This post was authored by Scott Lilly, MD, PhD, chair of the FIT Committee and an Interventional Cardiology fellow at the University of Pennsylvania.
This year over 70 fellows-in training (FITs) from across the nation attended the 2012 Legislative Conference in Washington, DC where they met with ACC and congressional leaders to discuss current issues affecting practice of cardiology in both academic and private practice settings. Although it may be difficult to remain apprised of proposed and impending legislation during fellowship years – the conference format addresses this. On Monday, there was an array of speakers that discussed specific issues for collaborative lobbying. These short (and often entertaining) presentations were interactive and reliably followed by practical questions from the nearly 500 physicians, cardiac care associates or FITs in attendance. In between the discussions, there were a number of breaks that allowed FITs to interact and introduce each other, have smaller group conversations regarding a particular issue, or meet with ACC leadership. Fully debriefed, we received our congressional visit schedules and prepared to “storm the hill” with our fellow state ACC members.
Among the issues we addressed this year was a proposed cut to ACGME spending – something that could directly affect on our training. Whether these cuts would have a direct affect on the number of fellowship positions, or result in variations in educational infrastructure or national meeting subsidies is unclear. Regardless, these changes are clearly occurring at a time when there is a greater need for cardiovascular physicians – driven both by the aging population and the availability of new and effective therapies that mandate specialized training. The ACC has responded to this and other proposed cuts proactively by requesting a partnership with respect to health care reform. Through addressing overutilization via appropriate use criteria, and improving quality of care by advocating national registries, the hope is that we will be able to more effectively deliver care in a less costly manner.
While we as FITs may spend most of our professional time at the bedside or in the latest scientific journal, I was reminded this weekend of the world outside of the clinic. We have cardiologist advocacy leaders – individuals that, despite busy practices devote a significant amount of time to preserving our ability to learn, care for our patients and help to secure our future. When FITs participate now, it strengthens the delivery of these messages to congress, broadens our perspective, and will hopefully cultivate the next generation of these cardiologist advocacy leaders.
For the many FITs that visited the Capitol last week, I hope you arrived home safely; to the rest, I hope to see you next year.