January 2007
PAEA Networker

Becoming a Knowledge-Based Association

Anita Duhl Glicken, MSW

It’s the beginning of a new year — a perfect opportunity to reflect on the amazing growth of our Association and our very full agenda for the coming year. We stand on the threshold of 2007 with a new paradigm for association management and a vision for the future that establishes PAEA as the primary source of information and resources for PA education.

Strategic efforts over the past several years have resulted in a successful transition to independent management, complete with new policies, procedures, and the resources to support our activities and voice in medical education. It is time to put these resources to good use to improve our Association’s efforts to serve our members and improve the overall quality of PA education.

We have all heard a great deal lately about PAEA being an association in transition, but it is important to note that associations worldwide are also facing important developmental changes. Organization management in general is moving from an administrative process traditionally grounded in political decision-making to a more rational, business-like decision-making model based on key data and information.

Dynamic changes in the health care and medical education environment create daily challenges and opportunities for our board and Association members. The increasing complexity of our world means that we now have many more options for our actions, each action potentially resulting in a variety of outcomes. There has never been a more important time to both reaffirm our core values and make sure that our strategic planning and decision-making is solidly supported by quality information and insight, rather than the political agenda of any particular group or individual.

In order to support PAEA as a knowledge-based Association, we have begun exploring how we might expand our database of accessible information in both scope and depth. Last month I had the privilege of convening PAEA’s new Data and Research Workgroup for a highly productive meeting in Denver. Over the next year, the collective vision of this group, supported by member feedback, will provide an important roadmap for future work. The group began by exploring two key questions, which you may want to consider as well: “What purpose does research currently serve in our Association?” and “What purposes should research serve in the future?”

The gap between these answers was as wide as the stream of information we have historically attempted to sample. Much of our association research has been an annual dip of the bucket into this moving stream. The research we have traditionally done might be viewed as an annual event or product (i.e., the Annual Report), rather than a continuous process that allows us to maintain constant communication with our members and stakeholders about their status, wants, and preferences. We recognize that for a knowledge-based association, research is an ongoing and necessary capability of the organization, and this year we will explore a range of information-gathering tools that will allow us to capture relevant and important data across the continuum of PA education. This data will be invaluable in informing our decision-making process. Sustaining this knowledge base and using it effectively will ensure that the value of this information is passed on to our members by way of improved products and services.

The board is committed to making this process as transparent and inclusive as possible, and we are currently exploring potential platforms that we might use to update members on the group’s efforts and solicit feedback about this work and process. This will include opportunities to speak your mind about your preferences and concerns. As a first step, the Annual Report survey process, which will begin later this month, will include an opportunity for you to provide feedback on the categories of data we collect and should collect. I encourage all of you to begin thinking now about changes you would like to see in this process.

There is likely to be some disagreement about the issues involved, but constructive disagreement can create a rich exchange of ideas that will enhance our work together. My personal goal is to foster an atmosphere that promotes meaningful dialogue and thoughtful decision-making throughout this process. We cannot underestimate that information is a powerful tool that can be both used and abused and, in considering changes to our data collection processes, our guiding principle must be to do so with integrity, equity, and a heightened sense of responsibility.

The PAEA board will meet later this month to engage in a planning process, one that we hope will become a living, breathing strategic process for the entire organization. The board will prioritize and address multiple issues that have arisen over the last year and do some long-range strategic thinking. In recognition of the fact that people are the key to our organization, and PAEA’s most significant resource, this planning will include a vision for improved faculty development offerings that build people and leadership. Our key resource has grown rapidly in the last 10 years with the emergence of more than 50 new PA programs and increasing numbers of faculty. We will work to create a mechanism for committee work and service delivery that inspires, generates, opens doors, rewards, builds confidence, and basically celebrates the individual member in making a difference in PA education and the organization at large.

As I reflect on the work ahead of us in the coming year, I am reminded of what is sometimes referred to as the Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.” This phrase, cited in more than 1,500 Web sites, is apparently not Chinese, not a curse, and most often embraced as a blessing. The phrase encourages us to view our problems in a positive and constructive way that encourages us to improve our performance and recognize that inherent in change is always the gift of opportunity.

Best wishes for happy and healthy New Year. May you come to work each day embracing the challenge, inspired and determined to be a little bit better at what you are doing today than you were the day before.