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- Spencer B. King III, MD, Editor-in-Chief, JACC: Cardiovascular Interventions⁎ ()
- ↵⁎Address for correspondence to:
Spencer B. King III, MD, Editor-in-Chief, JACC: Cardiovascular Interventions, Saint Joseph's Heart and Vascular Institute, 5665 Peachtree Dunwoody Road, NE, Atlanta, Georgia 30342
Those of us who have been around for a while remember the major initial mission of the College, which was to provide education to its members. Education remains important but the needs and demands of the membership have shifted as reimbursement issues have made advocacy the front burner activity of our organization.
Despite the major leadership on advocacy in Washington that the College provides (more than any other specialty society), there is always a tendency to blame any lack of success on the College. Believe me, they are “fighting city hall,” and without a fight there is no chance to win. However, no matter what happens to the sustainable growth rate and other severe threats, our rapidly evolving field requires more and more continuing medical education (CME) opportunities. Certainly, new information technology enables a lot of learning to be self-initiated and sitting in front of a computer is undoubtedly, for some, a good way to learn. Facts can be transmitted that way but judgment is a more difficult challenge. Face-to-face interaction is still necessary for many of us to soak up what we need to manage that difficult and highly-nuanced case.
I just returned from such an encounter at the 41st Annual Snowmass Conference. As those who have attended this course, directed by Jack Vogel for 40 years and now a wholly owned ACC program, there is no substitute for on-site dialogue. I find judgment is hard to learn from a computer. Financing CME, however, is not easy anymore. Formerly companies with an interest in influencing opinion were very generous in providing support for educational endeavors. Now this is completely different. Some industries still see the value in contributing to the education of physicians through unrestricted grants but can no longer target their area of special interest as in the past. Many universities have banned any industry support for visiting professors or Grand Rounds. Other restrictions are even more draconian. There is now a growing gap in the ability to provide personal interaction between experts and physicians hoping to tap their expertise. In years past, many academic cardiologists contributed enormous effort to regional CME courses sponsored by the College. We have lost much of the initiative of these dedicated leaders but the New York ACC meeting in December and the Snowmass meeting in January provide workshops for developing the most effective learning experiences for the future. Hopefully others will re-emerge as the pendulum of restriction on funding swings back to a more reasonable position. There were abuses in the past, but I contend that the presence of “interests” does not automatically constitute a “conflict,” and some conflicts are barely interesting. I, for one, feel we have been too defensive. Instead of working overtime to assure that no trade name leaves the lips of a speaker or that the logo be totally eradicated from the every pen, we should be looking for opportunities to provide our members with the most current and objective knowledge and challenge their judgment to use it wisely. Other organizations have been providing educational symposia but many of those have been sponsored directly by industry. In the current environment those are now prohibited and perhaps they should be. However, there is a very reasonable balance that should be struck between the profession and the industries willing to provide unrestricted support for education. We need to make room for common sense. The “College” is the right organization to lead.
So, while our leadership continues to plug away at the fee schedule and tries to reverse the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services's (CMS) misimpression that we no longer have any practice expenses, let us also continue our traditions of educational excellence.
- American College of Cardiology Foundation