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HFA: Looking forward to new challenges in heart failure; time for new milestones

Heart Failure

Petar Seferovic.jpgProf. Petar M. Seferovic

Incoming HFA President, Professor Petar M. Seferović (Belgrade University Medical Center, Belgrade, Serbia), discusses his plans to ensure HFA continues to flourish as a leading world heart failure association and indisputable driving force in the development of new strategies for heart failure treatment. He is convinced that, under his leadership, HFA will build on established goals and guide its members to make a difference to the lives of their patients.

A board member of HFA for several years, Prof. Seferović has led various HFA-initiated projects over the last decade, including the first Heart Failure Awareness Day in 2009 and the Heart Failure National Societies (HF NS) Summits in 2011. He has also been involved with the ESC since 1984 as young Treasurer of the Yugoslav Society of Cardiology, and is very familiar with its structure and function. He sees HFA as one of the major players in the ESC family, and, as such, it will continue to be committed to the five strategic ESC pillars, namely congress activities, education, research initiatives, advocacy and membership. “Bringing about further improvements in each of these key areas will be essential to the future growth of the association,” notes Prof. Seferović. He plans to work extensively with the national societies, building on the successes of earlier HF NS Summits to continue to strengthen the network of national societies, institutions and experts across Europe. He highlights that, “Since 2011, the number of countries involved in HF NS Summits has grown significantly; we now have 48 countries participating, compared with 27 in 2011.” During several years of collaboration with HF NS, many important projects were initiated and an expanded alliance between the HFA and the national societies was formed. Now, Prof. Seferović believes, it is time to achieve new milestones, with particular focus on three pivotal initiatives: (i) ESC HFA Atlas in Europe (HFA Atlas), (ii) Heart Failure Centres of Excellence, and (iii) HFA membership.

“It is time to achieve new milestones as we focus on the development and expansion of key initiatives to improve the management of heart failure.”

The future HFA Atlas (as a component of the existing ESC Atlas) will describe heart failure management across almost 40 ESC countries. Prof. Seferović explains that, “Based on discussions with Atlas experts that I instigated in 2016, more than 50 heart failure-specific variables have now been identified for use as indicators of the level of care received in a given country.” He expects the final Atlas document to be completed early in 2019 and presented during Heart Failure 2019. “As the Atlas data will be updated on an annual basis, this will be an important information source for cardiologists, heart failure specialists, healthcare systems and pharmaceutical companies when considering future strategies in diagnosis and treatment, as well as in expenditure,” acknowledges Prof. Seferović.

Designed to identify leading heart failure institutions in a particular country, the Heart Failure Centres of Excellence initiative will be based on the data generated by HFA Atlas. The project aims to standardise management of heart failure across EU-certified centres and has been active for the last five years, but progress has been slow. Prof. Seferović aims to change this situation, noting that, “The information gathered by HFA Atlas will allow us to reshape and modify the structure of the Centres of Excellence model. We have to recognise that one model will not fit all ESC countries with their specific needs and challenges.”

Prof. Seferović feels that a renewed focus on HFA membership is also crucial to the ongoing success of the association. Increased membership is anticipated based on information generated by HFA Atlas and the re-organisation of the Centres of Excellence. By encouraging an interest in heart failure, he would also like to attract a growing number of new heart failure specialists to join the HFA; “It is important to be aware that of the 95,000 ESC members, ~60% are still looking for a subspecialty,” he comments. Prof. Seferović is particularly interested in recruiting younger members, and considers education invaluable in this regard. “Education is one of the most developed elements of HFA activity and is especially focused on our heart failure specialists of tomorrow,” he says. At HFA, education is not only a focus of the world’s largest heart failure congress, but is also provided by one of the leading journals in the field, and by the heart failure curriculum developed by the association.

Asked about future challenges and opportunities, Prof. Seferović refers to the potentially negative impact on the field of new and complex regulations imposed on the medical technology industry. “However, as the management of heart failure relies only partially on medical devices, we hope to be able to minimise the impact of these regulations,” he adds. Prof. Seferović sees the annual Heart Failure congress and the Winter Meeting on Translational Heart Failure Research as excellent opportunities to discuss these and other challenges. He notes that, “Communication is key within the complex ESC structure, and also within the HFA.” In addition to the international meetings, 15 HFA Committees and Study Groups coordinate a range of research activities, including workshops and courses, and produce a large number of position papers that are essential to daily practice. Prof. Seferović, known as an excellent team player, is looking forward to working closely with both a newly elected board and with the ESC to continue to improve and strengthen the HFA. As a former judo champion and holder of the seventh dan, he concludes by stating convincingly, “I’m looking forward not only to embracing this exciting new role, but also to facing the various challenges it may bring!”