After more than 15 years as executive director of ACEP, Dean Wilkerson, one of only three individuals to hold the position, plans to retire in 2020.
“At this point in my life, I want more of what every person wants more of—time,” he said. “After 40 years of doing important but very stressful and time-consuming jobs, I want to step away and spend more time doing things that I never seem to have enough time to do. It just seems like the right time to let some other person come in and help ACEP continue to make progress.”
Mr. Wilkerson told the ACEP Board of Directors in early 2016 that he planned to retire when his current contract ended on July 31, 2020. Because it has had time to plan, the Board has retained a search firm and established a Search Committee that includes ACEP President Vidor E. Friedman, MD, FACEP. Association Strategies (assnstrategies.com) was selected to conduct a nationwide search for ACEP’s next executive director. A position specification should be available by early October. The goal is to have the new executive director start by June 2020.
A History of Accomplishments
When Mr. Wilkerson joined ACEP in 2004, the Board was looking for him to bring new approaches to advocacy for emergency medicine and emergency physicians. One of the first things Mr. Wilkerson did was reallocate $272,000 from other areas in ACEP’s budget to public relations and media advocacy.
The first 16 months on the job saw a whirlwind of activity in which he interacted with ACEP’s national leaders and chapters. Mr. Wilkerson attended the Michigan Chapter meeting and had dinner with ACEP founders John G. Wiegenstein, MD, and John A. Rupke, MD, listening to them regale the rapt dinner party with stories of the early days of ACEP.
“I fell in love with emergency physicians and their energy and enthusiasm,” he said.
At the 2005 annual meeting in Washington, D.C., ACEP held a Rally on Capitol Hill. More than 4,000 emergency physicians, nurses, and paramedics participated in the event and it is believed to be the largest public advocacy gathering of a medical organization ever. Just months later, the first National Report Card on the State of Emergency Medicine was released with strong media coverage on network television, radio, and in major news publications. ACEP followed this Report Card in years to come with releases in 2009 and 2014 that helped drive ACEP’s advocacy agenda.
In 2009, on the heels of the second Report Card, a comprehensive media campaign called “Myths and Realities,” the lead-up to the passage of the Affordable Care Act, and other factors, Mr. Wilkerson was named #37 on the list of Top 100 Most Influential People in Health Care by Modern Healthcare magazine. “It was a great honor for me, but it was really a testimony to how active and effective ACEP members and staff are in so many areas,” he said.
The value of activity at the chapter level has been important to Mr. Wilkerson. He added $50,000 to the ACEP budget for state public policy grants in addition to ACEP’s traditional chapter grants. In 2008, ACEP started offering free member services for chapters, including a state public policy tracking service, chapter newsletters, website development, and more.
During his tenure, ACEP communications have continually evolved to suit changing member needs, with several comprehensive overhauls of our website; the daily customized news briefing, EM Today; and an embracing of social media with Twitter, Facebook, blogs, podcasts, videos, apps, and more.
Mr. Wilkerson said he is proud of how ACEP has reengineered ACEP Now by increasing the clinical content of what was once known as ACEP News. Annals of Emergency Medicine has long been an excellent flagship publication of ACEP and has continued to gain prominence. His leadership is helping guide the early 2020 launch of ACEP’s second journal, an online-only open-access publication known as JACEP Open.
After passage of the Affordable Care Act, ACEP created the Emergency Medicine Action Fund (EMAF), which has funded many important projects, including the “Value of EM Study” conducted by the RAND Corporation.
A Lasting Legacy
One of the most significant developments under Mr. Wilkerson’s leadership has been the creation of ACEP’s Clinical Emergency Data Registry (CEDR), what he describes as “an amazingly complicated enterprise.” It was started in 2014, and by 2016, CEDR began to gain traction and grow steadily. “CEDR will be a cornerstone asset of ACEP and the specialty for the foreseeable future as quality measurement and improvement continues to be of vital importance not only to the government but to all payers,” Mr. Wilkerson said.
Many clinical and practice resources were developed under Mr. Wilkerson’s leadership, including the Boarding Solutions Report distributed to all member hospitals by the American Hospital Association; the Geriatric ED Accreditation Program; the Emergency Medicine Practice Research Network (EMPRN), which captures important insights from more than 1,200 members; and, most recently, the EM point-of-care tools for use at the bedside.
As emergency medicine faced challenges from other specialties, Mr. Wilkerson led ACEP as it staked out ground to support its members. When anesthesiologists adopted a policy for sedation that was inappropriate for care in the emergency setting, ACEP adopted its own sedation policy that was far more applicable. As the critical care community has started to embrace a European standard for sepsis care that is not the standard of care in the United States, ACEP is now developing its own policy.
Part of his legacy is ACEP’s new headquarters, a three-story, 57,000-square-foot building that reflects the bold and progressive character of emergency medicine. Located near Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, ACEP’s new facility has proved convenient and welcoming for a variety of EM organizations and affiliated companies.
“Being the chief executive of ACEP is a tremendous honor. We are more than just a professional medical society. To me, the mission of ACEP is a cause every bit as important as that of any philanthropic organization in the world,” Mr. Wilkerson said.
“We are striving to provide access and help deliver the highest quality of emergency medical care possible. I fiercely advocate for emergency medicine and emergency physicians whenever I have the opportunity,” he said, adding, “An ACEP past president once paid me a real compliment when he said, ‘Dean wears ACEP underwear.’”