A better Board of Regents for a better health care system

ACP's Board of Regents will reorganize to meet the future needs of the organization.

Editor's Note: Dr. Turton is Chair, ACP Board of Regents, 2009-2010, and is guest-writing this month's President's Message.

The ACP Board of Regents is one of the more effective fiduciary bodies in health care, but as the world changes, so must ACP's Board.

Dr Turton
Dr. Turton

In an era of anecdotal popular science and polarized politics, the Regents have proactively made the College a trusted source of original medical science, clinical guidance, educational excellence and health care policy.

Some medical membership organizations are little more than trade associations organizations that cater solely to the needs of their members. ACP, with the guidance of its Board, has thrived as a true professional organization that accepts responsibility for its members, the profession, the health care system and patients.

Then why did the Board of Regents reorganize itself? As the years passed, the Board grew by adding representation from constituencies such as medical students, internal medicine trainees, young internists and subspecialty internists. Along with the increase in the size of the Board, the committee structure became bigger and more complex. With this evolution, communication and responsiveness began to be stressed and the Board felt the need to become more nimble.

What the Board did was reduce its size from 33 to 24 by shortening the terms of service of the Regents. By increasing the turnover of Regents, it assured itself of a forward-looking perspective while retaining the input of varied constituencies.

The Board also reduced the number of its committees but did so without diminishing the opportunity for internists to actively participate in the work of the College. Much of what has been committee work in the past will be accomplished in the future by task forces with carefully specified charges and short-term time horizons.

As anyone who has served on an organization going through this kind of change knows, altering a deliberative body while that body is actively deliberating is hard.

Three things were required for our success. First, a small group of visionaries had to recognize the need for change. In this case, the visionaries were Regents William Applegate, FACP, and Jeffrey Harris, FACP, and ACP's Executive Vice President and CEO, John Tooker, FACP, MBA, who introduced the concept of Board reorganization to the Leadership Retreat in February 2009.

Second, a group of committed people had to tackle the complexity of change and produce an improved product. David Bronson, FACP (chair), Donna Sweet, FACP, Molly Cooke, FACP, Wayne Riley, FACP, Sima Desai, FACP, and Yul Ejnes, FACP, served on a task force that set a new standard for communication and efficiency while making the recommendations that were adopted by the Board.

Third, the Board itself had to put aside self-interest for the betterment of ACP. This the Board did by meeting and discussing all the issues from April through October. Through this process, the Board carefully balanced the present with the future and made responsible decisions.

The future is bright for the American College of Physicians. Its newly reorganized Board of Regents will be a nimble body that can meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.

To see just how the Board of Regents visualizes the future of health care, see the Desired Future document online .