As an early voice for the issue of health care disparities in underrepresented minorities and women and a fervent advocate of the responsibility of all physicians to be active in their communities, Paul L. Douglass, MD, MACC, earned the designation of Master of the American College of Cardiology during ACC.16. “I’ve always been a fan of the ACC,” says Douglass, since his early days at Emory University, where he completed his internship, residency, and fellowship, after graduating from Meharry Medical College. Looking to serve his profession, he chose a society with values that aligned with his own: advocacy, community and lifelong service. “The College is a unique organization that has had an unparalleled impact on the delivery of health care in the U.S.,” he adds. Encouraging the ACC to view itself as an international organization and embrace international outreach to address the global epidemic of cardiovascular disease is among his achievements while serving in 2003 as the chair of the Credentials Committee. In addition, the committee started the work to extend the reach of professional education and provide a professional home to the entire cardiovascular health care community, including physician assistants and nurse practitioners, thus expanding the membership of the ACC. Douglass also appreciated having that platform to be a strong voice for the College to embrace advocacy and community education. He firmly believes that physicians have the responsibility to be the spokespersons for their patients and to advocate on their behalf to government, regulators and insurance companies – all those who have an impact on the capacity to provide health care to patients. The focus on community education led to the creation of CardioSmart, an enduring and credible education resource for the public, and to holding health fairs in concert with ACC's Annual Scientific Session. The first such health fair was held in Atlanta, in his backyard, which he helped to organize and chaired. Douglass is chief of the division of cardiology and director of cardiovascular services at the Atlanta Medical Center, and is a clinical assistant professor at Morehouse School of Medicine. He practices clinical and interventional cardiology at Wellstar Medical Group, Metro Atlanta Cardiovascular Medicine. During his time on the Board of Trustees of the College, Douglass was grateful for the opportunity to provide a different perspective and start the conversation about disparities in health care and to be a catalyst for change. He is proud that their work validated the existence of disparities and dispelled the skepticism, providing the springboard to now create solutions. “I live and work in the area that has perhaps the greatest burden of cardiovascular disease in the U.S.,” says Douglass. He also used his time on the Board to offer insights on the epidemiology of cardiovascular disease in the south and raise discussions on serving vulnerable populations and addressing physician shortages in rural and inner city urban areas. Douglass continues to serve the ACC, as a member of the Patient-Centered Care Committee, which guides the CardioSmart program, and as chair of the Publications and Editorial Committee. His work for the Association of Black Cardiologists, for which he was president in 1994, helped Douglass recognize his leadership potential, and provided the foundation for leadership within the ACC. It is also when he began his work to gain recognition and understanding of the issue of health care disparities. Douglass just completed his term as president of the local chapter of the American Heart Association, where he focused on children and tobacco, and school lunches. A recent visit with a youth basketball camp married his love of the game – he was team captain and MVP at Northwestern University – and his devotion to health promotion and hypertension awareness in his community. Along with his mother, Doris Gandy, who set the bar for community service, and his wife and fellow cardiologist, Sheila Robinson, MD, FACC, who keeps him focused and grounded, Douglass acknowledges the formative impact of Calvin McLarin, MD, with whom he forged a lifelong professional bond, beginning when they were the first African American trainees in invasive cardiology at Emory University. In addition, Jerre Lutz, MD, FACC, and Nanette Jass Wenger, MD, MACC, were vital mentors during his training. “I have had the good fortune to have been supported and nurtured by a strong network of family and friends and an inspirational professional community,” says Douglass.
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