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The Canadian Cardiovascular Society (CCS) is well poised to continue delivering on its mission to advance the cardiovascular health and care of Canadians through leadership in knowledge translation, professional development and health policy. However, like any other organization, we cannot afford to ignore current economic realities and shifts in policy that may weaken the underlying funding support of the organization. This is an issue that I have been monitoring closely for the past several years. It is also why we developed the CCS Financial Strategies Working Group – a group of experienced CCS members and staff who have been tasked with developing a long-term strategy to ensure the financial sustainability and continued growth of the organization. I am pleased with the work that has been completed so far, but there is still much to do.
Our organization has expanded over the past 15 years. Members have actively contributed to the development of CCS initiatives. We successfully expanded our programs; engaged members via our new knowledge translation programs, including the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress; and launched a series of online programs to help increase access to best-in-class professional development programs.
We have grown progressively to enhance our programs in knowledge translation and member services and to help support our increased focus on cardiovascular policy development. We are actively working to catalyze the implementation of the Canadian Heart Health Strategy and Action Plan, and have been working closely with several subspecialty groups to develop guidelines for training and maintenance of competency. This growth is supported by a solid infrastructure of staff, information technology systems and other administrative resources.
Also, the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress has become our most successful and popular program. In 2008, our Toronto Congress drew more than 4000 delegates who participated in interactive workshops, attended accredited symposia and learned about new advancements in scientific research and late-breaking clinical trials. This past October, I was delighted to see a great turnout as we hosted more than 3200 people in Edmonton, Alberta.
Funding for our important programs comes from a variety of sources including membership dues, meeting and program registration, and industry support. At the Congress, pharmaceutical and medical device companies comprise a large portion of the exhibitors, and contribute financially in many areas to help us offset costs. Industry support through unrestricted grants also helps facilitate many of our initiatives. This includes such programs as the Canadian Perspectives Programs, which help community cardiologists stay abreast of the latest findings presented at international meetings to improve their clinical practice.
However, as we look to the future, there are several key factors that we must consider. I believe that we will continue to see standards that will change the industry’s educational interactions with physicians and professional organizations here and abroad. Also, changing markets for several pharmaceutical companies that work in the cardiovascular area may impact on their ability to provide financial support for educational and other programs traditionally enabled through educational grants. These are all real issues that we must plan for now. In July of this year, the Financial Strategies Working Group – comprised of Rob Beanlands, Chris Buller, Milan Gupta, Blair O’Neill, Gilbert Tang, Anne Ferguson and me – held its first meeting, where we discussed the issues at great length and agreed on what I believe are strong financial goals that support our objectives of expanding and diversifying funding sources.
The working group is exploring several options, including new types of membership, membership dues and registration structures, program sponsorship and alternative funding support. Each of these areas will require careful consideration as we move forward. Part of our process will be looking at what other medical professional associations in Canada and the United States are currently doing, and getting expert input on our existing funding structures and opportunities to sustain and grow our base over the next five years.
In my view, we must look to increase our number of partner industries to include nontraditional supporters such as banks, insurance companies, the automotive sector, and alternative health and lifestyle companies. Government and charitable grants are also unexplored options for the CCS. Partnership with government and other organizations and industries could lead to new and exciting programs. These approaches could also be used for the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress, which presents several distinct opportunities because we have not changed its funding structure in more than five years.
Increasing donations to the CCS Academy will help us continue to expand and support important programs that meet the needs of trainees. This is an area of vital importance to the CCS and we will continue to focus our efforts on this key segment of CCS membership.
Being proactive and adaptive to the changing economic and policy environments is the hallmark of a vibrant organization. Over the coming months, we will be working diligently to formulate strategies and actions that will fortify our financial house so that we can continue to offer programs and services that are of value to our members. As always, I encourage your suggestions and ideas. I will continue to keep you updated as we progress, but I also invite anyone who is interested in getting involved to contact me via e-mail at ac.SCC@tnediserp. I will ensure you receive a prompt reply.