ACP's international presence reflects familiar domestic needs


One of many opportunities in my year as ACP President has been the ability to travel both the U.S. and various parts of the world to meet with our many international Masters, Fellows, and Members, as well as leaders and members of other international internal medicine societies. If I haven't said it enough, I want to again thank the membership for giving me this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to represent the College and better know our colleagues across the country and around the world.

ACP plays an immensely important role globally in influencing the growth, practice, and sustainability of internal medicine in many other countries. The many challenges we face domestically are concerns shared at some level by internists in virtually every country: promoting universal access to health care, realizing high-value care, educating an effective workforce (especially in primary care), promoting population health, dealing with physician burnout, and sustaining internal medicine as a critically important specialty. These are common themes in discussions at every international meeting I have attended.

Internists worldwide speak the same language, share similar values, train the same rigorous way, and have the same commitment professionally. We also shoulder very similar frustrations in response to administrative burden and burnout, the high cost of health care, and how to deal with regulation and accountability, as well as the concern that there may not be enough of us around in the years to come to stay the course. Medical liability and unequal access are areas that seem to be uniquely American, however.

ACP's consistent international presence has grown in recent years. This year, total ACP membership peaked at 141,000, with international membership just under 12,000, also an all-time high. We have 68 domestic chapters and 15 international chapters, including Brazil, Canada (6 chapters), Central America, Chile, Colombia, Japan, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Southeast Asia, and Venezuela.

Our International Council's membership meets regularly and includes all international Regents, up to 5 international chapter Governors, and 5 at-large members. One International Regent (or another sitting Regent if none are international) serves as Chair. Presently, Wendy S. Levinson, MD, FACP, serves as Chair and Neil E. Gibson, MD, FACP, serves as Vice-Chair. The Council's leadership structure is congruent with that of all ACP councils and committees.

The International Council's role, as with all ACP councils, is to advise the Board of Regents. It informs ACP strategic participation internationally, coordinates international leadership development, and offers input and direction for the College relevant to international internists' perspectives and needs. Most important, the Council provides a direct link between international leadership and the Regents, which keeps the Board balanced in its perspective as a world citizen of internal medicine.

ACP continues to strive for educational excellence, offers a professional home for all internists, and seeks to support change in health care systems that promotes clinical excellence and high-value care. These goals resonate with our international colleagues. Of the 10 action priorities that came out of ACP's strategic plan for 2014-2015, number 3 on the list is to “Expand ACP's reach internationally, through local partnerships and using evidence-based and financially viable strategies tailored to specific countries and that specify metrics to determine success.” This strategic initiative to grow and expand internationally is working, thanks to the able leadership of Jim Ott, ACP's Senior Vice President for International Programs, and his team. In 2013, the ACP Southeast Asia Chapter became active, and we are very hopeful that India will soon follow. The first ACP India National Conference was held in New Delhi, India, on Sept. 5-6, and by all accounts it was a huge success.

During my tenure, I have had the opportunity to attend the European Congress of Internal Medicine hosted by the European Federation of Internal Medicine in Geneva, Switzerland, in May and the ACP National Conference in New Delhi, India, in September. I traveled to Seoul, South Korea, in October for the World Congress of Internal Medicine and will attend the Royal Australasian College of Physicians Congress in May 2015. These are amazing experiences at which I am often greeted enthusiastically. I encourage our members to do the same for international colleagues. Please greet them warmly and thank them for their service.

International members typically travel very long distances to attend our annual meetings. They are enthusiastic and contributing members of our organization. They also serve to remind us that we are members of a service organization that is globally interconnected through common themes related to global population health and shared professional interests. We share the same lifeboat and can lend each other an empathetic ear.