American College of Physicians: Internal Medicine — Doctors for Adults ®

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College will take on 'new' name this month, but with a twist

From the March ACP-ASIM Observer, copyright © 2003 by the American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine.

By Deborah Gesensway

For the first time since ACP and ASIM merged in 1998, the College will once again be known as the American College of Physicians—but with a twist.

The "new" name, which will take effect on March 31 during the week of Annual Session, will also feature this official tagline: "Internal Medicine. Doctors for Adults." College officials hope that pairing the old name with a new tagline will take advantage of the organization's reputation—and reflect important changes the organization has undergone since the merger.

"While we are reverting to a simpler name, it doesn't mean we're backing off from the strengthening of the College that happened with the merger," said David C. Dale, FACP, Chair of the Board of Governors. "The College gained a lot from the merger, and we are not going to give that up with this name."

Adding a tagline to the organization's name, coupled with a new logo and updated graphics, will help improve the College's name recognition and public awareness with patients and politicians, explained David L. Sgrignoli, the College's Senior Vice President for Marketing and Communications.

College research, he said, found that the name "American College of Physicians" resonated strongly with many of the College's audiences. Those groups include not only internists and other physicians, but individuals from academic medicine and health care organizations like the Institute of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health and medical foundations.

Defining 'who we are'

Adding a tagline that describes "who we are and what we do," Mr. Sgrignoli said, should help broaden public recognition and build upon the progress made by the College's "Doctors for Adults" public awareness campaign. Consumer testing of the tagline showed that using both "Internal Medicine" and "Doctors for Adults" helped clarify public confusion about exactly what the word "internist" means.

When the College conducted research in the mid-1990s, it found that more than half of the American public didn't know what an internist was. Of those who said they did know, a fair number were wrong. (Many confused internists with interns.)

Other physician organizations use trademarked descriptive taglines with their name. The AMA, for instance, uses the tagline, "Physicians Dedicated to the Health of America." The American Academy of Family Physicians uses "Today's Family Physician-Specializing in All of You."

When the country's two internal medicine professional associations merged and an opportunity arose to rename the College, some ACP-ASIM leaders strongly advocated for a more descriptive name that could help improve public visibility of internal medicine. (Under terms of the merger agreement, the name ACP-ASIM could not be changed until July 2001.)

College officials, however, found that the label "ACP" had wider public recognition than most people assumed, explained Tanya L. Repka, FACP, Governor for the College's Minnesota Chapter and Vice Chair of the Marketing and Communications Committee. In July 2001, the Board of Governors asked that committee to review the ACP-ASIM name and analyze options for a new, less cumbersome moniker.

The Governors had several concerns about the combined name. First, many people had complained that "ACP-ASIM" was too difficult to pronounce. More importantly, some Governors reported that the name led to identity problems when the College was mentioned in the press.

"We were often misidentified, sometimes as the 'American College of Medicine' or the 'American Society of Medicine,' " Dr. Repka said. Too often, the media referred to the College as two different organizations—ACP and ASIM.

"You can say 'ACP' to reporters or legislators and they have heard of it," she said. "There is name recognition that other names didn't have."

Mr. Sgrignoli said the ACP name gained greater credibility during the post-merger years. "The use of 'ACP-ASIM' absolutely helped increase brand recognition for 'ACP' among legislators and regulators because of ASIM's excellent reputation among these audiences," he explained.

The case for 'ACP'

The College's Marketing and Communications Committee spent nearly a year kicking around dozens of possible names and taglines. The committee eventually narrowed the field down to three: American College of Physicians, American College of Internal Medicine and American Association of Internal Medicine.

Dr. Dale said he preferred ACP to the other options because the word "physician" is stronger than "internal medicine." "It immediately conveys the caring and healing aspects of medicine, which I think are a central concept for the College," he said. Likewise, he said that the word "College" emphasizes the idea of "collegiality," that the organization is a group of physicians who work and learn together.

Yul D. Ejnes, FACP, Governor for the College's Rhode Island Chapter and a member of the Marketing and Communications Committee, said he supported the change to ACP because the hyphenated name had lost its raison d'etre.

As a former ASIM leader who supported the combined name after the merger, Dr. Ejnes said he is now comfortable that "ASIM has survived and even thrived in terms of the products and services the College now provides. The original purpose for hyphenating the name was rendered moot by the changes that have occurred since the merger."

He preferred ACP to any other option, he said, because "the pros and cons of the new and more descriptive names ended up canceling each other out." On a practical level, he said, "I think it made more sense to go with something that already has legs and was at least known to other physicians, legislators, academics and professional societies."

Dr. Repka said a deciding factor was the honorific designations "FACP" and "MACP," which would have had to change if the College's name changed dramatically. "A lot of people really identify with the fact that they are FACP, so we didn't want to change that," she explained.

Mr. Sgrignoli said that the name change will help the College establish more public visibility. The www.doctorsforadults.comWeb site will continue, as will the monthly "Internal Medicine Report" service, which gives television stations nationwide video news releases that publicize articles from Annals of Internal Medicine as well as College positions on important health care issues, such as access to care.

"'ACP' is memorable," he said. "We have an established brand with an excellent reputation. We are simply trying to leverage that to the maximum extent, to reach new audiences and appeal to a new generation."

Deborah Gesensway is a freelance writer in Glenside, Pa.

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