Following California’s establishment of the first state affiliate of the AACVPR in 1981, a task force co-chaired by Pat Cable, RN and BJ Willard, MS, along with the Virginia American Heart Association, was created with the goal of forming a state organization to promote professional education in the field of cardiac rehab.
Originally named the Cardiovascular Rehabilitative Specialists Society in Virginia, later renamed the Virginia Society of Cardiovascular Rehabilitation, was formed to:
- Provide a forum for exchanging information with other healthcare professionals to improve quality of care
- Provide professional education through conferences, scientific meetings and publications
- Collaborate with other organizations with similar missions
- Provide a forum for program management concerns to develop cost-effective models of care with optimal patient outcomes
One of the first offerings was a Cholesterol for Nurses Convention, chaired by Jackie Bunn, RN, took place at the Jefferson Hotel. The Virginia Society of Cardiovascular Rehabilitation actually canceled its inaugural conference in Richmond, VA due to lack of participation. Nevertheless, the inception for what was to become VACVPR had begun.
The initial VACVPR board meetings were held at the Virginia AHA affiliate in 1985, with original board members Sandi Brooks,RN, Mary Frances Conner, RN, Jan Glover, RN, Joy Gournic, RN, Marian Marconyak, PT, Cam McLaughlin, RRT, Pat Cable and Jackie Bunn. Incorporation as VACVPR occurred in 1987, so that VACVPR is one of the oldest state affiliates. Early pioneers included Dr. Henry Miller, Bill Herbert, PhD, Joan Miller (AHA), Judith Murphy, Md, Franki Robbins-Pivornik, EP, and Pat Ferree, RN who brought their expertise, passion, commitment, and even financial support, to the early affiliate. With the goal of creating educational opportunities and supported by Joan Miller from the AHA, the group held a state meeting with renowned speaker Dr. Nanette Wenger, who also emphasized that professional education was the key to do more for our patients. From this began the realization that we could learn from one another, and sharing information through networking sponsors creativity in programming, improvements in patient care, and professional growth. Three key points were to improve education, communication and expertise in our programs as well as joint effort to understand and manage reimbursement issues.
As the organization grew, other important leaders came on board and made an impact, such as Doug and Barbara Southard, Robin Cuffe, Reed Humphrey, and Sally Gammon. Some of these early participants went on to become fellows and leaders in the national AACVPR organization.
One of our first goals was to contact and invite all disciplines to join. As the organization grew, the Board voted to recognize an outstanding leader each year as Honoree of the year. This person selected would be exemplified by a longstanding commitment in the field, effective team work, performance improvement initiatives or a special project reflecting advancement of the future of VACVPR.
As with most new organizations, branding was identified through the adoption of a logo and a newsletter to provide communication to the organization’s members. By 1991, the Board decided to include pulmonary rehab in the name, and the logo design was changed by Jackie Bunn to reflect this with the Virginia Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehab..
As VACVPR started to work on its tax exemption status, Lynne Weir was the treasurer who took the lead. Pat Cable was a leader in recommending regional workshops as a venue for providing better communication among programs. The first state meeting was held in 1987 in Williamsburg, which also a tourist attraction which became a precedent for selection of venues to attract more attendees.
Sandy Brooks worked with Jackie and Pat to recognize the benefits of rehab and include as much of this as possible at state meetings. This gave credibility to programs marketing their cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitations. Speakers were selected to not only reflect the current state of cardiac and pulmonary rehab, but to provide insight into the future of this growing field and all its repercussions in patient care, programmatic changes, and reimbursement issues
Virginia state meetings have been fortunate to host speakers who were national experts, such as Kathy Berra, Barry Franklin Bill Herbert, Dr. Miller, Doug Southard, Pat Comoss, Dr Hellerstein, Reed Humphrey, Dr. Joseph Ornato, and many past AACVPR Presidents and VACVPR board members.
Robin Cuffe was a program leader, active board member and friend who lost her life way too early. An annual VACVPR scholarship was started in her name and continues today to promote educational opportunities by providing access to the annual state conference for the award recipient. Robin led the first state Certification committee with Sally Gammon and Jackie Bunn, but National AAVCPR changed the program certification processes under the AACVPR certification committee, on which Robin, Sally and Jackie served. Sally continued in her role to advise and mentor programs for certification as well. Jackie went on to serve AACVPR on the Clinical Applications Committee. Gerilyn Connors, a longstanding respiratory therapy clinician and program leader in northern Virginia, took over the task of interpreting and conveying reimbursement issues for pulmonary patients at conferences, regional workshops, and as a coauthor of books on Pulmonary Rehabilitation.
Board meetings moved from Richmond to Charlottesville to provide a more central state location for conference planning and meetings. In an effort to be able to reach more conference participants, the annual meetings were held in multiple locations across the state, such as Williamsburg, Richmond, Roanoke and Charlottesville. Meetings at Wintergreen and Virginia Beach were also popular destinations. Some of the issues tackled during these times were in reimbursement with CMS and other insurers like BC/BS to improve coverage for rehab services. Attempts were made to have all the professional disciplines and state regions represented on the board to reflect the various expertise, issues, programming and differences in programs across the state. Over the years, the Board has been comprised of multidisciplinary teams including nurses, exercise physiologists, psychologists, dieticians, physicians, exercise specialists, respiratory therapists, occupational therapists and physical therapists.
During the late 1990’s the VACVPR joined the AACVPR in the Day on Hill advocacy efforts in Washington DC to work with legislative issues affecting our programs. VACVPR Board members Mary Davis and Gerilynn Conners became the liaisons with National to help Virginia programs better understand CMS regulations for reimbursement. In the early 2000’s, all pulmonary rehab programs in the Palmetto Jurisdiction (the local Medicare contractor assigned to Virginia) experienced a two year audit during which several programs closed as a result of failure to meet Medicare requirements. Reflecting its mission to ensure success of its rehab programs, the VACVPR sponsored conferences that included national experts to aid programs in navigating the audit to ensure satisfactory programmatic changes that fully met Medicare expectations and reporting. These efforts led to sweeping changes in all our rehab programs led by the VACVPR that now best demonstrate the regulatory requirements and documentation needed for growth and reimbursement. Through the years, the VACVPR goals to improve program efficacy, provide tools that promote better patient outcomes in quality of life and disease management, and offer professional connections through conferences, webinars and newsletters has become the hallmark of our organizations vision and efforts.
Looking forward, reimbursement and program evolution in the days of covid, telehealth opportunities, and staffing challenges continue to be issues embraced by VACVPR to promote better understanding for its members. As in the past, our programs will continue to encounter challenges that will require leadership, commitment and creativity, and the cardiopulmonary rehab professional will continue to make the biggest difference in the lives of our patients. From disease prevention to patient advocacy, from fiscal initiatives to programmatic innovations, from patient outcome tools to ensuring professional competence, VACVPR is dedicated to providing the support, educational resources, liaison to national organizations and CMS to enable programs to not just survive, but thrive.