Q&A with ACP President

by Jana Acciacca

Many people recognize Mel Rosenblatt – he’s attended practically every venous-related meeting there is each year for as long as most of us can remember. This year, Mel looked at each of these meetings, as well as his own practice, from a slightly different angle as the president of the American College of Phlebology. We asked Mel what his year was like and he graciously obliged—direct from his travels in Australia. Here’s what this busy, incredibly involved leader had to share.

VM: What surprised you most about your experience as president of the ACP?

For more than a decade, I have been involved in leadership positions within the ACP. Over that time, I had the opportunity to participate in the organization’s growth in various roles and at several levels, so consequently few surprises awaited me as president. My predecessors had great vision and established a solid foundation on which current leadership continues to build.

This shared vision led to the development of the ABVLM and the ACP foundation. Once fledgling entities, these are now well-established and actively helping to advance vein care—the primary mission of the ACP. Many other programs focused on our members’ needs, and the needs of the patients they serve have been initiated and will continue to be refined during the remainder of my term and into the term of the next president. This continuity of purpose is what makes the organization so effective. It is never about an individual, but about advancing care for patients with venous disease.

For me, it is this aspect of the organization that I would describe as a refreshing surprise. The effort and innovation of our volunteers, combined with their selflessness, is truly outstanding. I remain continuously amazed and impressed at how effective our volunteers have been in moving initiatives forward into the venous disease community, and when I pause to look back, I am truly shocked by how much the society has accomplished. I am honored to have been a part of it all.

VM: What types of changes did you and your ACP board implement that you’re most proud of?

During my tenure as president, I am proud to have shepherded the programs the ACP had previously envisioned and initiated to their next logical level. In particular, a superficial venous disease registry that doesn’t require double entry of data and incorporates patient-reported outcomes was a main focus. After a tremendous amount of work by ACP committee and staff members, the backbone for the registry was completed. This project is on the brink of adding the ability to download data directly to ACP’s registry using venous-based electronic medical records. By end of year, data from many vein practices is expected to be flowing automatically into the ACP’s registry. Such data will help to further our understanding of venous disease and the impact treatment has on our patients’ quality of life.

Another example is the ACP’s continuing medical education (CME) and distance learning programs. In their infancy at the outset of my term, the ACP’s distance learning system has been transformed to take the entire educational content for our annual meeting and make it immediately accessible on line. The ACP continues to improve its ability to deliver continuing medical education in many different formats. These digital educational vehicles are the college’s responses to member requests for practical assistance in CME access, maintenance of certification interests, and its obligation to keep the community current with the rapidly changing landscape of venous disease diagnosis and management.

In addition to the initiatives described above, a leadership academy to provide volunteers with leadership skills training has been created. This concept was envisioned by our board and was molded into an operational program by our committee volunteers. This newly introduced training program is similar to programs that are sought after by CEOs of many Fortune 500 companies. The intent of the leadership academy is both to groom emerging leaders in order to provide a steady supply of skilled and capable leaders for the college, and also to provide our current leadership with skills, a common language and relevant knowledge and experience in this area. The skills learned in this course will benefit the participants by making them into better and more effective leaders in their practices, and in any other administrative aspect of their professional careers. Members who would like to enhance their communication skills and develop a clear vision of where they want to go in their personal and professional life will benefit greatly from this program.

I must acknowledge a litany of initiatives begun by other past presidents that came to fruition during my term. The ACP’s hosting of the Union of International Phlebology’s (UIP) World Congress in September 2013 established a North American voice within the venous disease community on a global scale. With nearly 1,700 health care practitioners among its 2,300 attendees in Boston, UIP 2013 was the largest event in their 50-year history. In addition, 2013’s World Congress marks the first time a North American physician and ACP member was elected incoming UIP president. Beyond global phlebology, the ACP made amazing strides in the American Medical Association’s (AMA) House of Delegates – specifically working with its CMS & Relative Value Scale Update Committee (RUC) on advancing member interests on a number of policy and practical administrative issues.

VM: How has this year changed your vision about the future of venous disease management and treatment?

The health care reimbursement landscape is constantly evolving. The Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) impact on physicians who treat venous disease is yet to be elucidated. This year, CPT codes for endovenous ablation were selected for revaluation, and what impact this may have is also unknown. In addition, new CPT codes for the treatment of complex venous disease were introduced, allowing complex venous procedures to be performed in an office environment. In my opinion, all of these changes effect who will treat patients with venous disease and where they will be treated.

To help members manage these changes, the ACP needs to continue to improve its educational offerings and increase advocacy efforts. We have already begun this by stepping up participation and advancement of the ACP’s position in AMA committees such as the RUC and CPT Coding Committee.

We also continuously monitor the health care environment for issues that could impact our members, and we have teamed up with other societies to take action to support or oppose these public policy issues. The future will mandate closer collaboration with stakeholders to ensure physicians are able to practice in an environment that allows them to provide the highest quality care to patients with venous disease.

VM: If there is any one thing you want the venous world to know, what is it?

Venous disease is a very common disorder, yet the number of physicians who have dedicated their careers to the treatment of these diseases is relatively few. In this changing health care environment, it is more important than ever that we come together and collaborate to advocate for our patients and ourselves so that we can provide the highest quality care. We need to continue to advocate for research so that we can strengthen the evidence we use to establish patient care guidelines. Our ability to accomplish this in any kind of meaningful way will depend on our ability to come together in a cohesive group.

VM: What is next for you?

Once my term as president is over, I will continue active service with the ACP foundation on its board of directors. I also will continue as an ACP board member and committee volunteer to help the college promote and advance quality venous care. In addition, I will continue my work with the American Board of Venous and Lymphatic Medicine. In these capacities, I will continue my advocacy efforts and focus on bringing the venous and lymphatic societies closer together so that the amplitude of our collective voice can be that much greater. I would also like to focus my research efforts towards the treatment of complex venous diseases, such as pelvic venous disease and venous malformations.