During the past six years, Dr. Emily Volk, M.D., FCAP, has had the opportunity to travel the country and learn about the needs facing the profession of pathology while serving as an elected member of the Board of Governors for the College of American Pathologists (CAP).
It’s through this leadership role that she began to hear more directly from her colleagues about their concerns for the future of their profession, which in turn led her to consider whether her experience might best be utilized in an officer role within the CAP.
“The CAP needs member-focused leadership with clarity and purpose,” said Dr. Volk, who practices Surgical Pathology and Cytopathology at the University of Texas-San Antonio and serves as the Senior VP of Clinical Services for the University Health System. “I believe I offer that.”
That realization is what led Dr. Volk to enter a contested three-way race alongside Dr. James Richard, D.O., FCAP, and Dr. Tim Allen, M.D., J.D., to become next CAP President-Elect. The three will face off in the upcoming CAP election that runs from July 23 to August 22.
The winner will serve a five-year term consisting of two years as President-Elect, followed by an additional two years in the role of President and one final year as the Immediate-Past President.
“It’s great for the organization that there are three interested candidates for the position,” Dr. Volk said when asked for her thoughts on the race. “I think the three of us all bring something different to the table, and it certainly makes for a more challenging election.”
Asked to articulate her past accomplishments, Dr. Volk pointed to her efforts with the CAP over the past 20 years in professional advocacy, scientific resource committee work, public policy work, the Engaged Leadership Network and the House of Delegates, first representing Michigan, and more recently, Texas. She is a past President of the Michigan Society of Pathologists and a current member of the Executive Committee of the Texas Society of Pathologists.
Accomplishments in her personal career include leading a distressed hospital lab from probationary status to full accreditation and serving as a leader of a national initiative to improve evidence-base blood utilization at Tenet Healthcare.
Dr. Volk said she is particularly proud of her contributions to the Pathologists Quality Registry, a CMS-approved Qualified Clinical Data Registry specifically designed to help pathologists succeed in the Merit-based Incentive Payment System quality and value reporting program. With the 2019 reporting year representing the registry’s third year of availability, Dr. Volk has also assisted in numerous education efforts to help CAP members better understand how to best utilize the tool to maximize their MIPS participation.
The need for the Pathologist Quality Registry was created in part by federal healthcare reform aimed at transitioning payments away from traditional fee-for-service models and toward value- and quality-based reimbursements. Dr. Volk points out that it’s important to consider that whether Democrats or Republicans prevail in the 2020 elections, there will still be more changes in physician reimbursement on the way.
“It is critical that a small, somewhat off-the-radar specialty like pathology has a solid seat at the table,” Dr. Volk said. “If we don’t, we could find ourselves swept up in payment and healthcare delivery reforms that are not designed with us in mind. The CAP must rise to the challenge of supporting the profession through these reforms.”
In that vein, Dr. Volk said she intends to focus on the following four areas, if elected (direct quotes italicized):
1. Use technology to bring the wealth of resources at the CAP to the critical moments in our daily practices. This means having the Best Practice Guidelines, Cancer Checklists, Protocols, and Publications, as well as Accreditation Checklists, Public Policy information, Advocacy Tools, and Key Regulatory Information, readily available when and where we need it: from the microscope to the bedside, in the laboratory and in Congressional offices.
2. Bring the influence and sway of the CAP to LIS/EMR vendors, for the production of pathologist-created informatics standards that not only streamline patient care but also improve the ease of clinical data abstraction for successful participation in value-based care.
3. Ensure that the CAP provides liberally the resources needed for advocacy in support of appropriate payment and regulatory relief.
4. Improve the engagement of Fellows and Junior Fellows from all backgrounds. We need to include pathologists in private practice, academics, and independent laboratories as well as pathologists who are early and mid-career and more mature pathologists, including those who are retired. Pathologists benefit from the terrific diversity that is the CAP membership. We must embrace all who are willing to devote their spare hours to the profession and make participation more attainable to everybody.
And while she hopes to have the opportunity to implement that agenda, Dr. Volk said the experience and insight she’s gained throughout her campaign will be invaluable as she continues to advocate for the profession of pathology moving forward.
“I’ve made new friends and I have a better understanding of the landscape of pathology and laboratory medicine across the United States,” Dr. Volk said. “I hope it serves the College and the Fellows well to have had the opportunity to express their concerns on things that matter to them to an active board member who’s working to relay those concerns.”
Dr. Volk may be contacted directly via her campaign website.