The Year of the Volunteer
I joined ASHT in 1984. The application process at that time required sponsorship by a current member, three extensive case studies and a list of the diagnoses and numbers of upper extremity patients you had treated. It was a rigorous and time-consuming process; but the prize was the ability to learn from and interact with the brightest minds of hand therapy. I was a newbie in private practice at that time, and joined the Practice Committee to learn more about the skills needed to own a business. I volunteered to research and write a paper on a new insurance trend; PPOs and HMOs. Through this research I learned more about the future of insurance and was able to negotiate and eventually join several HMOs before many of the therapists in my area. I often blame (or credit) Karen Schultz -- the Practice Committee chair at that time -- with starting me on the road to leadership positions with this assignment.
In recognition of the value ASHT leadership positions had given me, I decided to name my presidential year the Year of the Volunteer and use the pulpit of my presidential address to speak about the benefits of volunteerism. Working on the ASHT board, I learned how to market my profession, develop and adhere to budgets, understand government and insurance initiatives in a timely manner, enhanced my resume and became friends with some of the pioneers in hand therapy that are also some of the most fun people I know. These relationships have given me access to a wealth of knowledge on both hand therapy and business practices that I can tap into whenever needed and I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity.
Each president brings his or her own passions and vision to the presidency. Mary Kasch spearheaded the certification process. Joy MacDermid gave the society her strong research background. Judy Colditz brought her business and organizational skills. Evelyn Mackin began the Research Committee that eventually evolved into our Journal of Hand Therapy. My ASHT background in legal and legislative affairs was put to the test when my immediate successor, Chris Blake, and I became involved in a multiyear project with Medicare developing regulations for orthotic and prosthetic fabrication. This issue has reared up again today and the current ASHT board has worked diligently this year to preserve our ability to provide orthotics.
I hope this blog encourages you to further explore some of the committees in ASHT and potential volunteer positions. It can start with something as simple as researching a topic you find interesting and pertinent to your profession. You never know where it will lead, but I can say I have never heard anyone express regret for the time they spent volunteering for ASHT. We received so much more.
Happy birthday ASHT!