As part of the College’s strategic efforts to improve population health around the globe, the College is expanding and strengthening its worldwide partnerships with government and nongovernment organizations; international, regional and national societies; and volunteer organizations. Over the past several years, the College has been a key player in the development of a global campaign to combat non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Through the NCD Alliance, of which the ACC is a member, the College has co-authored statements calling for evidence-based targets to help reach a 25 percent global reduction of premature deaths from NCDs by 2025. Recognizing that a global reduction in NCDs is only achievable by coordinating and aligning efforts, the College, together with the World Heart Federation (WHF), American Heart Association, European Heart Network, European Society of Cardiology, Asia Pacific Society of Cardiology, Inter-American Society of Cardiology and other global cardiovascular disease experts, created a Global Cardiovascular Disease Taskforce. “The Taskforce was created to advocate for a set of public health interventions that have the potential to mitigate and reverse the rising rates of cardiovascular disease and NCDs,” said William A. Zoghbi, MD, MACC, co-chair of the WHF’s Global Cardiovascular Disease Taskforce and past president of the ACC. “Together we have already co-published two advocacy papers urging action on reducing the global burden of cardiovascular diseases, and as our partnerships strengthen through these joint efforts, we hope to carry these relationships to other global population health endeavors.” To further strengthen the College’s partnerships with international institutions, a new program is currently under development that recognizes high-performing hospitals that meet a set of infrastructural, educational and data-driven criteria. Called the ACC International Centers of Excellence (ICOE), the program is a rigorous, NCDR-based program that provides the ICOE designation to qualifying hospitals, as well as a suite of ACC resources designed to facilitate quality improvement, physician education and research. Currently in a pilot program with six international institutions, the program aims to expand to include other international institutions in 2015. Since a large component of improving population health can be done through volunteerism around the globe, the College has partnered with Health Volunteers Overseas, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the availability and quality of health care in developing countries through the training and education of local health care providers. Through Health Volunteers Overseas, George Pantely, MD, FACC, a staff physician in the division of cardiology at the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, OR, has volunteered on projects in Bhutan, Cambodia and Peru; has recently assessed two potential new internal medicine projects – Costa Rica and Nicaragua; and is slated to assume the role of project director for Nicaragua. “Improving global health through education involves working with the local health care providers and not only teaching them, but also learning from them,” says Pantely. “I think working alongside the local health care providers is necessary to understand their system and the issues they face in providing health care. My volunteer experiences not only allowed me to learn and teach, but also to struggle with the issues they faced and then try to work with them to find ways to improve medical care. Progress is slow as any improvements are usually small steps. By continually providing volunteers, the small steps over the years add up to important improvements.” Pantely’s first project at Almenara Hospital in Lima, Peru, was a particularly memorable experience due to the long-term relationships he developed with the physicians. “Four years later, they still send me cases and ask how I would manage a given issue. I have even been asked to proof-read papers they are submitting for publication in English,” Pantely notes. After such a positive experience in Lima, Pantely decided to continue giving back and scheduled a volunteer trip to Cambodia. Pantely headed to the Sihanouk Hospital Center of HOPE in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where he says he experienced an entirely different, yet remarkable, volunteer visit with medical providers focused so intently on improving their care. “It is a small, extremely busy charity hospital for the poor, but an important center for medical education in the country. There are no cardiologists at the hospital. The most impressive aspect of the program is the strong desire of the staff physicians and physicians in training to learn and to provide outstanding care,” he said. “The Health Volunteers Overseas program allows the hospital to have a western style post-graduate medical education program. This makes it a sought after medical education program for medical trainees in Cambodia. I gave a daily lecture, staffed patients in the outpatient clinic, and did bed-side and echo lab teaching to all levels of care providers. They were always eager to learn! I worked hard, but it was such an enjoyable experience. The teaching was bidirectional and I learned so much from them about diseases with which I was not familiar.” As a concrete way to improve population health in underserved countries, Pantely urges others to not wait as long as he did to get involved. “I wish I started volunteering earlier in my career. You will meet some remarkable people and have a unique opportunity to work with local health care providers and become part of the culture of the country,” he said. “These experiences have positively affected how I view life in this complex world. I have also met remarkable people who deal with poverty and severe illnesses with dignity. Although they have a difficult life, they have not been hardened by the experience. They remain gracious, kind and grateful for any effort to help them.” For more information about the ACC’s International activities and partnerships, or to get involved in Health Volunteers Overseas, visit CardioSource.org/International.
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