College continues to evolve to meet its members' needs

The American College of Physicians has changed its governance structure to streamline itself, meet current and future needs of members, and define a strategic plan that positions itself for future successes.

ACP was founded in 1915 with a goal of fostering professionalism and education in internal medicine. Since its founding, the College has established itself as one of the world's most respected and effective medical specialty societies.

One of the major responsibilities of the College's Board of Regents (BOR) is to ensure that ACP continues its leadership role in American medicine, and has effective programs, products and services that meet the changing professional needs of our members. To achieve these goals, the BOR, as the College's governing body, must ensure ACP is well led by management, fiscally prudent with our members' resources, and well positioned to meet both the current and future needs of our members. Additionally, the BOR has a responsibility to define a strategic plan that points ACP in the right direction, anticipating the challenges and opportunities presented by rapid changes in science, technology and public policy. In the last few years, the Regents and management have made many changes in our organizational structure to position the College for future success. Let me outline some of the changes that have been made.

A Governance Task Force was formed in 2008 by former BOR Chair William Applegate, MD, MPH, MACP. It was charged with developing a plan to improve the BOR's effectiveness, including a thorough update of our committee structures and strategic planning process. The Task Force recommended reducing the size of the Board from 34 to 24 members over three years, believing that the Board's size was an impediment to efficiency and Regent engagement. The Task Force also recommended that our strategic planning process be revised to include all the members of the BOR and add the Executive Committee of the Board of Governors and Council Chairs of the Councils of Student Members, Associates, and Young Physicians, as well as the Council of Subspecialty Societies. Finally, the committee structure was streamlined to meet the current needs of the College, including developing new charters for each committee that refocused our efforts on areas important to our members and vital to achieving our mission.

These changes have improved BOR effectiveness and have had several important additional benefits. I believe that the collaboration between the BOR and the College's Board of Governors (BOG) has never been better. I attribute this to excellent leadership by recent BOG and BOR Chairs, facilitated by more structured interaction between the Boards, especially the participation of the BOG leadership in the College's strategic planning process. Open and effective communication between the BOR and BOG has ensured that the College is moving forward with one voice. The smaller size of the BOR has also reduced the cost of governance and improved BOR member discussion and engagement in key College decisions.

ACP has been fortunate to have excellent administrative leadership for many years. Each successive Executive Vice President/CEO has assembled a team and developed a program to meet the challenges of the times. I am pleased to report that our current management team, led by Steven E. Weinberger, MD, FACP, has followed the same approach and reorganized the College's programs and personnel to meet current needs and anticipated challenges ahead.

As the practice of medicine and the practice environment have evolved dramatically, the College is also changing to help our members and provide effective advocacy and leadership. These efforts have resulted in a leaner and more focused administrative structure that supports the College's strategic plan. The results thus far are excellent, with improved fiscal health, continued effective programs to support the needs of our members, and a national advocacy presence that is widely regarded as the best in the business. New programs and services are in development and are both exciting and at the forefront of innovation. I credit many of these successes to our management leadership team led by Dr. Weinberger, and in particular want to recognize Chief Financial Officer Ralph Hibbs, Chief Operating Officer Wayne Bylsma, PhD, and Treasurer Dennis R. Schaberg, MD, MACP, for their efforts.

Last July, the BOR elected to transition the ACP Foundation from its status as a semi-independent foundation with its own board and governance to a Center of the College with a focus on patient engagement and education. This decision was driven by the recognition that the College and the Foundation were increasingly working on programs and products that had similar content and audiences, and that putting these efforts together made good clinical and business sense. The College is now in the process of reorganizing these activities, and we believe the new Center will become a national leader in developing programs and services that help our members engage and educate patients effectively.

In summary, the College is not a static organization, but a vibrant reflection of our desire to set the standards of our profession, improve health care for our patients, and support our members in their practices and in the development of their professional careers.

Postscript: I recently read a wonderful book titled “The Power of Patient Stories: Learning Moments in Medicine” by former College president Paul F. Griner, MD, MACP. The book is a compendium of brief patient stories that reminded me of the great experiences we have caring for and about patients and how powerful stories lead to learning that lasts a lifetime. It is a “must read” for all lifelong students of medicine.