ACC Presidential Year in Review: Patrick T. O'Gara, MD, FACC

Reflecting upon his year as ACC President, Patrick T. O’Gara, MD, FACC, shares his top presidential priorities and how they have influenced the ACC, as well as his hopes for the future and advice for current and emerging leaders in the field of cardiovascular medicine and care.

What were the top priorities for your presidency?

Patrick O’Gara After I took office at the close of Convocation at ACC.14 in Washington, DC, I embarked on a year-long mission to try to make an impact at the College. I set out to establish a culture of ideas to meet our mission of advancing cardiovascular care and promoting heart health – be it through actual implementation of our multi-dimensional Strategic Plan, finding ways to offer continued research funding for fellows in training (FITs) and early career cardiologists, and identifying new ways to showcase the value of ACC membership.

I also wanted to lay the foundation for the ACC’s work to continue seamlessly across leadership changeover, rather than focus on a personal agenda. Knowing the importance of the next generation of cardiovascular professionals and leaders, I prioritized promoting FITs and early career professional initiatives, including those related to research, education and practice advancement. Uniting our relationships with domestic and international societies was also a priority.

It was also important for me to create substantive opportunities for those wishing to participate in College affairs, whether through mentoring programs or simply establishing the expectation that we as leaders need to promote change in the composition of our work groups and committees.

One of the most critical issues for membership this past year surrounded the American Board of Internal Medicine’s (ABIM’s) Maintenance of Certification (MOC) and this occupied a large portion of my time as president. It required strategic prioritization with the Board of Trustees (BOT), forceful advocacy, and collaborative approaches with other organizations, which continue to this day.

What do you describe as the College’s greatest strengths over the past year?

Accomplishments that stand out to me as strengths of the College this past year include: the success of the ACC’s NCDR, the arrival of a new editor-in-chief for the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC), the launch of ACC’s new online professional home,; the many issues engaged by our Advocacy team; the emphasis on personalized learning; and improved communication among our leadership groups.

NCDR continues to grow and thrive. This past year we launched two new registries – the PVI Registry and the Diabetes Collaborative Registry. We also expanded the reach of NCDR to include additional hospitals around the world. This past year we also saw increasing involvement and interest in the PINNACLE Registry, particularly as a vehicle for helping practices easily participate in the Physician Quality Report System. NCDR registries were also sources for valuable, published research featured in peer-reviewed journals and at cardiovascular meetings around the globe.

The first issue of JACC under the leadership of Editor-in-Chief Valentin Fuster, MD, PhD, MACC, debuted in July 2014. Fuster initiated some exciting changes to the publication from the onset. Designed to better meet the changing ways cardiovascular professionals access medical literature, JACC now includes new central illustrations summarizing the overarching theme or major section of key papers, as well as perspective summaries; audio recordings are available as podcasts of the issue highlights; and commentary and perspectives from College leaders and FITs appear regularly. Fuster’s changes have helped JACC maintain its spot as the top cardiovascular journal in the world.

This year, the ACC launched its new website,, under the leadership of Kim A. Eagle, MD, MACC. The new site, which replaced, offers enhanced features and design requested by ACC members. It provides faster, more complete access to the College’s scientific and educational content and practice management tools, and is built around the idea of offering members a personalized online experience.

Our member and staff advocacy teams identified several issues at the national and local level for which the ACC’s input and direction were critical, ranging from threats to shared decision-making to funding for Graduate Medical Education. The College worked quickly to make MOC modules available for free and established help lines for our members to navigate the process. Partnering with the Board of Governors (BOG) in the approach to member needs was a constant priority. Additionally, the College continued its implementation of the five-year Strategic Plan with consistent progress in the last year. In 2014, the ACC completed 90 percent of the initiatives specifically outlined by the plan and met or exceeded over 85 percent of the targets established for the year.

Could you share with us one of your favorite moments from the past year?

The House Energy and Commerce Committee last July brought together key players in health care for an open discussion about the advancements in and barriers to personalized medicine and its role in improving patient care moving forward. It was an honor to participate on behalf of the ACC in a panel discussion regarding obstacles to the delivery of precision medicine in the 21st century. During the congressional roundtable, I underscored that shared decision-making between clinicians and patients is essential to the successful development and application of personalized medicine, and also called for harmonization across regulatory agencies; funding for information technology and science; and proper reimbursement for diagnostic tests and patient/family counseling. It was a memorable experience to participate in that forum and openly discuss this important topic that will no doubt impact ACC members and cardiovascular patients in the future.

What would you like your legacy as ACC President to be?

Perhaps the year will be remembered for the impact of the MOC process on our members. I hope, though, that it is also a year that will be remembered for creating an environment that is inclusive of ideas and for innovation. The College has made significant strides in areas of science, quality, education and research, and has developed an agenda for population and public health. This past year, we’ve engaged with external organizations, like the ABIM, more intensely than ever before, on behalf of members and patients, and we have strengthened our relationships with many other organizations such as the American Heart Association (AHA), the European Society of Cardiology, The Society for Thoracic Surgeons, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, Heart Rhythm Society and others. We’ve also begun the work of modernizing our guidelines, in partnership with AHA, making them more easily accessible and user-friendly. Finally, I hope that our accomplishments this past year open pathways for the future leaders of the ACC, who are poised to take on important challenges to benefit our members, and most importantly, our patients.

What issues and innovations have you focused on that you hope will continue to be important to the College’s growth?

To continue its path of excellence and growth, it is my hope that the ACC will continue to expand the reach of our registries not only geographically, but to other areas of cardiovascular care. Furthermore, we must continue to seek funding sources for research to support the training and development of young cardiovascular investigators. This past year, members received over $350,000 in research awards from the ACC. The College’s commitment to research is imperative to the health of our patients and future generations. By placing a sustained emphasis on FITs and early career members, the College will continue to invest in that future. We must continue to push the envelope in ways that forward our Strategic Plan – ensuring that what we create works for our members and their patients. It will be critical for the ACC to continue to engage discussions regarding the future of certification and recertification for cardiovascular specialists.

What advice do you have for future ACC leaders?

The College is fortunate to have a strong slate of incoming leaders, and our emerging leaders in the FIT and early career groups are unparalleled in their professionalism, engagement and enthusiasm. That being said, I do have a few words of advice to pass along after a year at the helm: 1) communicate often and as clearly as possible; 2) respect differing opinions when confronted by new or challenging issues; 3) be consistent in words and actions; 4) defer to the BOT, as its members are the stewards of the organization; 5) involve members, sections, and councils whenever possible in decision-making; and 6) always work closely and in tandem with the College’s state leaders – the BOG. At the culmination of my speech upon taking the presidency at ACC.14, I said that we should do our best to recall the sense of altruism that brought each of us to this profession in the first place. In doing so as ACC leaders, we should endeavor to lead more from the heart, because our future and that of our patients depends on it.

Keywords: ACC Publications, Cardiology Magazine, ACC Annual Scientific Session

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