FITs Leading FITs: Interview With Aaron A. H. Smith, MD

In this segment of our series highlighting ACC state chapter engagement, I talked to Aaron A. H. Smith, MD, about his path to ACC and his recent work with FITs from across the nation. Smith is a third-year cardiology fellow and a chief fellow of education at the Medical College of Wisconsin, where he is staying for an additional year of fellowship in advanced cardiovascular imaging.

How did you become involved with the ACC?

I was looking for opportunities to get more involved with extracurricular activities after my first year of fellowship. Nicole Lohr, MD, PhD, FACC, who is currently the Wisconsin ACC Governor and Board of Governors-elect, was my continuity clinic preceptor at the time and suggested I investigate opportunities through the College. I decided to apply for the FIT Leadership Council and was selected in April. Since then, I have been carrying out my two-year term and getting involved with several FIT-based initiatives. Aside from my role on the council, I am also very involved with my own state chapter.

Why should FITs get involved?

There are many benefits to becoming more active within the ACC. As cardiologists, the ACC is our professional home. There are several clinical and non-clinical areas for FITs to get involved, from volunteering to mentoring medical students and residents to advocating for our patients at ACC's annual Legislative Conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The ACC provides countless educational offerings, as well as opportunities for networking and professional development. The ACC also prioritizes cardiology fellows and taking advantage of what the ACC has to offer can have a huge impact on your career, even at this early stage.

What is your goal as an FIT leader?

My overall goal is to help make our leadership council's initiatives, events, and activities be as successful as possible. For example, through one of our initiatives we developed a webinar/symposium for cardiology chief fellows (learn more here) to provide them with leadership skills training and practical tips for navigating challenges. I have been very active in our Cardiology Applicant Mentorship (CAM) program, where each year we pair up cardiology fellowship applicants with current cardiology fellows to provide applicants with mentorship on their applications as well as provide mock interviews prior to interview season. This year we had over 400 applicants! I have also been working to improve networking and communication between ACC FIT state chapter representatives and started a WhatsApp group for the state chapter reps to help facilitate this. I feel that this traditionally less formal method of communication has been more effective than sending a plethora of emails back and forth. Using this WhatsApp group as a launch-point, I hosted a virtual meeting where FITs from different chapters highlighted activities that they have been involved with in their respective states. This not only provided recognition for achievements, but also helped facilitate ideas for future endeavors and provided opportunities for inter-state collaboration.

Most recently, on our WhatsApp group we have been sharing virtual learning opportunities and events sponsored by our respective ACC state chapters. It is amazing to see all the different state chapters events, and as a fellow it's a privilege to learn from people from across the country with whom I would not have had the chance to learn from or connect with otherwise. Some examples of these activities include the Iowa Chapter Advanced Imaging Education Series, the New York Chapter Shark Tank Activity, and the Wisconsin Chapter's Adult Congenital Heart Disease Education Webinar coming up in February.

In summary, there are many opportunities and benefits to getting involved with ACC as an FIT. Get involved with your local chapter, keep an eye out for applications to become a FIT leader and reach out to faculty mentors involved with the ACC for guidance and support.

Be inspired by state chapters that have been highlighted in the past such as New York, California, Texas and learn more about how to get involved with your local state chapter here.

Abdullah Sarkar, MD

This interview was conducted by Abdullah Sarkar, MD, an FIT at Cleveland Clinic Florida. Twitter: @ASarkarMD.

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