ACSM President's Vision

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ACSM President's Vision

Walter R. Thompson, Ph.D., FACSM |  Aug. 8, 2017

In 1981, my mentor and friend Henry Miller, M.D., FACSM, became ACSM’s 25th president. Early on, Henry urged me to become involved in ACSM and, at the 1983 ACSM Annual Meeting induction reception, personally introduced me as one of the new Fellows. From that time on, one of my professional goals was to follow in his footsteps. It took more than 35 years, but now I am especially honored to be able to serve as your president for 2017-18. I have the good fortune to follow two great ACSM leaders, former President (2015-2016) Larry Armstrong, Ph.D., FACSM, and my leadership mentor, Liz Joy, M.D., FACSM, immediate ACSM past-president. 

ACSM presidents are often asked about their legacy programs, i.e., a unique initiative that they personally conceived, advocated and launched during their leadership year to advance the college’s mission. Exercise is Medicine® (EIM) and ActivEarth are just two examples of these presidential legacies. Some have had immediate impact, while others take longer to gather momentum. All have had a major positive impact on ACSM. ACSM presidents need to be very careful and highly selective when announcing these legacy programs because not all members will agree. Some will be skeptical, others will be opposed and still others will be very happy to see them (finally) emerge as ACSM priorities. 

It will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that my presidential priorities will be:

  • Achieving greater inclusivity for engagement in physical activity for people with physical impairments; and

  • Enhancing effectiveness of the EIM Solution in the Exercise is Medicine® initiative, focusing resources on innovative networking strategies that link community physicians to well-qualified fitness professionals who live and work in nearby cities and neighborhoods.

As with any ACSM presidential priority, foundational work precedes an announcement and establishes the further development of ideas and programs. Let me briefly overview how each of these initiatives were developed and how we can, together, enrich them. 

Greater Inclusivity for People with Physical Impairments (This is one of those slowly developing legacy initiatives, just now gaining greater momentum.): After having served as the local research coordinator for the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and for the Atlanta Paralympic Organizing Committee in 1996, I was asked to serve on the IPC Sports Science Committee. This latter committee was responsible for reviewing and coordinating research being conducted during IPC sanctioned events. The 1996 Paralympic Games was my first introduction to sports programs for athletes with a physical impairment; in more recent years, this has been extended to include athletes with an intellectual impairment, as well. I have had the very good fortune of attending every Winter and Summer Paralympic Games since 1996 and have worked with the most elite of athletes. More recently, ACSM has accomplished the following:

  • In 2008, ACSM and the IPC signed a memorandum of understanding with the promise to work closely together; part of this agreement called for adding science and practice content on related topics to the ACSM Annual Meeting program;

  • The 2017 Joseph B. Wolffe Lecture was delivered by IPC Sports Science Committee Chairperson, Yves Vanlandewijck, Ph.D., with the title “Crossroads and Conflicts: Olympics, Paralympics or Cyborg Olympics;”

  • At the 2017 ACSM Annual Meeting in Denver, Cheri Blauwet, M.D. and Paralympic Champion became a member of the ACSM Board of Trustees;

  • And, on May 10th of this year at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., ACSM and the Inclusive Fitness Coalition (which was formed 10 years ago) announced a continuing partnership with the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD). The NCHPAD is housed at Lakeshore Foundation in Birmingham, promoting the Partnership for Inclusive Health. This Partnership is a strategic alliance between many organizations including the American Heart Association, the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors (NACDD) and others.

For this year and beyond, ACSM will continue to find ways to be more inclusive and discover new partners that we can work with to find solutions for the health issues and sports opportunities for people with disabilities. 

Enhancing the EIM Solution: The EIM program has received a lot of attention from ACSM over the past 10 years. However, a significant gap has been identified that has slowed broad implementation in communities. Routinely, doctors now ask their patients about physical activity and exercise. Some, of course, do provide basic exercise information. But, when a patient asks the doctor about community resources, there is a significant knowledge gap. One strategy ACSM has developed to close this gap is to create and deploy an EIM credential for certified fitness professionals. ACSM is also a founding member of the Coalition for the Registration of Exercise Professionals (CREP), which developed the U.S. Registry of Exercise Professionals (USREPS). USREPS provides local doctors with a significant resource to locate qualified fitness professionals right in their own communities, ensuring that their patients will get the very best (and safest) exercise program. This searchable database ( is not yet well known, but could be one of the first steps for physicians looking to refer patients to well-qualified fitness professionals. My second presidential priority is to create a seamless referral network from physicians to these community resources. This network will enable physicians to answer the patient question, “Okay doc, I get it. I need to get more exercise, but where do I go and whom do I see?” 

These two presidential priorities are ambitious, but both are desperately needed in our communities. With the help of ACSM members who are basic and applied scientists, physicians and educators, as well as our affiliate members, we can get more people all over the world to become more physically active.

ACSM’s new president is Walter R. Thompson, Ph.D., FACSM. He is a regents’ professor and associate dean for graduate studies and research in the College of Education & Human Development at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Walt, a member of ACSM since 1978, has served on and chaired several committees, including the Committee on Certification and Registry Boards and the International Relations Committee. In addition, he has served as chair of the American Fitness Index Advisory Board for 10 years.