I am flying back to San Francisco from Washington, D.C. It is late September, but publishing deadlines require that this column be submitted in a few days. I have been in Washington for a successful legislative briefing on Capitol Hill, as well as the second annual ACR Quality Summit. I will actually be home until the annual meeting because October is the only month all year that I will not get on an airplane for ACR business.
My year as ACR president has sped by. While I look forward to not checking my e-mail inbox after almost every patient visit, I will miss being at the center of the action when my term is over. I spent 11 of the last 15 years on the ACR Board of Directors, including the past five on the Executive Committee.
Year of Challenges and Successes
What were the biggest issues of the past year? To date, I’ve been fortunate to not experience a major crisis, such as when Vioxx was withdrawn only a few days before the annual meeting a couple of years ago. However, the ACR has been active in a multitude of areas. The organization is much larger and more sophisticated than when I started as a volunteer two decades ago. Our “survival functions” – the annual scientific meeting and our journals – operate so smoothly that we almost take them for granted. These well-oiled machines have superb volunteer leaders and experienced, talented staffs.
There has been incredible growth in the area of quality since the inception of the Quality Measures Committee (recently renamed the Quality of Care Committee) only three years ago. In his first year as chair, Dan Solomon, MD, MPH, has worked tirelessly to coordinate activities in quality indicators, disease classification and response criteria, treatment guidelines, and drug safety. When the ACR revised its strategic plan earlier this year, it placed special priority on regularly updating treatment guidelines. RA and osteoarthritis guidelines will be revised every three years and other disease treatment guidelines will be updated on a regular, albeit less frequent, basis. The decision to produce evidence-based guidelines is expensive and time consuming, but should guarantee wide acceptance when they are published in Arthritis Care & Research.
Advocacy at the federal level has been strengthened under the steady hand of Joseph Flood, MD, chair of the Government Affairs Committee, with superb support from our own ACR staff and the Washington, D.C.-based lobbying firm Patton Boggs. For the first time, the annual Washington, D.C., Board of Directors meeting was moved from August to May to allow the entire leadership to make Capitol Hill visits on the same day. After much deliberation, the ACR Board made the difficult but correct decision to launch RHEUMPAC, the ACR’s political action committee (PAC). Like it or not, PACs are part of the American political process. The ACR must support candidates who are sympathetic to our issues, and through the PAC, the ACR will gain increased access to our elected officials.