As I re-write and edit this message, I am smiling thinking about our recent annual conference. Thanks go (in this and many more paragraphs) go out to so many folks. If you have a copy of the Conference Program, I encourage you to turn to the back pages and read the names of the members of the Program Committee, Convention Committee, Silent Auction, etc. High-five these folks when you next see them.
Leadership kudos especially are extended to our 2013-2014 President, Leah Dorman, and Vice President, Johnese Bostic. Both of these women provided steady, enthusiastic, wise, creative leadership for our Association in this past year.
As your President-Elect in 2013-2014, I spent much of the year marveling at the amount of work that is required to maintain a professional association, and to plan for educational programs such as our Winter Conference, our Public Health Month Kick-off, and our Annual Conference. From venues to menus, from selecting speakers to plugging in electronic speakers so that the human speakers can be heard, from budget planning to belt-tightening, there is more work than can be done by just a few folks. What I have also noticed, however, is that I see the same group of folks, whom I might describe as loyal, faithful, and hard working, and whom others might describe as over-committed and exhausted, doing the bulk of the work of the Association.
In working with the Program Committee, which is the major role of the President-elect, I was lucky enough to find myself with an assemblage of these faithful hard workers. Whenever I felt hesitant about making an assignment, I actually found someone who (1) could probably do a better job than I would because (2) the person cared deeply about the task, because (3) the person cared deeply about the success of the conference.
I have also been lucky enough to discover that, hidden out there like Easter eggs, were YOUNG professionals who were just as committed to the Association and its success as were those of us who started our careers decades ago.
Association and professional membership are looked upon differently now than they were when many of us in this room were starting out in our professional lives. Decades ago, there was no question about whether or not you would join your professional association, and no question about whether or not you would attend any meetings that your association sponsored. If you were asked to chair a committee, be a worker bee, or man a table -- you did so.
Persons entering Public Health now, whether as an initial profession or as a second or third career, are less likely to be "joiners." Associations all over are dealing with this new reality.
Our Association is at a crossroads, with smaller numbers of members, with members who have less ability to support their own professional development without employer contributions, and with over-extended members who have many competing priorities. I look forward to working with our in-coming President-elect and new/continuing Governing Council members as we look at ways to strengthen our Association. We need to find out how to meet the changing needs of professionals in Public Health, and to explore how to recruit, retain, and revive membership.
I am grateful for the literal "vote of confidence" you extended to me last year in electing me as your President-elect. (Just so you know, I have once before been the only name on the ballot, and I lost that election to a write-in candidate. I took nothing for granted in last year's election.) I look forward to working next year with the other returning and new members of the governing council, with currently active and reviving sections, and with the many, many committees that are needed to put on a conference.
If you are reading The Bulletin or our SCPHA.com website, I know you are committee to Public Health. If you came to one of our events in this past year, and probably spent your own money to do so, then I know that you are committed to Public Health. If you came to the annual meeting and sat through the business meeting, not in the coffee shop across the street or in the lobby bar, then I know you are committed to Public Health.
I hope in the next year, I can also get you to be COMMITTEED to Public Health.
As the Preacher said in Ecclesiastes, “And though a man might prevail against him who is alone, two will withstand him. A threefold cord is not quickly broken."
More later on “Public Health: Telling Our Story.”