Outgoing President Proud to Lead During Pivotal Period in ASA’s History

January 27, 2008

Mark J. Lema, M.D., Ph.D.
Immediate Past President
Madam Speaker, fellow officers, directors, delegates, staff and guests.

ASA is a vibrant and strong organization. One of our greatest strengths is the dedicated members who give unselfishly to accomplish the work of the Society. We continue building our excellent educational offerings and enduring materials. Our support for research has reached record funding levels and is 75 percent more than a few years ago. Membership is at an all-time high with record Annual Meeting attendances of over 18,000. We are financially sound and have increased our reserves by over 15 percent since 2002. Our messages in Washington are being heard, and our opinions are respected. Most importantly, our specialty continues to be the model for safe medical care of patients. ASA’s mission and resources have never been more robust.

{mosimage}We must, however, plan for inevitable future health care changes that will challenge our current practice arrangements. We also must ensure that we have the organizational capabilities to effectively manage a large, complex corporation in today’s demanding business environment.

We have had a remarkable growth in membership over the last 30 years, almost tripling our size during this time period. Today, ASA is 42,000 strong and growing. However, our Society’s infrastructure has undergone minimal substantive changes that enable us to effectively manage a major professional medical society in today’s 24/7 business environment.

Consider these statistics. According to an American Society of Association Executives recent study, the average professional society employs one staff person for every 225 to 250 members. Currently, ASA employs one staff person for every 609 members. We are expecting one staff person to provide increasingly complex and expanding services to 360 more members, almost two and a half times more than the average ratio. Clearly, we are understaffed. The lag in infrastructural and member services’ capabilities is most severe in key areas such as information technology, the Annual Meeting, financial planning and general reporting systems.

All data and analysis make it clear that our infrastructure capabilities cannot meet current member needs. Our officers and senior staff are experiencing an expanding list of responsibilities and must be able to respond immediately to the rapid transformation of information technology to effectively communicate in a “real-time information” society.

A series of consultations with both outside and inside evaluators from 1995-2005 reported consistent findings of significant areas requiring immediate, as well as long-term, attention. The Executive Committee then sought outside expertise from the Gordon Group, a management consulting firm which specializes in helping organizations implement infrastructure improvements. The Executive Committee charged the Gordon Group with conducting an in-depth review and assessment of the organization’s management processes, polices, practices and leadership effectiveness.

The Gordon Group identified a number of deficiencies and provided a summary of opportunities for improvement as shown on the projected slide.

Slide 1

The current ASA infrastructure does not enable its leadership to fully meet their fiduciary responsibilities. In order to effectuate the improvement strategies outlined in the Gordon Group report, ASA launched its formal Organizational Improvement Initiative, or OII, at the end of March 2007. This transformational improvement is expected to be a two- to three-year change process.

Slide 2

ASA’s OII provides the planning and leadership required to design and build an infrastructure to meet current and future member needs. Consequently, the Executive Committee prioritized the following concerns.

First, ASA needs to achieve improved organizational functioning and enable its officers and Board of Directors to meet their fiduciary responsibilities.

Second, ASA needs new planning strategies to meet the future challenges of a changing health care environment.

Third, ASA must excel in meeting members’ needs in an “instant communication” world.

The Executive Committee has already developed a detailed change plan for the OII with timelines and measures to ensure that we are providing the leadership necessary to address critical infrastructure improvements.

The Executive Committee selected human resources needs as the top priority for the Organizational Improvement Initiative. In less than 120 days, we have:

Slide 3

Another key accomplishment began with the June Administrative Council retreat that was devoted to updating the ASA’s vision, values, mission statement and strategic plan. The revised 2007-09 strategic plan has been developed, analyzed and approved by the Administrative Council. A first draft was distributed to the BOD for comment at the August meeting, and the final document is ready for full BOD and HOD approval in 2008.

Other important improvements have been made, as seen on the projected slide.

Slide 4

Although the ASA has important strengths that make us a world leader in patient safety, we lack the infrastructure to effectively maintain or enhance the current strengths that our members both need and deserve.

ASA is an organization approaching its critical strategic inflection point where needed change can be an opportunity to grow and excel, or where inaction can signal a downward spiral, and the beginning of the end.

Last October, we were not positioned, staffed, organized nor had adequate capabilities as a professional society to help our members meet these challenges that the future of health care will present. Without investing now, we would have been relegated to constant fire fighting and reacting to crisis after crisis.

ASA’s Organizational Improvement Initiative is enabling us to build an infrastructure that will not only meet the inevitable challenges to our practice arrangements but will also position us to continue leading needed changes.

We have an advantage that many organizations lack when facing these kinds of challenges. The ASA financial situation is strong due to very capable Board of Directors stewardship over the past several years. ASA has the financial resources and cash reserves to invest in these critical infrastructure improvements.

Slide 5

We are all dedicated to the ASA’s mission. As leaders of this esteemed Society, we must be equally dedicated to ensuring we have the staff with the necessary skills, structure and systems to meet today’s demands so we can build an even brighter future for our members, our profession, our patients and the communities we serve.

Slide 6

As I look to our Society’s future, I know that we will continue to devote ourselves to achieving our vision for ASA to be the world’s premier medical specialty organization, leading through innovation in patient safety, clinical care, advocacy, education and research.

As a medical profession, and as individual professionals, we must continue to develop innovations for our patients, our profession and our members. We set the bar high. No less than being the best of the best is our aspiration. This has been our distinguished 100-year history and will be our promising future. Your leadership and support have never been more critical than they are now. Each of us must take bold action and seize every opportunity to make a difference in the lives of our patients and our communities.

When faced with challenges as a profession and as a society, we have always stepped up and provided the leadership needed to make improvements for our patients and our profession. The ASA Organizational Improvement Initiative provides us with a sustained change process so that as leaders, we can step up, rise to the challenges we face, and lead ASA to new heights of excellence.

It has been my distinct honor to have served as your president during this past year. I have been blessed to have received this president’s medallion from an excellent leader, Dr. Guidry, and I am blessed to pass it on to an equally capable leader. I look forward to supporting Dr. Apfelbaum during his term as ASA President. I can assure you that he will guide this organization with a dedicated heart and a steady hand.

I also congratulate and thank Dr. Roger Moore for staying in the loop and providing superb advice and direction during this historic transition period.

Sincere appreciation goes out to Denise Jones and Ron Szabat and their able staffs for embracing what amounts to the most significant change that ASA staff members have ever experienced. Everyone rose to the challenge, and ASA is now on course to successfully reorganize itself for the future.

No president has ever had a better assemblage of officers, division and section chairs, as well as committee chairs who devoted many more volunteer hours than anticipated, to expertly carry out the will of this House.

Without the sage counsel of our outside attorney, Mr. Scott Kragie, ASA’s resources would have been dangerously exposed. He provided excellent, practical and unwavering advice throughout this year that has served us well.

Even though the Gordon Group is a contracted partnership with ASA, I must thank Dr. Vicky Gordon, Dr. Barbara Fossum and Ms. Trisha Svehla for going well beyond the expectations that any president would have expected from a consulting firm to ensure the success of this transition. Their insight, intense dedication and loyalty to ASA, and their superb organizational expertise is unparalleled. It is to ASA’s great advantage that they stuck with this project and continue to guide us through the transition to a new EVP at Park Ridge.

Simply stated, the OII would not have moved so quickly and so far in such a short time if not for the tireless effort of Dr. Gene Sinclair. In my opinion, there is no better person to ever have served ASA, who has the knowledge and practical leadership to make this project happen. Gene, ASA owes you a great deal of gratitude for all that you have done.

Finally, I wish to thank my wife, Suzanne, who served as an honest advisor and support system. She tolerated the many hours and days that this duty took away from family and personal time with understanding and encouragement. She was there when I needed the love and support that only a spouse can provide. I now look forward to being with her on a more regular basis in 2008.

Last year, I stood before this House and said that “just when you make plans, life happens.” It was time for ASA to reorganize, and it fell on my watch. I invested my entire effort over this past year to overseeing the transition and was pleased to present our accomplishments to you in 2007. The exciting times are still ahead, and I am enthusiastic about helping Dr. Apfelbaum, along with the other officers, continue the OII development.

As your 2007 elected president and CEO, I endeavored to carry out the spirit of what this esteemed House and dedicated Board would have wanted me to do during this tenuous period. I hope and trust that you understood the reasons for our quick actions and now support this initiative. I leave this position with ASA being even stronger and more poised to respond to rapid changes and thank you for the privilege and the honor to work on your behalf.

God bless America and ASA.

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