I would suspect that most readers of this article probably were involved in some leadership activities in high school and college. Perhaps it was secretary of student government or co-captain of the swim team, or maybe you were a nerd like me and captained the math club. Regardless, we were involved – involved in the processes and decisions that governed our interests.
As we got busier and life showed its unpredictability, most of us lost the time to take on those formal leadership roles, but I have a suspicion that most of us never lost the desire to help make decisions that affect us.
Think about your neighborhoods, your kids’ schools, your religious organizations, and your medical groups. I’m certain you’ve all exerted some opinions and influence to enact changes. The only difference between what you do now and what you did then is a formal title, but the net effect is often the same; you’re making a case to create change for the better. Whether it’s a homeowner’s association rule or an ERAS protocol, you’re already at the table, making a difference. Why stop there?
How can you make a difference at the larger level – the level that influences our specialty? It might come as a surprise, but you don’t need to fly to Washington, D.C. or drive to Topeka or Richmond. You don’t need to be the CMO of your hospital or chief of your anesthesiology group. You don’t need to be a senior partner or a longstanding staff member. Each of us can tap into that passion we shared in school, and you can do this from the privacy of your home and with the simplicity of your cell phone.
Here are the secrets. The first one costs almost nothing. Anesthesiologists face macro-pressures (this is a new term I’m coining). These are large-scale issues that any one of us alone or even hundreds of us together cannot win. We need the muscle of thousands to reach the ears of legislators (elected officials), and the first way to get their attention is through political contributions. It might feel dirty, and it’s not always pretty, but in the U.S., that’s how we get anesthesiology-friendly legislators into office (and keep them there), and then we get the audience-time with them to share our stories. This is what ultimately moves the needle in our favor. So, that’s secret #1. Any practicing anesthesiologist can afford $40/month to preserve our specialty. That’s a drop in the ocean compared with our other expenses and our earnings. If you are concerned about Medicare rates or insurance companies cutting your contracts by 30%, this is the easiest way to show your displeasure and work toward improvement.
Secret #2 is free! Did you know that every ASA member can impact ASA’s focus, whether that direction is in the form of educational products, statements related to lifestyle and your practice, or guidelines related to the medical management of disease states? YOU have that ability, and you don’t have to leave your couch. There are often surveys asking your opinion. Reply to them! These are usually created by ASA committees, and they use your replies to help guide their direction. When the ASA House of Delegates meets in October and the Board of Directors in March and August, there is an opportunity to share your opinions on the content being debated and approved. If you happen to be at one of the meetings, you can share your thoughts in person, but if you can’t get there, you can opine online! At ASA meetings, you would attend the Reference Committees, and you’d be welcome to testify. The only admission ticket you need is your ASA membership. As your Vice Speaker, it would be my dream to receive 35,000 online comments each meeting or have to extend Reference Committee testimony for hours due to the volume of attendees, because it would tell me that you still have that leadership fire burning and you are channeling it toward our specialty.
I ask you to think about our specialty and its future. We all care about our patients and want the best for them. We want the best care for our family. We want the best care for ourselves. We can’t do that without impacting those macro-pressures, and we impact those macro-pressures by doing what we’ve done all along: get involved, but this time with your specialty and your specialty society. There is no other group who cares more about your future. This is not just the ASA. This is YOUR ASA. Help us lead.