Extended Feature Interview | Get to Know ACC President Richard J. Kovacs, MD, FACC

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Today, Richard J. Kovacs, MD, FACC, became the ACC's newest president – leading the College as it celebrates its 70th Anniversary and embarks on the first year of its new Strategic Plan.

In addition to serving as ACC president, Kovacs is the Q.E. and Sally Russell Professor of Cardiology at Indiana University (IU) School of Medicine and the cardiology service line leader of IU Health. He also serves as the clinical director of the Krannert Institute of Cardiology, joining a long line of ACC presidents also from Krannert.

Cardiology talked with Kovacs about the year ahead, his path to the presidency and what he does in his spare time when not seeing patients and representing the cardiovascular profession around the world.

What are the biggest opportunities for the ACC over the next year?

Getting the first year of our new strategic plan off to a great start and aligning with staff, the Board of Trustees around the plan and our key priorities is arguably the biggest opportunity in the year ahead.

We will also be looking to identify and leverage new opportunities afforded by our recent acquisition of MedAxiom and focusing on how to further our work on diversity and inclusion, health equity and leadership development.

I'm also personally interested in ways we can make the most out of the new ACC/AHA primary prevention guideline to better prevent heart disease before it starts.

What do you believe will be some of the biggest challenges?

The loss of the mandate for using the NCDR ICD Registry and continuing to demonstrate the importance of registry participation is one of the biggest challenges. Registry participation is vital to identifying gaps in care at both the institutional and practice level, as well as more broadly. It can also be used for research and to measure progress in meeting guideline-based care, as well as to proactively protect against allegations of inappropriate care or mis-use.

Other challenges include keeping pace with all that is going on in the field of cardiology – from new technologies and treatments to changing health care policies. Finding ways to engage the youngest members in all aspects of the College and encouraging them to make the ACC their professional home is also of paramount importance.

What are you looking forward to most as ACC president?

Being the spokesperson for the College is an awesome responsibility. I'm looking forward to meeting new colleagues around the world and carrying on the traditions of the College … and maybe even starting some new ones.

Why did you become a cardiologist?

I became a cardiologist because I liked working with "electrical stuff" and I liked complicated problems. When I was in medical school and throughout my residency, I thought the cardiologists I worked with were the most interesting doctors.

Hobbies? Little known facts?

As far as hobbies, I do most of the repairs around my house, including plumbing, electrical work and painting. Given that it's almost 100 years old, there's always something to do.

Little known facts? ACC Past President Charles Fisch, MD, MACC, left me his extensive collection of classic ECGS. Someday I hope to re-use them to teach timeless principles of electrocardiography.

Over the course of your path to ACC President, what was your most memorable milestones? Most memorable mentors?

Being elected chair of the Board of Governors was probably the most important milestone on my path to president. That position is so important to the members in each and every chapter across the U.S. I still remember the thrill of addressing the BOG for the first time as its chair.

In terms of mentors, I have had the privilege to work directly with five inspiring and unique ACC presidents in my own practice (Fisch, Suzanne B. Knoebel, MD, MACC; Borys Surawicz, MD, MACC; John F. Williams Jr., MD, MACC, and Douglas P. Zipes, MD, MACC).

Being active in the ACC was an expectation – from Fisch and every Krannert leader since. In addition, Thad F. Waites, MD, MACC, has taught me so much about how to represent cardiology as a high calling, and has remained a dear friend and constant source of support through thick and thin.

Favorite ACC moment?

When Rick Chazal, MD, MACC, called to tell me I had been selected as Vice President – that has to be my favorite ACC moment. He was a fellow at IU when I was an intern and taught me a lot about how to be a colleague. Having him be the one to call from the Nominating Committee reminded me that we are all so connected and have a lifelong bond.

Your mom and your wife play important roles in your life. What would you say has been their best advice?

My Mom's best advice was not words, but how to live – to be humble, to take care of your family and to treat everyone with respect regardless of their position. My wife Roxanne's best advice is to not try and do everything – but I don't always follow that advice.

You are a big sports fan; any sports analogy advice for new ACC members?

For new ACC members: "You are in the big leagues now!" We are one team and are better because of the talents each member brings to the College. Don't stand on the sidelines.

Keywords: ACC Publications, Cardiology Magazine, Internship and Residency, Schools, Medical, Universities, Anniversaries and Special Events, Trustees, Mentors, Leadership, Friends, Fellowships and Scholarships, Research, Electrocardiography, Heart Diseases, Registries, Primary Prevention, Sports

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