New ACP Leadership Shares Dedication to Strengthening the Voice of Physicians

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Dr. Isaac O. Opole, new ACP president, and Dr. William E. Fox, new chair of the ACP Board of Regents, both credit involvement in ACP for their professional success

May 3, 2024 (ACP) -- The new ACP president and new chair of the ACP Board of Regents bring unique perspectives to their roles, through their shared commitment to internal medicine and dedication to the 管家婆心水论坛 as they take on these two leadership roles.

"I'll work to strengthen the voice of physicians in all aspects of the practice of medicine and enable them to 'take charge of our circumstances from within' while eschewing external factors that have infringed upon the joyful and professional practice of medicine," said Dr. Isaac O. Opole, the new president of ACP.

He is a professor of medicine and associate vice chancellor of student affairs at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City. Most recently, he served as chair of the Board of Directors for the ACP Political Action Committee and is a former governor of the ACP Kansas Chapter.

Dr. William E. Fox, who runs an independent internal medicine practice in Charlottesville, Virginia, looks forward to legislative advocacy and the implementation of strategic plans during his term as chair of the Board of Regents. He formerly served as the chair of the ACP Board of Governors, the ACP Virginia Chapter governor, and chair of the ACP Medical Practice and Quality Committee.

"As a full-time physician practicing on the front lines, I live both the joys and frustrations of being a doctor, to which most of our members can relate," he said. "I will always use my position to try to make life easier for the physician on the front lines."

Opole to Focus on Promoting New ACP Strategic Priorities

Opole grew up in Nairobi, Kenya, and received his medical degree there. A fellowship brought him to the University of California at Irvine, where he completed a Ph.D. in neurosciences.

"While I was completing my Ph.D. work, my wife, Becky, matched into a residency program at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, and upon completion of my Ph.D., I also matched into the internal medicine residency program at the same institution," he said. "I have a historical family link to Kansas through my father, who spent some time there in the early 1960s. This was the initial impetus for our choice to apply to Kansas. Once here, we found a friendly and welcoming community with great colleagues and friends, and we have felt at home ever since."

He found another home in ACP, which he joined as a resident. "I was initially drawn by its educational offerings, particularly MKSAP, the Medical Knowledge Self-Assessment Program," he recalled. "However, I quickly realized that there was more to the College than just the books and questions. I attended the annual chapter and national scientific meetings, read the Annals and the plethora of literary offerings from the College, and enjoyed the mentorship of College members."

Opole added, "The College has been tremendously valuable throughout my career, from daily clinical practice guidelines to career advice, networking and mentorship. I do not think I would be where I am professionally if it were not for the College."

He is especially proud of the ACP vision for a better health care system and its positions on women's health (particularly reproductive health), climate change and prevention of firearms-related injury and death.

"On a personal note, one of my high points was participating in the committee that established ACP as a diverse and inclusive organization," he said.

As president, Opole said his top priority will be to promote the new strategic priorities of the ACP. "These have been carefully crafted through a thoughtful process by the Board of Regents and will form a roadmap that will strengthen the College and enhance our local and global effectiveness," he said.

Opole said he will draw from his extensive leadership and administrative experience in academic medicine and in the corporate world.

"I also have extensive experience in advocacy and health policy, adding to my insight into international perspectives in health care," he said. "As an educator, I have been engaged with learners through the entire medical education continuum, which puts me in an excellent position to lead an organization with a very large student and resident membership. Finally, my belief in collaborative engagement will be useful in forging relationships with other organizations, while engaging stakeholders to further the College's priorities."

His top adviser will be his wife, Dr. Rebecca W. Opole, who just began her term as governor of the ACP Kansas Chapter. "We met in our early years of medical school at the University of Nairobi," Opole recalled. "We've been married for almost 30 years and raised two kids together. I am a hospitalist, while she is a general internal medicine specialist with a primarily outpatient practice."

He adds that he is a bad golfer who spends more time looking for the ball in the rough than playing it. "Some people will say that this has taught me patience, resilience and the need to keep going despite adversity!" he said.

Fox Hopes to Address Changing Dynamics of the Internal Medicine Workforce

Fox, who grew up in New Jersey, is the son of first-generation Americans and saw his interest in science evolve into passion for medicine. "One of my biggest goals with my degree was to serve an underserved population. I had the opportunity to do just that through the National Health Service Corps in rural Virginia," he said. "After that assignment ended, I did something that isn't done much anymore: I started a small independent practice."

The practice in Charlottesville, Virginia, now has three physicians and has just started its 21st year.

Fox was drawn to ACP because he "wanted to feel connected to something bigger."

"I also came face to face with many of the frustrations primary care physicians deal with on a daily basis: administrative burden and relatively low pay compared to procedural specialists," he recalled. "I had two choices. I could either live in silent frustration for my entire career or roll up my sleeves and join an organization where I could channel my energies and be part of the solution. I chose the latter and have not looked back since."

Most of Fox's work at ACP has revolved around advocacy. He has focused on payment reform and shoring up the primary care infrastructure in the United States.

"Early on, I remember being motivated by the push to end the Sustainable Growth Rate Formula, which unfairly impacted physician pay," he said. "More recently, the project I am most proud of relates to my work representing ACP as an adviser to the AMA Relative Value Scale Update Committee. I had the honor of leading the team that argued for significant increases in the valuation of evaluation and management (E/M) codes. We were successful against difficult odds, increasing the values of these codes by as much as 30 percent or more as of 2021. Simultaneously, some of my ACP colleagues did parallel work on significantly lessening the documentation burden of our notes."

Moving forward as chair of the Board of Regents, Fox noted that "our board just approved the priorities of our three-year strategic planning cycle, including infrastructure implementation for membership engagement and enhancement, advancing chapter alignment and sustainability, enhancing ACP's role in continuing professional learning, and addressing the changing dynamics of the internal medicine workforce. I will be working hard to begin the process of implementing these substantial efforts."

In addition, the board will be considering some highly anticipated policy papers, he noted. "From a legislative advocacy perspective, we will continue to work for physician payment reform, reducing administrative burden, ensuring access to care, protecting the patient-physician relationship, strengthening the physician workforce, increasing prescription drug access and affordability and reducing firearms-related injuries and deaths."

Fox added that he will work to "leverage opportunities to push for decreased administrative hassle and increased recognition of the value that internal medicine and primary care brings to our health care system."

On a personal front, Fox is an avid hiker who is often found exploring Shenandoah National Park. "I am also a die-hard fan of the Dave Matthews Band, which is from my hometown of Charlottesville, and am certain to make it to at least one of their concerts every year!" he said.

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