Author + information
- W. Douglas Weaver, MD, FACC, ACC President⁎ and
- Huon H. Gray, MD, FACC, Chair, ACC International Committee
- ↵⁎Address correspondence to:
W. Douglas Weaver, MD, FACC, American College of Cardiology, 2400 N Street NW, Washington, DC 20037
Increased communication fueled by technological innovations has resulted in the world feeling much smaller and more interconnected than any time in history. It has also had a major impact on the way that medicine is practiced on a global scale. Medical research is conducted internationally, as is the implementation of guidelines. Even national health care reform has international resonance.
In light of these changes, the American College of Cardiology (ACC) recognized the need to develop a forward-thinking international strategy. Although the College has had international outreach since its inception and has always welcomed international colleagues to become members, it recognized the need to develop a systematic, collaborative, and sustainable strategy to govern its international activities. Two years ago, the ACC organized an international retreat in Washington, DC, to do just that. At the retreat the College took a critical look at where we were and developed plans for where we should be. The result was a new, responsive, needs-based international strategy.
The College's first step was to engage directly with cardiovascular specialists around the world by developing relationships with international cardiovascular societies and its international members.
Increasing Collaboration With International Cardiovascular Societies
Over the past two years, the College's leadership has met with the leadership of cardiovascular societies in many other countries, and on many occasions, to understand how we could develop sustainable and mutually beneficial relationships. A recurring theme in all of these meetings was the need to align our educational efforts and to develop partnerships that provided educational resources and other practice tools to cardiologists with the ultimate goal of improved patient care. To that end, we now have five multi-year affiliation agreements in place with international societies. In four of them, we are partnering to provide our cardiovascular knowledge and education tool, Cardiosource, to their members. Such is the global interest in Cardiosource that we have even developed a new Spanish-language edition, Cardiosource en Español.
The ACC is working with international societies on a variety of other activities such as extending the reach of our Fellows-in-Training program to trainees in other countries, which is based on a successful pilot project with the Dutch Cardiac Society, and identifying joint education and training opportunities for our members. The ACC is also including more joint sessions at both our Annual Scientific Meeting and also at the societies' own conferences. In 2009, in Orlando, we hope to extend this further by having multi-society joint ACC International Symposia that would include multiple joint simultaneous sessions, each with a separate topic aimed at a particular knowledge area. This would provide education for anyone interested in the topic, but most important, it would provide an additional opportunity to learn more about medical care systems in other countries and differences in the practice of cardiovascular medicine around the world. We encourage everyone to come and participate in these enlightening sessions.
Increasing Outreach to the ACC's International Members
While national societies are crucial to the delivery of the College's international strategy, of no less importance are our present and future international Fellows. During the past two years we have heard a clear message—namely, that our efforts in advocacy, an essential and core activity for our U.S. members, are often not relevant within other countries. Exceptions to this include activities in the fields of prevention and other more global health issues. We have also learned that despite trying to adjust our dues structure for members in economically-developing nations, the dues are still unaffordable for many. In response, the College has made additional changes.
First, we have reduced the dues for our members overseas in recognition of the fact that they do not benefit from our U.S.-focused advocacy activities and to be responsive to affordability issues.
Second, we have appointed 25 members as International Advisors to help the ACC: 1) understand local and regional issues better; 2) be more responsive; and 3) refine and deliver the ACC's international strategy.
In due course, I hope that we will be able to establish a structure within the College to represent our international members more formally and more completely. The ACC Sections presently do that for other member segments, and this may be what we should consider for our international members. The advantage of a Section is that it would serve as a home for all of the College's international members. Section representation allows a range of voices to be heard and offers opportunities to work on ACC activities for those wishing to do so. In addition, it lends itself to more self-governance and provides a direct voice to the Board of Trustees.
Increasing the ACC's Global Leadership and Social Responsibility
A significant aspect of the College's international strategy is to step up its advocacy for the global improvement of cardiovascular health promotion and care, particularly in economically-developing countries. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, and in low income countries, as a result of lack of financial, educational, and medical resources, a large number of people die from cardiovascular-related illnesses that are both preventable and treatable.
Working together as partners, the ACC and its sister organizations—the American Heart Association, the European Society of Cardiology and the World Heart Federation—plan to develop structured initiatives to combat these inequities and to lobby for their implementation. As cardiovascular professionals who practice in one of the richest countries in the world, we not only have the resources to do this, we also have the moral responsibility to do it.
ACC's International Engagement: A Win-Win at Home and Abroad
Communication technology may be helping to make the world feel like a smaller place, but it is organizations such as the ACC, and even more so, its highly educated and influential members, who can contribute to making it a better place with their professional leadership, exchange of knowledge, sharing of experiences, and building of friendships and understanding. If the College is successful in achieving its international goals—and with your help it will be—all those who suffer cardiovascular disease or who are at future risk of suffering will be potential beneficiaries. I hope you will give us your support.
- American College of Cardiology Foundation