A Community of Leaders Completing the Circle of Cardiovascular Care

Cardiology Review® Online, May 2006, Volume 23, Issue 5

In March 2006, Gerald L. DeVaughn, MD, assumed the presidency of the Association of Black Cardiologists, Inc. (ABC). At that time, he acknowledged the contributions of his predecessor, Paul Underwood, MD, and laid out his vision for the organization’s role in fostering greater numbers of minority cardiologists and reducing disparities of care between black and white patients.

Dr. DeVaughn cited the fundamental responsibilities anyone accepting the ABC’s presidency must meet before taking on additional ones, which include:

• To uphold ABC’s code of ethics;

• To ensure the organization functions within the parameters of its bylaws and mission statement;

• To ensure the ABC represents all members and other stakeholders interested in improving the cardiovascular health of all citizens; and

• To address issues that most concern its members and their patients.

One additional responsibility Dr DeVaughn welcomed is guiding the implementation of ABC’s new national platform, A Community of Leaders Completing the Circle of Cardiovascular Care. The platform is designed to integrate into a single theme the organization’s various programs and activities aimed at preventing and reducing the impact of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and its comorbidities.

“The new platform will be instrumental in guiding our continuing transformation into the recognized leader in providing professional and consumer education programs targeted at heart disease in African Americans and other high-risk populations,” said Dr DeVaughn.

“We are ideally positioned to be the facilitator of collaborative research and education to address existing disparities in cardiovascular care and outcome,” he added.

An important element of the new platform is encouraging patient empowerment. The role of patients as partners in their own care and that of their loved ones can greatly influence both clinical and financial outcomes, Dr DeVaughn suggested. He urged members to make an impact by:

• Motivating government, foundations, and industry to increase funds for research and health promotion programs aimed at eliminating the black-white death gap;

• Informing public officials about their role in improving the cardiovascular health of all citizens;

• Empowering patients and the public at large to take responsibility for their own health;

• Assuring fairness in the healthcare system for both patients and physicians; and

• Focusing on increasing the number of cardiologists from under-represented minorities and of culturally sensitive providers who impact the health of African Americans.

Despite an increasing prevalence of CVD in the United States, the number of cardiologists has declined; currently there are 30% fewer cardiologists than needed. One contributing factor is the 350 fewer available cardiology fellowships each year as a result of declining funding. The Association of Black Cardiologists will continue to lobby the federal government to increase funding for the training of subspecialists, especially cardiologists. In addition, Dr DeVaughn announced a campaign to raise $10 million to support fellowships for under-represented minority cardiologists-in-training at 187 US medical schools. Winston Gandy, MD, newly elected vice president of ABC, will preside over the “Maynard H. Jackson Foundation for the Elimination of Health Disparities” to achieve this goal.

There are fewer than 500 black cardiologists in the United States, just 2% of all cardiologists, noted Dr DeVaughn. “With few exceptions, the 187 cardiology training programs have failed to successfully recruit and train African American and other minority cardiologists.”

Dr DeVaughn asked ABC members to commit to monitoring and motivating programs to train more minority cardiologists. Finally, he urged every member to actively participate in ABC to help advance its mission to eliminate healthcare disparities and reduce the impact of CVD on the African American community.