Saturday, September 4, 2010

What's the next step for APIC?

Last week, the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) announced that Kathy Warye was leaving her position as APIC’s CEO to become Vice President for Infection Prevention at Becton Dickinson. Warye joined APIC in 2004 and according to the organization’s 2008 Form 990, her total annual compensation was $360,000.

Warye’s transfer to BD shouldn’t come as a surprise when one considers the two organizations’ close relationship and intertwining interests over the past several years, as shown in the timeline below:

 2004:  GeneOhm MRSA screening test is approved by FDA
 2006:  BD acquires GeneOhm
 2006:  APIC holds a conference on Managing MRSA and launches a nationwide MRSA prevalence survey
2006:  APIC holds a summit on the Economics of Infection Prevention, co-sponsored by BD
 2006-07:  APIC develops and presents MRSA Grand Rounds, which is held in cities across the US, sponsored by BD
 2007:  APIC holds an Infection Prevention Summit, co-sponsored by BD
2008:  APIC launches a nationwide C. difficile prevalence survey (Principal Investigator Dr. Bill Jarvis, a consultant for BD)
2009:  BD’s rapid test for C. difficile is approved by the FDA
2009:  At APIC’s national meeting, BD sponsors the session where results of the C. difficile prevalence survey were presented by Dr. Bill Jarvis, as well as sessions on the MRSA Elimination Guide, the VA MRSA Prevention Initiative, C. difficile in the UK, and Managing MRSA in Long-term Care Facilities
2009:  APIC Anywhere, an online education center, goes live, co-sponsored by BD

In addition, the BD logo appears on APIC’s website where BD is described as “a strategic partner since 2006,” and APIC’s logo appears on BD’s website. BD contributes to the APIC research foundation, which funds projects such as the prevalence studies. BD also provides funding for APIC chapters. All of this raises the question of how much impact BD has had on APIC’s policy agenda.

An interesting aspect of Warye’s role at APIC was as the CEO she appeared to be driving the organization’s policy agenda and was highly visible. In contrast, in many professional organizations, the CEO is charged with operationalizing the board’s agenda and plays more of a behind-the-scenes role. When the person setting the agenda has come from outside the profession, there exists the potential for problems, as these leaders have not been socialized via their training to have a full understanding of the profession’s ethos. Perhaps this explains APIC’s numerous industry relationships and its strategy to commodify infection prevention. You name it, they’ve tried to sell it. They have priced many of their own members out of their annual meetings, and sell their infection prevention textbook for a whopping $625 (members get a reduced price of $475). They have also developed a consulting service.

Warye’s departure creates a good opportunity for APIC to step back and assess its mission, vision and values. Maybe the organization can get back to doing what it is supposed to do by representing its members' interest. Maybe it can now act like a non-profit organization instead of a business that is focused on selling products (theirs and industry's). And maybe it can re-evaluate its relationships with industry. Going forward, it will be interesting to see how APIC’s relationship with BD changes given Warye’s high-ranking position in the company. Any financial support of APIC by BD now will only heighten concerns regarding conflict of interest.

To be certain, Warye has had an impact on APIC. She effectively used the media to spread the organization’s message, developed partnerships with industry, and enriched APIC’s coffers. But in the process, she also sold the organization’s soul.

1 comment:

  1. Unfortunately, such stones could be thrown in many directions within the field, not just towards APIC.

    Perhaps medicine should follow the example of lawyers, where any legitimate law firm has a conflicts of interest board. Every outside consulting relationship, board position (volunteer or otherwise), stock purchase or sale, speaking engagement, everything that might pose a conflict of interest with the work of the firm and the defense of its clients must be declared to and approved by the board. If every medical institution were to do the same thing, it would certainly give us all some pause.