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- John Gordon Harold, MD, MACC, President, American College of Cardiology∗ ()
- ↵∗Address correspondence to:
John Gordon Harold, MD, MACC, American College of Cardiology, 2400 N Street NW, Washington, DC 20037
“What's past is prologue,” wrote William Shakespeare in The Tempest (1). This quote is engraved on the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C., as a reminder that history influences and sets the context for the present.
As the American College of Cardiology (ACC) both celebrates its 65th anniversary this year and rolls out a new, comprehensive strategic plan to guide it into the future, it is important that we take time to reflect on just how far we have come as a College and as a profession since our founding in 1949.
The years surrounding the founding of the ACC were dubbed “The Golden Age of Cardiology.” In his book “American Cardiology: The History of a Specialty and Its College,” Bruce Fye, MD, MACC, details how, in the period following World War II, factors such as the increasing prevalence of heart disease, the advent of federal research funding, breakthroughs in technological innovations, and the growing availability of health insurance worked together to shape cardiology into a major academic and clinical discipline (2).
Given these dramatic changes taking place in the practice of cardiovascular medicine, the College's founders, including Franz Groedel, MD, MACC, Robert P. Glover, MD, MACC, and others, made continuing education of practicing clinicians the mission of the College. Dr. Groedel articulated this mission best when he ordered that any ACC educational endeavor had to impart “a chunk of useful knowledge” to the practicing cardiologist (3).
It was during the 1950s that the College introduced the concept of national meetings that brought together the cardiovascular community to meet with thought leaders in the field and present scientific research. In 1951, ACC President Bruno Kisch, MD, MACC, said that “for the first time in this country [the ACC would bring together] the clinician and scientist in common work and exchange of opinions … for the best of the suffering cardiac patient.”
The first ACC meeting occurred in 1951 and attracted more than 275 physicians. As these national meetings grew in size and popularity, the ACC held its inaugural 3-day symposium at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in 1961. Also in 1961, ACC President Eliot Corday, MD, MACC, sought and received federal funding for the first international circuit course to Taiwan and the Philippines. The U.S. Department of State saw immense value to these so-called “medical Peace Corps” and began underwriting some of the expenses of these educational endeavors. The program was so successful that, over the next 5 years, 44 countries were privy to 17 circuit courses.
In addition to live educational courses, the ACC also made it a goal to disseminate the latest cardiovascular information directly to its members. In 1958, the American Journal of Cardiology made its debut under the leadership of Editor Simon Dack, MD, MACC. This precursor to the Journal was well received and had approximately 6,000 subscribers within the first 2 years. Ten years later, the College launched an audiotape journal called ACCESS (now called ACCEL) featuring recordings from the annual meeting, symposia, and reviews of key articles from print journals.
In the 1960s, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a law establishing Medicare and Medicaid. During this time, the ACC saw a need to expand its focus to include advocacy in addition to education. In 1965, the College moved from New York City to Bethesda, Maryland, to be closer to policymakers. A decade later, ground was broken for the ACC's Bethesda headquarters, dubbed the “Heart House” by then ACC President E. Grey Dimond, MD, MACC.
As cardiovascular research continued to take off throughout the 1970s, it became clear that cardiovascular professionals needed tools that translated science into practice. The ACC and the American Heart Association (AHA) initiated a unique partnership to develop clinical guidelines in 1980, and the first guideline on pacemaker implantation was published in 1984. Since then, the 2 organizations have developed 23 guidelines that contain 3,337 recommendations.
The College experienced some of its biggest changes in the 1990s. The advent of the Internet, as well as closer scrutiny by members of Congress into relationships with industry, required some fast action. As such, the ACC's first home on the “World Wide Web” debuted in 1996, as did the College's first relationships with industry policy. The ACC's Board of Trustees also developed a comprehensive strategic plan during this time period to reflect the changes that had occurred in governmental policies and growth of international cardiology. Not to be overlooked, the ACC also established its first National Cardiovascular Data Registry—the CathPCI Registry—to assess the characteristics, treatments, and outcomes of patients with cardiac disease receiving diagnostic catheterization and/or percutaneous coronary intervention procedures. “The future of medicine is increasingly in the hands of those who are effective users of clinical data,” said Bill Weintraub, MD, FACC, and others (4).
It was in the late 1990s and early 2000s that the College focused on encouraging greater participation of women and minorities in College activities. The College also started opening its doors to other members of the cardiovascular care team, including nurses, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants. This member category has further expanded over time to include practice administrators, pharmacists, and cardiovascular technicians. Also, during this time, the ACC moved its headquarters from Bethesda, Maryland, to Washington, D.C., and launched its Political Action Committee (ACC PAC) to increase the political power and reach of the College. In addition, the College continued to expand its reach globally.
Today the College once again finds itself at a crossroads in the midst of a rapidly changing healthcare environment. Rapid advances in science and technology, uncertainty about systems of medical care delivery, and growing demand for cardiovascular care around the globe present extraordinary challenges and opportunities for cardiovascular medicine. In order to meet these challenges and meet the so-called “triple aim” of better care, better outcomes, and lower cost, the College has developed a strategic plan that re-envisions cardiovascular care.
As we move forward with implementing this plan, we can learn much from the leaders and innovators who came before us. Many of the challenges being addressed by the plan are remarkably similar to those faced throughout the College's 65-year history. Embracing our previous successes and learning from our failures will ensure that we not only continue to grow and serve as the primary home for the global cardiovascular community, but we also continue to, in the words of Dr. Groedel, “meet the future not merely by dreams but by concerned action and inextinguishable enthusiasm” (5).
Read more about the legends in cardiovascular medicine and the faces behind the creation of the American College of Cardiology in a new book available at ACC.14 in Washington, D.C.
- American College of Cardiology Foundation
- ↵Shakespeare W. The Tempest. 1623.
- Fye W.B.
- Reichert P.
- Lüderitz B.,
- Holmes D.R.,
- Harold J.