It’s not every day that ACEP welcomes a new Executive Director—in fact, only three people held the position during ACEP’s first 50 years. On July 20, Susan Sedory, MA, CAE, became the fourth person—and the first woman—in this position. She will build on the foundation laid by the previous Executive Director, Dean Wilkerson, JD, MBA, CAE, who retired on July 31, 2020.
Prior to joining ACEP, Ms. Sedory had been the Executive Director of the Society of Interventional Radiology (SIR) since 2011, leading the association of more than 8,100 interventional radiology physicians, scientists and clinical professionals in the shared goal to optimize minimally invasive patient care.
Ms. Sedory recently responded by email to questions from the ACEP Now Editorial Board and Editor in Chief, Jeremy Samuel Faust, MD, MS, MA, FACEP. Here are some highlights from her responses.
ACEP Now: What attracted you to this position?
SS: The mission and vision of ACEP and the dedication and passion of its members and staff are well-respected in the professional medical association community. As a peer of Dean Wilkerson’s for years, I felt like I already knew a lot about the incredible work the College has been doing. And although I wasn’t looking to leave SIR at all, I was drawn to learn more. What I found was an incredibly passionate set of leaders and an opportunity to use my strengths to make a difference in the future of emergency medicine and in ACEP. I am incredibly humbled to have been selected from a very competitive and rigorous search process and fortunate to have a supportive family so that I could say yes.
ACEP Now: What were the biggest accomplishments from your tenure at SIR that ACEP can learn from?
SS: As a medical specialty that’s a decade or so younger than ACEP, interventional radiology also had to fight its way into being a primary specialty, including during my tenure. This led to an explosive growth in SIR membership numbers and needs—which are both good and challenging problems to have and not necessarily just reserved for newbies. I actually think all professions need to reexamine their brand promise, innovate their outreach, and readjust their priorities to stay ahead. I look forward to bringing the already-innovative staff and leaders in ACEP into that process while expanding our community and the diverse voices it needs to engage fully.
ACEP Now: What do you see as the biggest challenges to medical societies as organizations themselves that we must address?
SS: We were already in a wildly transformative time—and that was before 2020 gave us the health and economic consequences of a pandemic and protests about systemic racial inequity and injustice. Medical societies know this should be a time when the value we bring is at its highest—but we also know that our members and stakeholders have a lot of other demands on their time and resources. We don’t take for granted that the cost to be part of our ACEP community is substantial and something that you could deprioritize at any time. The challenge before us is how can we embrace the opportunities that arise from the digital, policy, and social disruptions of 2020 to make ACEP more valued by each member and more beneficial to each patient who seeks emergency care.
ACEP Now: How do organizations like ACEP stay relevant to their members and continue to grow?
SS: As hinted above, I strongly believe that organizational relevance is personal. Yes, ACEP has an obligation to do right for all emergency physicians and the public who needs your care. Within resource limitations, we are going to do that regardless of whether our membership is larger or smaller. But I also strongly believe that when those who are most passionate about their profession and their patients find their voice and community in their professional association, the momentum to amplify positive change is powerful and motivating. I also believe that embracing innovative changes, like making our 2020 meeting “unconventional,” provides an opportunity to become even more relevant to our members as well as introduce new audiences to the unrivaled educational and networking opportunities ACEP offers.
ACEP Now: How do emergency physicians leverage the newfound respect for our field in order to achieve our collective goals moving forward after COVID-19?
SS: For better or worse, it’s true that the current COVID-19 crisis has provided an unanticipated platform for ACEP to deliver on one of our strategic plan objectives, namely, to promote the value of emergency medicine and emergency physicians as essential components of the health care system. I’ve heard it said that emergency physicians got their white hats back. And just as you are working the front lines to provide quality and compassionate care, ACEP staff and leaders are engaging in new ways with our federal, state, and local government officials, as well as health system stakeholders, both to ensure emergency physicians get the support they need and can provide the care patients need. Unfortunately, the struggles we have faced in improving the delivery system for acute care are still going to be there. Now is the time to continue leveraging those new and closer relationships to advance our mission’s promise to both physicians and patients and to address our other strategic objectives, particularly in the areas of promoting delivery models that provide high-quality emergency medical care in different environments, including rural areas, and in pursuing strategies for fair payment and practice sustainability, including alternative payment models. In doing so, the collective experiences of our members over the past months of the COVID-19 crisis provide us with powerful stories and relatable and illustrative examples that we will leverage to significantly strengthen all facets of our advocacy agenda.
ACEP Now: What hurdles will our profession continue to face in the house of medicine in the coming years?
SS: We share many burdens with the greater house of medicine—the growing crisis of physician burnout; the physician shortage and shifting of services to nonphysician health care workers and AI-enabled systems; and the ongoing need for health care reform, especially for our most vulnerable patients and populations. Some of the temporary policies enacted during the COVID-19 crisis, such as payment for telehealth, should remain. Others, such as expanded scope of practice to practitioners and chain pharmacy facilities, have the potential to overrun state regulations. The proactive strength of ACEP’s voice at the American Medical Association and in partnership with our state chapters is more important now than ever when new policies must and will emerge.
ACEP Now: Dean Wilkerson knows emergency physicians and ACEP probably better than anyone. Did he give you any parting advice on how to thrive in this position?
SS: Dean has been incredibly generous with his time, both during my preboarding and onboarding activities, helping me learn the duties as well as the culture. He has also clearly built a strong internal bench and external network that I will continue to nurture. What I have recently learned is that I might need him to leave behind a cheat sheet of “Texas Deanisms” so I can try to keep up with his famous sayings!
ACEP Now: Now that you’ve been on the job for a week or so, what has surprised you?
SS: Not so much as a surprise but rather fortuitous timing, I had the opportunity to join just as the Future of Emergency Medicine Summits that ACEP President William Jaquis, MD, FACEP, convened were occurring. These sessions, the videos of which will be placed on our website for all to view and provide feedback on as ACEP looks to its next strategic planning, offered a great platform to immerse myself in all of the questions posed above as the talks were framed around the domains of patients, people (workforce), practice, and payment. On a more personal level, despite the reality of joining an organization without having met anyone—staff or physicians—face-to-face, I’ve been amazed at how comfortably accepted I feel. Clearly, ACEP is a special family, and I’m truly honored to be so welcomed into the fold. The dedication of our staff, volunteers, and leaders is indeed unparalleled.
ACEP Now: What are your personal passions outside of work that you would like to share with our members?
SS: My husband, Mark Mead, and our 11-year-old Siberian husky (@kiya_kevin_kyle on Instagram) are fortunate to have four grown children, one grandson, and one granddaughter on the way—all of whom enjoy spending time together any chance we can. You’re likely to find us then, or anytime really, doing myriad outdoor activities, including hiking, biking, and water sports.
Want to hear more from Ms. Sedory? Here’s a video interview where she answers more questions, both serious and light-hearted, that will help you get to know her better.