Dr Pamela Bowe Morris Shares What to Anticipate at the ACC’s 70th Scientific Session

We’re going to celebrate and refocus on the science, reflect and share lessons learned from the pandemic, and really engage our audience in discussions that cover care guidelines and nontraditional pathways of care, said Pamela Bowe Morris, MD, chair of ACC.21.

We’re going to celebrate and refocus on the science, reflect and share lessons learned from the pandemic, and really engage our audience in discussions that cover treatment and care guidelines, as well as nontraditional pathways of care, noted Pamela Bowe Morris, MD, a preventive cardiologist at the Medical University of South Carolina, in Charleston.

Morris is chair of ACC.21, the 70th Scientific Session from the American College of Cardiology (ACC).


How will this year’s theme, “reFocus on Science and reConnect With Patient Care,” be interwoven throughout the conference?

I really think it's appropriate for what clinicians and scientists have been through over the past year— really incredible challenges and burdens on health care providers and scientists. There have been interruptions and delays in clinical trials that were being conducted in scientific research. And then many clinicians have had to shift the focus of their practice more to COVID-19–related issues rather than their typical customary day-to-day practice issues. And now as we're coming out on the other side of the pandemic, I think at ACC.21, we really want to celebrate and refocus on the science and then reflect and share all that we've learned over the past year about new and evolving ways to make connections with patients over the coming years.

Why are the topics of gender equity and cardiology, global perspectives in value-based care, the evolving role of advanced practice professionals in cardiovascular medicine, and art as a tool for healing in cardiovascular medicine being featured at ACC.21?

So it’s interesting. Those 4 topics are actually specifically referring to the Heart to Heart conversation podcast. Typically at the annual meeting, we have a small stage that is really in the center and hub of the activity—that's almost like a pop-up flash mob. And there what we do is have speakers and discussants talk about those things that are really clinically focused; they are not really well suited to a traditional classroom. But on this stage, we can begin to engage the panelists on these certain topics and also we attract an audience around that that would like to participate in the conversations. So that's called the Heart to Heart stage.

Since we weren't able to do that this year, we reimagined the stage as podcasts. And 4 of the sessions that were put into podcasts included really important nontraditional classroom topics. The first of which you touched on is health inequities, and that is really a theme. Although certainly a strategic priority of the College for this year is addressing diversity, equity and inclusion, in addition, the topic of health inequities really naturally evolved in the meeting. And that is in each of the 10 learning pathways we have seen throughout the pandemic; various manifestations of health inequities and unequal access to care, unequal access to treatments and life-saving therapeutics. And so it really almost organically became a part of the meeting and then again was reimagined as a podcast that I'm really, really looking forward to the other.

The other couple of topics that you mentioned, one is on the evolving role of advanced practice professionals. A really important aspect of the American College of Cardiology is its focus on the cardiovascular care team. Cardiovascular care is not driven solely by cardiologists. In fact, we could not adequately care for patients without the team of other professionals, including our nurse practitioners, physician's assistants, registered dietitians, nutritionists, PharmDs, exercise physiologists, sonographers.

So there's a whole host of members of the College who have varying the expertise to contribute to our knowledge. And this podcast is really addressing some of the issues and our understanding of the evolving role of the team and how to move the focus from just the cardiologist to the impact of the greater cardiovascular care team on the health and well-being of our patients.

And then finally, I think art as a tool for healing also has evolved somewhat organically, and that is that the ACC has a strategic priority of a focus on clinician well-being. And art is certainly an important outlet for a healing and also dealing with stress and emotional concerns. So that will be another podcast that I think will be very interesting

Can you preview the guidelines discussion for us, as well as Dr. Nancy Sweitzer’s keynote, “Looking at Clarity From Confusion in Heart Failure With Preserved Ejection Fraction”?

We have a number of sessions this year that will focus on guidelines. One is a session that will be entirely focused on the 2020 guideline for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, looking at things like the role of implantable cardioverter defibrillator, debates on surgical vs intervention or catheter-based alcohol septal ablation or other catheter-based techniques. So that will be one of the sessions

Now last year, ACC/AHA [American Heart Association] published their 2020 valvular heart disease guideline. So that will be a great session going in-depth. Certainly there is no area of care in cardiology that has blossomed as much as the approach to valvular heart disease. So that's a very important session.

Then there will be a discussion of the 2019 atrial fibrillation guidelines, as well as a Core Knowledge session on AFib management. The Core Knowledge in Action sessions start with the very basics of a cardiovascular condition and go through the pathophysiology all the way to the newest guidelines in the management, and really give a clinician a soup-to-nuts kind of understanding of a cardiovascular condition.

They will be looking more in-depth at the 28 blood cholesterol guidelines, specifically looking at special patient populations for whom there is maybe not sufficient data at this time addressing women, South Asians, individuals of color, older adults—so that should be a great session. And then finally, we know again there's been an explosion of therapies and evolving management strategies for patients with heart failure, and that will be one of the important guideline-based sessions.

We also will have as one of our keynote speakers, I'm really thrilled to have Dr. Nancy Sweitzer. She's going to be giving us, in her keynote address, insights into our emerging understanding of the pathophysiology, diagnosis, and management of one of the most complicated conditions in cardiology: heart failure with preserved ejection fraction. The number of cases of what we call have HFpEF is on the rise, and certainly her talk title is very, very appealing, because I know many of the ACC.21 participants would greatly appreciate some clarity in the management and understanding of HFpEF.

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