New FIT and EC Section Chairs Share Plans For Fostering Engagement and Leadership

Cardiology sat down with Shashank Sinha, MD, a fellow in the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Michigan and chair of the Fellows in Training (FIT) Section Leadership Council, and Anthony Hilliard, MD, FACC, assistant professor of medicine at Loma Linda University School of Medicine, cardiac catheterization lab medical director at the Loma Linda Medical Center in the Division of Cardiology, and chair of the Early Career (EC) Section, to discuss their paths to leadership, their plans for the sections, and advice for FIT and EC members looking to get involved.

Shashank Sinha, MD
Shashank Sinha, MD
Anthony Hilliard, MD, FACC
Anthony Hilliard, MD, FACC

Q: What drew you to the leadership role as chair of your respective Section?

Shashank Sinha, MD: The ACC is the premier professional home for cardiologists and, as such, is truly unique among professional cardiovascular societies in the extraordinary opportunities it endows FITs. I consider myself very fortunate to have been selected as a member of the FIT Section Leadership Council and to succeed Michael W. Cullen, MD, as its chair for 2015-2016. The College has deeply invested in FITs through mentorship opportunities, leadership development, and research and travel awards.

Anthony Hilliard, MD, FACC: For me, the role as chair of the EC Section presents the opportunity to be actively engaged in an organization that is rooted in advocacy for quality and the commitment to improve patient care.

Q: How do you plan to guide your Section? Do you see areas for improvement or advancements that you’d like to pursue?

Sinha: The FIT Section’s objective is to foster FIT engagement and active participation within the College. To that end, I would like to promote and expand leadership, mentorship and networking opportunities for FITs. I also hope to collaborate closely with other sections – including the EC Section and the Women in Cardiology Section – on various initiatives of mutual interest. The intent is to have FIT representation in every section within the College, and I am thrilled that FIT positions have been created within the past year for the ACCPAC Board and the Imaging and Surgery Councils. I would also like to strongly encourage FIT involvement at the Chapter level.

Hilliard: I plan to continue to foster opportunities for EC members to get involved within the ACC and have their voices heard – whether that is through leadership positions, contributing to publications and/or working on key advocacy issues. I would also like to enhance collaboration across all of the College’s Member Sections and across Chapters, in order to engage other members.

Q: What value do you hope FITs and EC members receive from Section membership?

Sinha: I hope all FITs discover their passion – whether it is research, leadership or advocacy – within the College. The most important thing is to get involved. I appreciate the crucial importance of mentorship in promoting personal and professional success. I strongly believe that all FITs should sign up for the ACC’s Mentoring Program, an important initiative of the EC Section.

Hilliard: In terms of EC members, I believe that our demographic has the most to gain from the College. As such, I want our membership to know that they are encouraged to have loud voices and bold ideas, and I hope they find meaning in the present as we lay the foundation for the future.

Q: At this point in their careers, what do you think FITs and EC members should focus on? What kind of challenges do they face?

Sinha: Cardiology is a dynamic discipline that changes rapidly. Not surprisingly, our training needs must constantly adapt to meet the new educational requirements necessary to maintain public trust in the delivery of timely, safe and high-quality cardiovascular care. The recent changes to the Core Cardiovascular Training Statement (COCATS 4) should lead to a more nuanced training experience for FITs and also achieve greater satisfaction – for patients, trainees and faculty alike.

Perhaps the most pressing challenge for FITs is how to prepare effectively for an evolving cardiovascular workforce. Depending on available resources, facilities, trainee skills and aspirations, COCATS 4 now empowers FITs with the flexibility to customize their clinical rotations and educational opportunities.

Hilliard:  As EC members, we are establishing our career goals and determining the trajectory of our careers. As we transition from FITs to EC professionals, we must learn how to evolve from a learner to a leader.

Q: How has membership in your Section impacted your career?

Sinha:The experience thus far has been incredible. It has been my distinct pleasure and privilege to serve as a member, and now chair, of the FIT Section Leadership Council. My experience has convinced me that cardiology is truly a small community – our robust ACC membership of nearly 50,000 members notwithstanding. It is great to be a part of this extraordinary organization with a shared mission and purpose.  

Hilliard:  I have been impacted in several tangible ways, including through participation in the EC mentorship program, advocacy initiatives and attending Leadership Forum, to the free-flowing conversations on the EC Facebook page and the EC newsletter. I have also been an EC representative on several of the College’s committees and have benefitted from EC programming at the ACC’s Annual Scientific Session, and indirectly through the ACC Presidential Research awards – dedicated to supporting the research of early careers – the grant funding database and academic working groups.

Q: What is the best advice you’ve received thus far in your career?

Sinha: Perhaps the sagest advice comes from my clinic preceptor and faculty mentor at the University of Michigan, Kim Eagle, MD, MACC, editor-in-chief of It is difficult to summarize his wisdom to an adage or two, so here are five points I’d like to share: work hard to find your passion; don’t be afraid to seek out multiple mentors; find your professional home (i.e. the ACC), as it can serve as a valuable asset during your career; achieving work-life balance demands considerable daily prioritization; and every challenge is an opportunity in disguise. Embrace the challenges that lie ahead!

Hilliard: The best advice I’ve received thus far is that the wisdom of life consists in the elimination of the non-essentials and to focus only on the things that matter.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Sinha: I strongly encourage all FITs to become actively involved in the ACC, whether at the Chapter or national level. I welcome your contribution to any of our various working groups and participation in any opportunities that emerge throughout the year. I invite your candid comments and suggestions on how the FIT Section Leadership Council can best serve you throughout your training and career. Email me at

Hilliard: I also encourage all EC members to reach out to me with any ideas, opportunities or concerns. Email me at anytime. I hope that EC members engage in events within the Section but also within the ACC.

Keywords: Cardiology Magazine, ACC Publications, Awards and Prizes, Cardiac Catheterization, Cooperative Behavior, Demography, Leadership, Loma, Mentors, Patient Care, Physician Executives

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