Administrative Update: The Value of Membership

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April 1, 2013 Volume 77, Number 4
Administrative Update: The Value of Membership John P. Abenstein, M.S.E.E., M.D. ASA First Vice President

At the beginning of the year, as I finished paying the dues to my various professional organizations, including ASA, I couldn’t help but notice the expense. It seems reasonable to expect more pressures on payment for professional services, which may lead, at least, to stagnation of our incomes. My spouse, when looking at our family budget, has asked me what I was getting out of these memberships. When family budgets get tight, elective and low-value spending will be dropped first.

So what do we get for ASA and state component society membership? I don’t think pride in our profession is enough today. In the 2011 book on association management, Race for Relevance, the authors noted that rapid advances in technology, higher member expectations, increased competition, and diverse member markets have made the individual calculation of the value of membership to be very different today as compared to a few years ago.

ASA is very aware of the changing environment for medical associations. Currently, ASA is doing well; our membership continues to grow (more than 50,000 members) as does our revenues and reserves. Our annual meeting is highly regarded, with outstanding scientific presentations and educational offerings. Our journal continues to publish groundbreaking science and enjoys a very high citation index. However, change is relentless – more of our members are now employees of hospitals and clinics, our journal is available electronically at work and CME is widely available (and often free).

When we’ve polled ASA members, the activities valued most are advocacy, public relations and education, which align nicely with our budget (i.e., this is where we spend the majority of our resources).

ASA’s education offerings have been expanding and improving under the leadership of ASA Vice President for Scientific Affairs Arnold J. Berry, M.D. and ASA Chief Learning Officer Diane Gambill, Ph.D. They’ve increased our alignment with the American Board of Anesthesiology to provide products that fulfill anesthesiologists’ Maintenance of Certification in Anesthesiology (MOCA®) requirements. ASA intends to make the MOCA® process as easy to navigate and fulfill as possible and is investing in those resources to accomplish this goal.

Our communication strategy has also been updated. Public relations is now structured to more closely coordinate with our advocacy effort. This coordination will ensure that the messaging coming out of ASA is consistent with that of our advocacy team. We are using scientific methods to identify what messages have traction with our intended audience; in other words, we are identifying words that work. ASA’s chair of the Committee on Communications, John Dombrowski, M.D., is working closely with ASA staff to continue to improve how we communicate with government, business and our patients.

I would argue that the jewel in ASA’s crown is our advocacy team, which is rated as one of the best, if not the best, in Washington, D.C. Led by Manuel Bonilla, our Washington office is very influential. Manny and his team know how to present ASA’s message that all Americans deserve high-quality, physician-led anesthesia care that is both safe and cost-effective. The advocacy team works closely with Erin Sullivan, M.D., chair of the Committee on Governmental Affairs, and the ASA leadership. They have a lot of work to do over the next year or 10 as health care reform becomes a reality on the ground. Current law and emerging regulations need a lot of improvement, and our advocacy team is perfectly positioned to accomplish this task.

There is more to do in support of our advocacy efforts. We all need to join the ASA Political Action Committee (ASAPAC). For less than the cost of one Starbuck’s latte per week, you can join the ASAPAC ASAPAC is the largest physician PAC, and our contributions make a huge impact on our success in Washington and state capitals. ASA’s advocacy efforts also receive significant help from the American Medical Association (AMA). Currently, only about 17 percent of ASA members are AMA members. However, if we can increase the number of anesthesiologists who are AMA members, we will get even more support, which is particularly important in D.C.

Advocacy, public relations and education, while they are our most important activities, are only a fraction of what your Society does on your behalf. I invite you to go to to discover the diverse issues staff and your fellow physicians are working on to improve the care we deliver to our patients. When one considers what we get from our Society and what resources we have access to, ASA membership continues to be one of the best values in organized medicine. For those of you who are ASA members, thank you. For those who are not ASA members and may be reading a copy of the NEWSLETTER from a colleague or on the Web, I encourage you to join your professional society.

John P. Abenstein, M.S.E.E., M.D. is a consultant, Division of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Anesthesiology, and Associate Professor of Anesthesiology, Mayo College of Medicine, Rochester, Minnesota.