Special Report—Expanding the Scope of Neurology: An Interview with Ralph L. Sacco, MD

Monday, May 08, 2017

Following are exerpts from Practical Neurology® magazine's interview with AAN President Ralph L. Sacco, MD. See the upcoming May edition for the full interview.

When Ralph L. Sacco, MD, MS, FAHA, FAAN, assumed the role as President of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) at the recent AAN Annual Meeting in Boston, he had both a clear vision for the future of neurology and a plan for how to get there. “It’s all about teamwork and collaboration across organizations and national boundaries, as well as bringing many constituencies and subspecialties of neurology together,” said Dr. Sacco in an interview with Practical Neurology®. As the first neurologist to serve as president of the American Heart Association from 2010 to 2011, Dr. Sacco knows something about the importance of collaborative and multidisciplinary care and he is making it a focus of his platform as incoming AAN President. “To provide state of the art care of complex neurological patients, we have to work in teams. Providing integrated and multidisciplinary care requires neurologists to work with a number of different specialists, including rehab physicians, neuropsychologists, neurosurgeons, and multiple professional groups.”

According to Dr. Sacco, this collaborative mindset should extend beyond clinical care and also encompass organizational aspects of the specialty. “The AAN is the largest professional society for neurologists in the world, and we are trying to work across specialties and constituencies to both coordinate and collaborate with the multiple voices of neurology.” That means expanding the reach of the Academy to more fully engage international collaborators, patient-centered organizations, and particularly advance practice providers, he observed. “Advance practice providers are growing fast in our organization, and we want to make sure we can engage them fully in our multidisciplinary team care required for neurological patients.”

            Another point of emphasis that Dr. Sacco plans on expanding during his tenure is personal and professional wellness. One of the most significant challenges facing neurologists and the specialty as a whole is burnout, according to Dr. Sacco. “One of the biggest drivers of burnout is regulatory burden that doesn’t have specific value to the care of patients. Our last President, Dr. Terrence L. Cascino had created a task force to address burnout among neurologists,” said Dr. Sacco. “We are continuing that task force activity and turning it into a wellness task force to begin to think about ways to mitigate and reduce burnout and improve the lives of our neurology members.” 

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