Author + information
- Michael J. Wolk, MD, FACC, President, American College of Cardiology*
- ↵*Address correspondence to:
Michael J. Wolk, MD, FACC, 520 East 72nd Street, New York, New York 10021
Heart House is on the move. After more than three years of study, site visits, surveys, and negotiations, the American College of Cardiology (ACC) will have a new home in the first quarter of 2006 at 2400 N Street NW in Washington, DC. This is a momentous decision involving more than 250 stakeholders and meticulous planning. It has spanned audiences from members to mayors, and it has deliberately worked to proactively address concerns from all quarters. The reasons for such a massive effort can be condensed into three small but mighty words: Bigger, Better, and Bolder.
Bigger: Growth leads change
When the ACC found itself continually outgrowing its 27-year-old Heart House in suburban Bethesda, Maryland, member and staff leadership decided it was time to examine the underlying reasons. Not only was it no longer prudent—fiscally or physically—to build additions every 10 years, it was no longer possible due to Bethesda zoning restrictions. What we learned during our research reinforced our intuitive beliefs:
• 31,500 members swell our ranks, a 30% growth in the last 10 years;
• international membership continues to flourish, with more than 3,300 fellows;
• 39 chapters, plus Puerto Rico, require expansion support;
• 200 employees serve our needs, an increase from 123 just 10 years ago;
• Annual Scientific Sessions continue to be the largest, most respected cardiovascular meetings in the world; and
• patient rolls grow daily, with a massive influx expected in the near future.
The final issue of a relentlessly rising tide of patients suffering from heart disease erased any doubt that a move was necessary. The ACC already is bracing for the projected patient onslaught, preparing itself and its members through Task Forces addressing workforce concerns, technology use, reimbursement strains, and risk management. These issues and needs will only fuel our growth and enhance our value. Taking patient care and regulatory, legal, and legislative functions into account, the ACC's one new location choice with staying power was the District of Columbia.
Better: Facilities, access, and amenities
The Heart House originally was sited in quiet, tree-lined Bethesda to capitalize on its proximity to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and its subsidiary, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). That strategic decision came at a time in the ACC's development when research and science occupied center stage, and the NIH and the NHLBI were everyday calls. The ACC remains in close contact with the NIH and the NHBLI, but our focus has expanded to include the broader offerings of the greater Washington, DC, area. While the nine-acre Heart House campus is sylvan and beautiful, it is remote from typical business accoutrements—and like-minded collaborators. The new 2400 N. Street NW location is in the heart of Washington, at the juncture of Dupont Circle and Georgetown. For members and staff, this site will offer a much improved:
• state-of-the-art learning center;
• programs and products;
• member work and small-group meeting space;
• employee environment;
• operational efficiencies;
• public transportation;
• amenities, such as hotels and restaurants; and
• attractions, such as museums.
Members interested in bringing their families and friends to Washington, DC, will find Heart House II nestled in an inviting, safe, and secure neighborhood. It clearly meets one key member requirement of being a solid place to call home. Within walking distance of the new building are excellent hotels, restaurants, and entertainment. The ACC is a world-class professional medical organization that will soon be appropriately housed in a world-class city.
Bolder: Outreach, political, and personal
Today, the political climate surrounding medicine is radically different from 1977, 1985, or even 1992—the three building milestones for Heart House I. No longer can we believe our good work will speak for itself. We cannot depend on regulators or legislators to understand our increasingly sophisticated style of treatment without our active intervention. This issue alone propels the ACC into a prominent role in our nation's capital. By occupying 2400 N Street NW, a major building in a prestigious District of Columbia area, the ACC positions itself as the preeminent:
• cardiovascular professional association;
• heart health expert, nationally and globally;
• cardiovascular player with the federal government;
• alliance/coalition builder among compatriot associations; and
• media leader for cardiovascular care worldwide.
In a town like Washington where position is power, the ACC's dominance of an impressive, ACC-branded building inside its boundaries is critical to this long-term success. Being within shouting distance of Capitol Hill on the Metro will encourage legislators to seriously consider our concerns.
Enhancing our key relationships with colleague associations and other third-party allies will be that much easier with a highly credible Washington, DC, address. Regulators at numerous agencies scattered throughout the city might be more willing to “take a meeting” in person when staff and members can quickly reach their offices via the subway.
We also are making plans to include a layperson-friendly “mobile museum” in this city-centric building to teach the public, our families, and our neighbors strategies for heart-healthy living. We envision visually depicting the important work we do to rescue patients suffering from heart disease, as well as our historic battle to eradicate heart disease.
Valuing our heritage
All of our excitement about this fresh era for the ACC is tempered with the sober acknowledgement that none of it would have been possible without the brave pioneers who established and nurtured the original Heart House. Not only do we owe a debt of gratitude to our predecessors, we owe them recognition in Heart House II. To that end, staff and members are collaborating to develop methods to preserve and protect our history in the new facility. Historic artifacts, museum-quality instruments, archival assets, and institutional memory will be carefully recorded, collected, and transported to Heart House II. Likewise, important donors to Heart House I will be celebrated in our new home through creative measures developed by our architects in conjunction with the ACC leadership.
Watch for more information throughout the next months as we build toward Heart House II. Plan now to visit Washington, DC, in 2006 with your colleagues and/or your families. After all, Heart House is your house. Welcome home.
- American College of Cardiology Foundation