it aims to empower the next generation of women to recognize risk factors for cardiovascular disease and take preventative measures in collaboration with the WIC section of the ACC, Heart N Hands (https://www.heartnhands.org/), Girl Scouts, fellows, residents and medical student volunteers.
Above all, engaging in your local ACC chapter offers opportunities to seek mentorship by leaders within your state. The influence in my personal and professional growth of the former president of LA-ACC, Sangeeta Shah, MD, FACC, has been an invaluable part of my journey this far. I only hope to pay it forward by inspiring such enthusiasm in other FITs and future cardiologists!
With such an assortment of activities, participating in LA-ACC has been a fulfilling experience that continues to enhance my professional growth outside of work and provides a meaningful way to contribute to cardiovascular medicine. Find out more about how you can get involved in your local state chapter.
This article was authored by Tripti Gupta, MD, cardiology FIT at Ochsner Clinical Foundation. Twitter: @T_GuptaMD