Each month, AACH President Jenni Levy, MD, FAACH addresses AACH members through her president's message, sharing updates, goals, and information to keep members engaged and involved in the Academy.
For several months before I became President of AACH, I wondered about my goals for the year. I’ve been around this organization long enough that my first instinct was to identify learning goals for myself, so I made a list: increasing my knowledge of the research arm of the organization, finally learning how to really read a balance sheet, continuing to work on my facilitation skills for conference calls and in-person meetings. I’ve had ample opportunity to do all that. I also wondered about my goals for the organization. What change, if any, did I want to bring to AACH? I had some ideas, but I didn’t want to act unilaterally. I started out by listening.
When I facilitate groups, I listen for the themes that emerge in conversation and try to identify the underlying emotions and the things that aren’t being spoken. I look for diversity issues that might be affecting the group’s function: power, gender, age, and other identities and affiliations. I facilitate toward relationships, using what we’ve learned from Amina Knowlan about group formation and ground of health. Once the relationships have formed, we can dive deeper into those themes; we can tolerate difference and engage productively with conflict.
I haven’t had to look very hard for the themes of the Board and Executive Committee discussions over the last four months. One question has come up over and over again: “How do we want to work with/connect with/collaborate with other organizations?” ICCH in Baltimore will be co-sponsored by HARC, the organization that holds the annual Health Literacy Research Conference, as well as by EACH. We signed a memorandum of understanding with EACH and I continue to work with Evelyn van Weel-Baumgarten to make that a living and functional document. We’ve corresponded and spoken with representatives of various other organizations.
These conversations lead us to others: what are the barriers to membership in AACH? Are we too expensive for graduate students and young faculty? What benefits would they get from membership, and what role can they play in the organization? Do we want to be a “big tent” or do we want to have a narrower focus? Our mission statement says that AACH is the professional home for all those who are committed to improving communication and relationships in healthcare. That sounds like a pretty big tent to me. What does that look like in practice? If we have more involvement by communications researchers from academia, are we still the “experts?” What does that mean?
On April 30th, the Board will meet for a retreat led by our Patient Engagement Task Force as we continue to ponder their recommendations. If we invite patients to be members and participants, what does that mean? What will they offer us? What benefits will they get from membership? How will that change what we’re doing now?
We are essentially asking the deepest questions possible: who are we? Who do we want to be? Where do we want to go?
You can help – if you haven’t already – by filling out your member profile.
I am writing this ten days before the retreat and Board meeting. I don’t know the answers and I don’t think I should. My commitment – my promise to you – is to the process, which will be open and transparent and as inclusive as we can make it. We will be listening.