Women, Innovation, Advocacy and Leadership Take Center Stage at ACC.18 Opening Showcase Session

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ACC President Mary Norine Walsh, MD, FACC, welcomed thousands of cardiovascular professionals from around the world to ACC.18 in Orlando as part of the Opening Showcase Session yesterday.

The College’s 67th Annual Scientific Session promises to be better than ever, Walsh said. She noted the hundreds of leaders, staff, cardiovascular society partners, industry sponsors and other stakeholders involved in the planning and implementation of the meeting.

In addition to Walsh, “Guitar-diologist” Susanne Brown Sacks, MD, led attendees in a moving rendition of the National Anthem. When Brown Sacks is not treating patients, she is touring with her guitar – a living example of work-life balance, according to Walsh.

Attendees also took a moment of silence to honor the life and contributions of former ACC President Leonard S. Dreifus, MD, MACC, who passed away last year. Both Dreifus and his wife Seline are known for their philanthropic efforts in Orlando and for their donation of the “Man Helping Man” statue that welcomes visitors to ACC’s Heart House in Washington, DC.

Walsh’s presidential address focused on her father’s heart disease experience and the importance of advocacy in cardiovascular care. “Everyone needs an advocate,” she said, noting that without her efforts in “agitating the system” on behalf of her father, the outcome might have been different.

Walsh highlighted three ways attendees can advocate each day, with the most obvious being advocacy on behalf of patients. “Our ACC Core Values now explicitly call out that we be patient-centered,” she said. “We are the future of cardiovascular health care and the protectors of our patients.”

With the practice of medicine sometimes feeling like “death by a thousand cuts,” Walsh also stressed the need for cardiovascular professionals to advocate for each other to prevent burnout, encourage diversity in the profession, improve team care, and more.

A third way to advocate, is to “be quality and professional leaders nationally and at our own institutions,” she said. “We are lucky in cardiology. We have reams of quality data to back us up. We have more randomized controlled trials and guidelines than any other field of medicine and our registries, including the NCDR suite of registries, allow us to track real world data that we can use in quality improvement … We can advocate for quality by using data to innovate.”

Walsh closed by challenging attendees when they returned to work on Tuesday morning, enriched by the new science and technology, practice development, and networking at this fantastic meeting, to continue to advocate and surmount barriers. “Let’s not take no for an answer,” she said. “Let’s take care of each other. Let’s advocate.”

Following her address, Walsh welcomed renowned cardiovascular legend and pioneer for women’s cardiovascular health, Nanette Kass Wenger, MD, MACC, as the 2018 Simon Dack Keynote. Wenger provided an overview of how far the profession has come over the last several decades in shifting the paradigm that heart disease affects only men.

Despite the gains, however, Wenger highlighted the importance of continued research and a focus on women’s health beyond what she termed “bikini medicine.” “It’s been said that pregnancy is the first stress test that a woman undergoes,” she said.

Wenger stressed the need to expand participation of women in clinical trials and called for cardiovascular journals to report outcomes of trials for men and women separately. Based on the Cochrane Reviews of 258 cardiovascular trials, only a third examined outcomes by sex, she said. She also noted only 25 percent of clinical trial participants are women.

Wenger closed by calling for continued innovation, education and advocacy on behalf of women. “Heart disease used to be considered a man’s disease,” she said. “Thankfully that mindset has changed.”

Keywords: ACC Publications, ACC Scientific Session Newspaper, ACC Annual Scientific Session

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