By Robert M. Jacobson, MD, FAAP, president of MNAAP
In case you haven’t heard, MNAAP received the 2014 Outstanding Large Chapter of the Year award in March at AAP’s Annual Leadership Forum. AAP has been awarding chapters for their performance since 1964. Of its 66 chapters, 18 are defined as large. Minnesota is among those 18. We’ve won the award twice before, most recently in 2010 under the leadership of Anne Edwards, MD.
What made MNAAP stand out from other chapters?
I would argue that the infrastructure, relationships, and membership efforts that won us the award in 2009 led to our recognition again in 2013. Frankly, we have not changed our approach to chapter leadership and activity since then. Perhaps we have matured some processes. Of course we would hope so, but what appear to be critical factors in our success remain unchanged.
By infrastructure, we mean our organization with contract staff, committees, and work groups. Our work groups are key to driving advocacy, education, and outreach as well as our ability to address collaborations and membership. We aim for 3 or 4 work groups whose work is based on our annual member surveys that drive our strategic planning. Our work groups thus come and go–forming, transforming, and dissolving, depending on the issues we pursue with our strategic plans.
Our next round of strategic planning takes place this summer under the leadership of incoming President Sue Berry, MD. As a result we will have a different set of work groups for the coming 2 years. The strategic planning gives us the flexibility to maximize our limited resources.
By collaboration, we mean our continued efforts to work closely with allies for children’s health around the state, including not-for-profit organizations, parent groups, and professional organizations as well as state government offices and agencies. We also pursue support from our own national AAP as well as other national resources that can support our work.
MNAAP’s legislative priority this year has been the restoration of the Minnesota’s newborn screening program. We have put the lion’s share of our resources in leading and shepherding legislation to restore the program. As a result of this focus, we have had to rely on our collaborators to take the lead with other issues this year.
But our work with collaborators extends far beyond legislative advocacy. We pursue grants with them, we invite them to participate in our work groups, and we execute educational efforts with them.
Without their collaboration, we would be a smaller, less successful, less productive chapter.
By membership efforts, we mean our focus on the inclusiveness of our organization. We strive to represent all pediatricians across the state. To do that, ideally, all pediatricians should belong to our chapter. We work to keep our dues affordable and include at no charge trainees as well as retirees.
Our focus on trainees is driven by our need to prepare for the future and to utilize the energy they can bring now. Our focus on retires is driven by our respect for what they have already contributed as well as what their acquired experience and wisdom can now teach us.
And we regularly reach out to non-members. We hold events that are open to members and non-members alike. We strive to be useful and accessible.
But, for us, membership is not about reaching a certain number. It’s about including, supporting and engaging as many pediatricians as possible. We must seek to include in our leadership and work groups and membership individuals who represent pediatrics across the state, across cultures, across organizational types, across specialties, across training programs, and across patient populations. That means reaching outside of our comfort zones and engaging those we know less well and who may very well disagree with us on various approaches or outcomes. But we will be a stronger organization for pursuing our continued efforts at membership diversification and inclusiveness.
Winning such an award is a great honor, but we cannot relax. We have to ask how we are going to stay relevant, focused, and solvent. I’d argue that we maintain our current infrastructure, cultivate our collaborations, and continue to reach out for new members and work to deserve the ones we have.
Our work, of course, requires member input as well as participation. Our success depends on it. It always has and it always will.