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The Decision to Serve
People join association boards for reasons that are as unique as they are. Some are driven by the mission, while others see it as a chance to give back. Some volunteer at the pinnacle of their careers, while others are just starting out. Every board member’s story is different. Why did they decide to serve on their association’s board of directors? What path did they take? What did they gain from the experience? Here are four volunteers and their diverse and amazing stories.

Douglas Kiel – American Society for Bone and Mineral Research (ASBMR)

Kiel, a Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Director of Musculoskeletal Research at the Institute for Aging Research, Hebrew SeniorLife, initially got involved with ASBMR after many years of presenting research at the association’s annual meeting. Those meetings piqued his interest in serving, revealing to him that there were more opportunities to participate than he had thought. ASBMR’s mission is what attracted him to the organization in the first place, so he felt the best way for him to serve the mission was through the publications committee. Eventually, he served as a member of the editorial board and then Senior Associate Editor of ASBMR’s scientific journal. “It wasn't that I thought I had something to give back,” said Kiel. “I was attracted to it because I saw the journal as advancing the organization's mission and I thought I could contribute.”

His experience on the committee and the journal’s editorial board prepared him for his tenure on ASBMR’s board. “I always viewed the leadership of ASBMR as the most senior, experienced and revered researchers in our organization. So, when I got involved on the board, I felt I had gotten to that point.” Kiel found his three years on the board fulfilling. “We were doing so many interesting things to help shape the direction of the society and the profession. It gave me a sense of empowerment. When my term ended, I remember distinctly feeling a great letdown.”

After that, Kiel was invited to run for the open president seat, but the membership selected another candidate. He ran again the next year and this time he won. “When you're in research, it's a regular occurrence that your grants get rejected, your scholarly manuscripts get rejected; perseverance was part of my makeup.” As president, he was proud to drive two initiatives — a culture statement and a revamped nominating process that was more robust, transparent, and inclusive.

Board service has given Kiel a greater appreciation of what the organization does. “You tend to have a narrower view of the organization when you're not involved in committees and boards.” Thus, part of his focus while serving on the board was on better communicating the benefits to membership, and that ascent to leadership is possible.

Susan DuBois – National Association Medical Staff Services (NAMSS)

DuBois had been a NAMSS member for many years before she decided to volunteer for her Utah state chapter. Eventually, she became state chapter president. It was during a NAMSS State Leadership Conference that DuBois was approached about serving on the national organization’s education committee.

“At that point in my career, it was a good time for me to support the profession. I felt like this would be a way for me to give back,” said DuBois, who is Assistant Vice President in the Office of Physician and APC Professional Affairs at Intermountain Healthcare. Specifically, DuBois wanted to give back by helping to educate members and advance their careers. She felt the best way to accomplish that was by serving on the education committee, where she could help generate content for conferences and other programs. From there, DuBois moved to the conference committee, and after several years in that role, she opted to run for the board of directors as secretary-treasurer, an elected position.

“You had to be willing to put yourself out there and accept the possibility that, one, you wouldn't make the slate, and two, if you made the slate, you wouldn’t be elected.” Her election as secretary-treasurer began a cycle that would make her president-elect, president, and immediate past president. She finished her term as president in December and is now serving as immediate past president.

Among her proudest accomplishments as president was developing a diversity and inclusion statement for the association. She also shepherded a rebranding effort and bolstered the association’s educational offerings. “Professionally and personally it's been a lot more rewarding to serve than I thought it would be. I went into it kind of looking at it as a job, but it’s more than that. I have definitely gotten more back from my volunteer activities than I’ve given.”

Keith Napier – InSight

Napier’s path to board service began with his participation in the revenue cycle special interest group (SIG) of InSight, a user group for healthcare information technology professionals. Soon, he was running the monthly calls and heading up educational programming. In that role, Napier developed educational content for not only the revenue cycle SIG, but he also worked with other SIG education chairs to create education programming for the annual conference. “It was really a stepping stone,” said Napier, who is the Manager of Financial Systems and Information Technology at Summit Healthcare Regional Medical Center.

From there, Napier became education chair for InSight’s annual conference. The visibility and experience he gained in that role led to Napier being tapped to fill an unexpired term on the board. After that he was nominated to serve another full term.

When he first volunteered for the revenue cycle SIG, Napier had no expectations of becoming a board member. His primary focus then, and throughout his years of board service, was to help people. “If I can be a resource for someone and provide some guidance, I'm always willing to do that.” But what Napier discovered was that he got back as much, or more, than he gave.

“What I found most gratifying was the opportunity I’ve had to learn from other thought leaders and people at different companies,” said Napier. “I grew a ton. I broadened my view of health care, but from a leadership perspective I grew from learning, listening, and observing how different people accomplish the same thing in different ways. It helped me become a better leader and gave me skills I use almost every day.”

Anne Gavic-Ott – American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (AACVPR)

The importance of board service was ingrained in Gavic-Ott as a young adult. “When I was in graduate school, our director was adamant that we should be a member of our professional organization. He drilled into us that it was invaluable in your profession.” So, she joined AACVPR straight out of graduate school and, after meeting some of the board members, became a self-described “leadership geek.”

“I would look to those people and say: Could I ever be like that — a leader in my organization, contributing as they are?” she asked. Soon she was, as she was elected to sit on the board of her state chapter. That led to a seat on the AACVPR board as one of two state affiliate representatives. It was the first of four stints on the board for Gavic-Ott. After a term as a state affiliate representative, she served as a board director, then board secretary, and then president.

“My goal was never to someday be president of my organization,” Gavic-Ott said. “It's always been about how I can best serve the profession.” What she found most gratifying was being a part of big-picture discussions that were shaping her profession. “It felt like we were making a difference.” She has also carried the benefits over to her job as Manager of Cardio Pulmonary Rehab at Northwest Community Hospital through the use of guidelines, policies and programs that she helped establish at AACVPR.

The progression of serving in chapters, task forces, and committees prepared Gavic-Ott well for board service. Her advice to others is “just say yes” to any opportunity to serve an association. “What you get out of serving your organization is many times what you put into it. It has helped me, I believe, become a stronger professional.”
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Board Forward is published 10 times a year by SmithBucklin, the association management and services company more organizations turn to than any other. SmithBucklin has served volunteer board members for 70 years.


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