Q&A with Robert McLafferty, MD Outgoing President of the American Venous Forum

by Julie Jacob

Robert D. McLafferty, MD, will end his term as president of the American Venous Forum at the AVF’s 25th Silver Anniversary Annual Meeting, which will take place at The Wigwam in Phoenix, AZ, February 27 to March 2. In a Q&A with VEIN Magazine, Dr. McLafferty, a Professor of Surgery, Division of Vascular Surgery, at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield, IL, discussed his thoughts about what the AVF has accomplished and its goals for the upcoming years.

How did you become interested in vascular medicine as a specialty?

I was always interested in the surgical specialties. In high school, I wanted to go into medicine and knew that I was going to gravitate toward surgery. It wasn’t until I was a third-year general surgery resident that I started doing vascular surgery and found that I loved it. One of the reasons we go into a field is that we meet great mentors. Dr. Greg Moneta—who is now chief of vascular surgery at Oregon Health and Sciences University and a past president of the American Venous Forum—was one of those mentors. He had a real influence on me and my training in vascular surgery and my interest in venous disease.

How did you become involved in the American Venous Forum?

It was initially through Dr. Moneta. I did a few research studies with him when I was training and we presented the
results at the AV F. As a faculty member, I was encouraged by him to become a member. Years ago, I helped organize an endovascular symposium on venous disease. I really got my start when I was asked to go to an AV F retreat in 2004. At that retreat, I got the assignment to start the National Venous Screening Program. To date, due to the hard work of the screening committee, we have screened about 12,000 individuals across the United States.

How is the AVF helpful to physicians and allied health professionals?

The AV F is the only venous organization that is solely devoted to all types of venous diseases. It is dedicated to both the acute side and the chronic side. It has brought in
thought leaders from around the world to present research on all topics in venous disease. The AV F is responsible for creating such important classification systems such as CEA P and Venous Clinical Severity Score.

Recently, we partnered with the Society for Vascular Surgery and the Journal of Vascular Surgery to create a sister journal dedicated solely to venous and lymphatic disease. Venous disease represents a continuum. No matter where you are as a practitioner in caring for patients with venous disease along that continuum, the AV F can provide guidance. It will help you provide better care of your patients. The research and education presented is unparalleled.

How does the AVF help physicians and allied health professionals provide better patient care?

As stated previously, the AV F provides excellent education in all aspects of venous disease and can be pertinent for specialists, such as a hematologist or to a physician extender, or for a nurse practitioner. We are a very inclusive group. Although our origins are in vascular surgery, we desire participation by all types of physicians who are interested in venous disease. We have about 600 members now, and my prediction is that in the next three years, we will have more than 1000 members.

What were your main accomplishments as president?

We finalized the new relationship with the Society of Vascular Surgery regarding the new venous journal. We’ve been working with SVS to potentially create a venous quality initiative within the PSP. That is coming close to fruition. We’ve also worked with the American College of Phlebology on potential ventures both in venous screening and the varicose vein registry. We have transitioned to a new management company. We are rewriting our bylaws for both the Forum and the Foundation. We have an active research group as well as two fellows’ courses. We are revamping our national screening to be online. All these ventures are due to the diligence and hard work of many volunteer members.

What do you enjoy the most about being president?

I enjoy the relationships I have with really great physicians in vascular surgery and venous disease. I am always learning things from incredibly smart people. The AV F has a very close-knit, friendly culture and many of those who are in the AV F not only have peer relationships, but very close friendships that have developed over many years. To be part of that is the best thing. I would say that being able to help move these collaborations forward has also been very satisfying and challenging at the same time.

What do you foresee as some of the significant advances in vascular medicine that will likely occur in the next five to 10 years?

Certainly, in venous disease we are going to see more information and data coming out about how we should treat acute venous disease. We will see more directed information about who will best benefit from aggressive treatment of deep venous thrombosis. From the chronic venous side, it would be nice if we could continue to look into ways to identify more people with venous obstruction and whether in the next five to 10 years there may be an artificial venous valve. The other issue-that is really important is venous disease awareness. This is a big problem. The AV F is very committed to improving awareness of venous disease at the public level, the patient level, and the physician level.

What are some of the initiatives that the AVF will be working on the next three to five years?

We have two fellows’ courses and an attendings course that are outside of our annual meeting and we would love to expand on those and perhaps have more small regional meetings to help those individuals become educated on venous disease. We are rebuilding our foundation to get as active as possible in raising money for venous research.

What advice would you give to physicians and allied health professionals working in vascular medicine who want to become more involved with the AVF?

Two things: First, come to our annual meeting. You don’t have to be a member right away. You will immediately see that this is a different type of meeting and that you are extremely welcome. It is a very stimulating meeting with interesting stuff about venous disease that will be pertinent to your practice. Second, we have plenty of different types of projects to work on. We welcome new blood and young excited surgeons and other types of health professionals to participate in the AV F. I had a physician come to me who wanted to work on venous simulation module. At the 2013 meeting, we will try to let this person have a course on venous procedural simulation.