Get to Know New ACC President Athena Poppas, MD, FACC
Today, Athena Poppas, MD, FACC, will become ACC's newest president – leading the College during its critical second year of the 2019-2023 Strategic Plan implementation and during a time of continuous improvement, innovation and change in the field of cardiovascular medicine and at the ACC.
In addition to serving as ACC president, Poppas is chief of cardiology and professor of medicine at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University and director of the Lifespan Cardiovascular Institute of Rhode Island, Miriam Hospitals and Newport Hospitals.
Learn more about Poppas' focus for the year ahead.
How would you describe your leadership style?
Others have described my style as one of "servant leadership." To me, this means that my job is to serve our members and the College – not only in my role as president this year, but it is the philosophy I subscribe to follow in all leadership roles. It's my hope that I'm both a collaborative leader and a consensus builder, and I hope to be an advocate for positive change.
In addition to continuing to move forward with implementation of ACC's Strategic Plan, what areas of positive change are you focused on?
There are a few areas I want to highlight – and all are highly connected to our Strategic Plan. First, when it comes to our continued and expanded focus on diversity and inclusion, I want to be sure we're emphasizing not just who we are or want to become, but how we approach the issues that affect our members and their patients. Topics like health equity and social justice feed into this and I want to be sure my year as president is spent as a change agent to truly make our profession, and the world of health care, a better place.
Second, it is imperative that we continue the drumbeat around improving clinician well-being. We spend so much time taking care of others as cardiovascular professionals, but we must take care of and advocate for ourselves and our well-being. The ACC is here to help our members do this. This is especially true in the current practice environment of large health systems.
Finally, when you think of ACC, you likely think about great education, science and quality. I want to ensure we continue on a path of linking those together and using our core strength to reach more people, on a more global level, to ensure knowledge and tools are at their fingertips to make impactful change in cardiovascular care and patient's outcomes.
- ACC Member Since: 1997
- Alma Maters: Brown University, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and University of Chicago
- Previous ACC Leadership Roles: ACC.15 Annual Scientific Session Chair, ACC Governance Committee Chair, Women in Cardiology Section Leadership Council Chair, Section Steering Committee Chair, Rhode Island ACC Chapter President/Governor, and more!
- Professional Clinical Focus: Valvular heart disease and women with heart disease during pregnancy, with research focus on echocardiography and heart disease in women and the elderly
- Favorite Hobbies: Cooking, spending time outdoors (hiking, kayaking), and meeting up with friends to exercise (running, yoga, cross-training)
- Favorite Hometown Restaurant: Persimmon in Providence, RI – she is a regular and refers to it as her and her husband Philip's "around the corner 'Cheers' spot"
- Favorite places visited? Rhode Island Chapter Meeting (draws all cardiologists in the state and is a mini-reunion annually); Pan-African Cardiology Meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa (inspiring example of committed professionals in low-resource areas using creative modes to achieve good health care outcome); and NCD Meeting in Dubai (important public health gathering leveraging innovation and knowledge transfer to combat NCDs)
What are you most looking forward to as president?
I'm truly looking forward to meeting and working with more of our incredible ACC members this year both domestically and around the world. I look forward to learning about our member's needs and the aspects of what we do as an organization.
I'm also looking forward to continuing to strengthen how we function as an organization – working to expand engagement opportunities on a large scale and also on a smaller scale through efforts like micro-volunteering. The possibilities expand when we have engaged members ready to work toward meeting our Mission!
How did involvement in your local ACC Chapter help you grow as a leader? In addition to leadership growth, what are some important ways that Chapter involvement complements larger ACC activities?
Chapter involvement really inspired me and showed me that all politics truly are local. Through grassroots involvement, I learned how to advocate for positive change with insurers, health systems and legislators and I also met people in other fields which expanded my thinking.
For me, Chapter involvement is one of the cornerstones of who we are and what sets us apart as an organization. Making connections in your local environment teaches you how to function well where you are geographically or within an institution. Once you have that knowledge, background and connections, national involvement can help you see beyond where you are.
From BOG to BOT to ACC Annual Scientific Session Chair, what have been a few of your favorite memories and/or lessons learned?
One of the highlights for me was being the chair of ACC's Annual Scientific Session. I'm very passionate about education and our next generation of cardiologists, so it tied closely to my interests and skills, but it also provided a unique opportunity to meet many engaged learners, educators and scientists.
Through that experience, I learned to navigate diplomatic challenges – as well as what it takes to implement such a large-scale event. The Annual Scientific Session is a big stage – literally and figuratively – and the experience will stay with me.
How do you find balance as a mom, wife, physician and an ACC leader?
This is always a bit of a struggle, more of a constant up and down, and back and forth – a "teeter-totter" – may be a better descriptor or visual. Throughout my career, there have been times when I was more focused on being a mother or a wife, and times when my career or time with the ACC took on more weight.
Things changed their weight and scope over the last 25 years. Some days I can exercise, some days I have time to cook for my family, other days I'm traveling and cannot do either. I've come to an acceptance and understanding over time that the path is not linear and the give and take of responsibilities are variable, and that I and others need to remain open and flexible.
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