By Craig Burkhart, MD
For state societies to be effective there must be leadership. Yes, strategic plans, organizational structure, and policy priorities are all important, but without strong leadership, not much else can be accomplished. And so the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) has responded to this need by piloting a program for state society leaders.
On Sept. 7-8, the Academy expanded the Leadership Institute and hosted its first annual State Society Leadership Summit in conjunction with the AADA Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C. Because this first year was a trial run, the Summit was only open to state society presidents, who served as a focus group to help Academy staff, along with members of the State Society Development Task Force, understand how the AAD can better support state societies and identify which issue areas should be considered when developing the task force’s 2014 priorities.
The Summit gave state leaders the chance to come together and discuss the common challenges and trends affecting state societies. The day began with each participant sharing a snapshot of their society, highlighting primary goals, challenges, and successes throughout 2013. Afterwards, various roundtable discussions were facilitated to determine how the AAD can best serve as a resource to state societies. The following topics were discussed:
- Strategic planning and defining purpose — Participants discussed the role of state societies in the changing health care landscape and found that developing a strategic plan is one of the most critical responsibilities for state leaders. Ideas were shared about ways to engage societies in annual strategic planning and goal setting, and how effective it’s been for those who have already developed a plan.
- Governance — Because all state societies function under different organizational structures, it was important to highlight ways to build strong communication, clarity, and cohesion amongst society leadership. The group defined ineffective committees, outdated bylaws or structures, and the lack of support for organizational change as common hurdles. They agreed that hosting a board orientation or strategic retreat often helps to address structural problems.
- Leadership development — A common obstacle amongst the group was uncertainty on how to dedicate sufficient time to improving society leadership development activities. Often, leaders discover that the actual role and responsibilities of an elected position are nothing like they initially thought, which can be unsettling. Participants brainstormed what tools or assistance might be helpful in preparing volunteers for their term in office and in cultivating new, effective society leaders. A great idea that came out of this discussion was developing state leadership training or a shadowing program.
- State policy priorities and trends — AADA Assistant Director of State Policy Lisa Albany led the discussion on state policy and advocacy. This helped assess which states are equipped to address the policy issues, in terms of willingness to participate, interest, support needed for society involvement in advocacy, and overall knowledge of opportunities for influence. Participants felt it was crucial for state societies to interact with policymakers and have a key contacts program. They also shared which AAD resources were most helpful in enabling their society to be effective in its advocacy engagement.
Feedback from current officers has been extremely valuable as the task force begins developing its direction for the future. Although this year’s Summit was only open to current state society presidents, the task force hopes to expand participation in the coming years to all state officers.
State Society Leadership Institute
In addition to the Leadership Summit, the AAD has offered a leadership program to state society officers and executive directors, known as the State Society Leadership Institute. The program provides participants with opportunities to enhance their effectiveness in a highly interactive environment alongside colleagues, and typically includes a leadership workshop, networking reception, the State Leadership Breakfast, and State Executives Conference. These events take place at the Academy’s Annual Meeting and are open to current state society officers, advisory board members, and immediate past presidents. Energetic and informative speakers cover key issues identified by the Academy that are critical to developing and maintaining effective state societies.
If you are interested in attending the Leadership Institute in March, contact Abigail Osborne at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more ways the AAD can help your state society, visit the state society resources Web page.
Dr. Burkhart is a board-certified dermatologist and assistant professor at the University of North Carolina. He is a member of the AAD State Society Development Task Force.