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President's Podcast: IDSA Volunteer Restructure

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Carlos del Rio: [00:00:10] Welcome to the Let's Talk ID podcast. I am Carlos Del Rio, president of IDSA. Joining me today is Dr. Tina Tan, the vice president of IDSA. We will be discussing today the recently announced new volunteer or governance structure of IDSA. The term governance may mean a lot of different things, but in the context of IDSA as a member society, it is how our leadership and volunteers are organized. Tina, as a member of the Governance Task Force, I'm looking forward to talking to you about the exciting changes in our governance and how will they impact our members. Let me start by asking you about why IDSA decided to reexamine its governance structure.

Tina Tan: [00:00:48] Well, thank you for that question, Carlos. One of the primary reasons that IDSA decided to reexamine its governance structure is that they wanted to create a more clean, streamlined structure that really aligned critical volunteer and staff resources with the strategic priorities of the society. We also wanted to be more mindful of our members capacity and the increased constraints that were occurring on their time post pandemic. One of the other really important reasons for restructuring was to provide more meaningful volunteer opportunities that were aligned to member interests and preference. We also wanted to coordinate and improve the communication between the different volunteer entities, because a lot of times many of the different committees really did not know what the other committees were doing. So we wanted to streamline the decision making and approval processes between the different committees, and we wanted to really be very transparent and put out information that clearly defined what the roles and responsibilities would be for the members of the different committees. And also, this would enable the society to quickly act on new opportunities in the ID profession and the health care arena and make more timely decisions that would have a major impact on our patients and our profession. One other really important thing was that we wanted to leverage the diverse expertise within the profession to align with our IDA&E priorities, as well as provide an opportunity to engage a new generation of leaders that would guide us into the future. There were a number of different really important reasons why IDSA decided to restructure the governance process.

Carlos del Rio: [00:02:52] Yeah, I mean, something that I think our members don't really know and there's no reason for them to know it, right, is that in the 50 or 60 years the society has existed, we've really never had had a governance review. And during this time we've grown, we've grown membership, we've grown in committees. And, you know, we're sitting right now with over 45 committees, task forces or groups. I mean, many of them we don't even know in the board what they're doing or what they're there for. Our members want to volunteer, want to do something. But many times this is not necessarily aligned to what the society needs and what the strategy moving forward is. And as we try to be more effective, in order to be more effective, you have to be more clear in what you want to accomplish and you have to be more focused. And I think getting in my mind, this is also about focus. This is also about allowing us to have more focus on what really are the strategic initiatives of the society.

Tina Tan: [00:03:44] Agreed.

Carlos del Rio: [00:03:44] I know this was a process that spanned many months and included gathering input and feedback from our members. Can you tell me a little bit about the process and how did it go? How was received? And I must say that as the President, I want to thank you for taking on this responsibility, because this was quite a big job.

Tina Tan: [00:03:59] No, this was really a very interesting process. We had engaged McKinley Associates to help us with this. And what they initially did was they sent out a survey to members and some non-members, and they interviewed many of these individuals. And based upon the information that they were able to get from the 600 surveys that were returned and from the interviews, some of the information that we learned were that member volunteers really wanted to volunteer because they wanted to have a positive impact on ID and HIV. But one of the things that consistently came up was that they didn't feel connected to the strategic plan, to each other's works or to the issues that all of them were facing, which is not surprising, right? Because if we practice in academics, a lot of times we don't understand what people in private practice are encountering on a daily basis. We also found that members volunteer in order to connect with and learn from other ID and HIV professionals. But many members don't feel prepared for their role as a volunteer leader because many times they didn't receive any information on what the goals of the different committees were going to be and what they were trying to accomplish.

Tina Tan: [00:05:25] They really felt that IDSA needed a more comprehensive approach to supporting each member's unique volunteer journey, since each individual had very unique interests and they really felt that many times these interests were not being addressed. The members also felt that they needed to better understand what the volunteer role entailed, in order to allow them to make informed decisions and better prepare for their role on the different committees. We know that there is an opportunity to strengthen and formalize member communities in order to give a home to different content areas and unique audiences without placing a significant burden or additional burden on the IDSA staff. An example of this are the creation of communities of practice that will allow for significantly more members to be able to engage with the society, because that's really what we want. We want individuals that are practicing in the ID field to feel that IDSA is their home, that they have the support of IDSA in their endeavors. And through this communities of practice, we know that this has grown, especially in the community of practice, to over 400 engaged members. So this is a way of engaging more individuals in IDSA in an area that they are interested in.

Carlos del Rio: [00:06:57] So a lot of people, you know, you hear the term community of practice and you mentioned the community of practice. But let's talk a little bit more about what is a community of practice. What does it mean? How do how do I decide that I want to form a community of practice?

Tina Tan: [00:07:10] So a community of practice really is looking at more focused areas. So as you mentioned, MedEd, but we can have a community of practice of, say, IDSA transplant physicians because these individuals are encountering many of the same issues with their transplant patients. We can have a community of practice that includes the private practice or group practice individuals that are not in academics because it's a way for them to address different issues that they all encounter on a daily basis. You can have a fellows community of practice and have fellows basically networking among themselves to talk about things that might be improved in a fellowship program. Or you can have division chief community of practice. So it really is a more focused group of individuals that are looking at a more specific topic that is very far ranging and very encompassing of a number of different individuals.

Carlos del Rio: [00:08:14] And within that group you would have opportunities to work and do things to advance the mission of IDSA. But I think it also have opportunities to grow yourself.

Tina Tan: [00:08:24] Absolutely.

Carlos del Rio: [00:08:25] You will have mentoring, you will have ability to grow. It's kind of like having a home really, where the people similar with similar interests to you, are there and therefore you get connected, you get network and you advance what you really care about.

Tina Tan: [00:08:37] Absolutely. I mean, we really want practitioners to feel that IDSA is their home, and that they have individuals that are very supportive of them and that they're able to network and speak with other individuals that may be in the same situation with them.

Carlos del Rio: [00:08:55] Yeah, no, I think that's really important. It's about feeling that this is your home, but this is also a place that you enjoy going to, you see people like you, but you also develop people that are interested in the same things that you are, that mentoring component that we all really appreciate and like in our lives. You know, you will also have the opportunity, I guess, to have other ways to volunteer. There will be task forces or panels or interest groups or work groups. So you have different ways of getting involved and different ways to enter into what would be an engagement with the society. Let's say all of a sudden there's a need to advance certain things. The society may form a task force like we did with the governance, and that's a time limited opportunity, right? You do the work, you're done and you're done after that. You don't necessarily continue to exist, right?

Tina Tan: [00:09:40] But you can also get involved in other subcommittees, communities of practice panels that are of interest to you, because one of the major strengths of this restructuring process is really to engage more members in different areas of the society that they're interested in. We learn from the surveys that the members volunteer because they really want to make a positive impact on ID and HIV.

Carlos del Rio: [00:10:11] And I think the other thing that this does is it's going to improve the communication with the board, but it's also going to improve the execution of the board approved strategic plan. Not uncommonly, we had a strategic initiative, but a committee may take another initiative that is not necessarily aligned with the way we're going. And it's not because they want to be against what the board and the society overall wants, but it's because they're not really as good communication between the committees and the agreed.

Tina Tan: [00:10:37] And this particular model or structure is going to protect and have the best use of the board's time because it offloads some of the things that the board is currently doing now to other committees so that the board really can focus on the highest priorities that need to be addressed.

Carlos del Rio: [00:10:59] You know, as we're starting it, again, you know, I remind people, this is not set in stone. We will adjust it. We will evaluate it. We will grow it. We will do different things as we move forward and as we learn how this new structure works. We want to do what's best and we want to do what's most effective. But as we start this, my understanding is community of practice, we're going to continue to have the MedEd community of practice, but there's also going to be a sort of group, private practice, community of practice. There's going to be a division chiefs community of practice, a training program directors community of practice, a fellows community of practice, and a transplant ID immunocompromised host community of practice, correct?

Tina Tan: [00:11:36] Correct.

Carlos del Rio: [00:11:37] Then there's going to be, you know, a variety of of different interest groups. So, for example, you'll have an APP, advanced practice provider interest group, or the George Counts interest group or the Hispanics in ID interest groups and, you know, women in ID interest groups. So there's going to be different groups and different ways that people get involved and that people participate in activities and for the society, correct?

Tina Tan: [00:12:01] Correct, that's the beauty of this is it really allows a much broader group of individuals to become involved in the society, which is what we really want, because we want to be able to engage more individuals and draw upon their talents to push forth these different initiatives that we're undertaking now.

Carlos del Rio: [00:12:21] Certain things are not changing. We're not changing the board of directors at this point in time. We're not changing the IDWeek program committee or we're not changing the inclusion, Diversity Access and Equity Committee, the Society Awards Committee. There are certain committees that are not necessarily changing as part of this restructuring, correct?

Tina Tan: [00:12:38] That is correct.

Carlos del Rio: [00:12:40] Do you foresee some challenges as we move forward?

Tina Tan: [00:12:43] Change is difficult, right? So, yes, even though this looks great on paper, I do foresee that there probably will be some challenges that arise. But I think all of us are eager to, you know, roll this out and then address the challenges as they come up.

Carlos del Rio: [00:13:02] Yeah, I agree with you 100%. We want to see things adjusted as they occur, but we also want people to feel that they're not being disenfranchised. If you're passionate in your committee and I'm going to put an example, if you are a member of the Diagnostics Committee and all of a sudden you say, well, my diagnostics committee is disappearing, well, it's not disappearing. The work is going to be under the responsibility of something called the Public Policy and Advocacy Committee. But you still need to realize that your expertise is valued and we're not going to let you go because we need your expertise.

Tina Tan: [00:13:30] Right. And many things are getting renamed. But when you look at the number of committees that we had before and then the number of committees that we currently have now, or the different entities that we have now, they're almost exactly the same. It's just that some things are renamed and some things are more streamlined so that there's a very clear goal as to what this particular committee or subcommittee or community of practice is going to address.

Carlos del Rio: [00:13:59] Well, thank you, Tina. I really want to thank you for sharing this information. I again, want to thank you for leading this committee, looking at our governance, because it was not an easy task. But before we close, I want to encourage everyone to attend the IDSA annual business meeting at IDWeek. And it'll be on Thursday, October 12th in the convention center at 7am. There, we will provide you with coffee, we have a hot breakfast, and we'll update you on the new governance. And we'll update you also on physician compensation initiative, on advocacy efforts, and really a lot of exciting things that are happening in the society. I hope to see you all at IDWeek. Have a good day.

“We want individuals that are practicing in the ID field to feel that IDSA is their home, that they have the support of IDSA in their endeavors.” In September 2023, IDSA introduced a new volunteer structure to better engage members and support its strategic initiatives. In this episode, IDSA President Carlos del Rio, MD, FIDSA and Vice President Tina Tan, MD, FIDSA discuss the decision behind the restructure and explain the differences moving forward.




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