From working a temp job in the shipping department to organizing teacher training, maintaining an antebellum mansion and learning the ins and outs of professional medical practice, David Haag has had a career in membership societies that has been anything but boring. And as of this March, he finds himself in pursuit of his next great adventure. He recently retired from the ARHP after 17 years as its executive director.
“This is not so much retiring as taking a sabbatical for three to six months to figure out where to go for my next 15 years of a working career,” says Mr. Haag, whose background is in business. “I am probably leaving membership nonprofits and leaning toward philanthropic organizations, community-based nonprofits. … I want to move to where I’m actually touching the community.”
His inspiration for the move, he says, comes from working with passionate rheumatology health professionals for nearly two decades, a sentiment he expressed at the ARHP business meeting during the November 2017 ACR/ARHP Annual Meeting.
“They gave me the mic, and I said, ‘You have no idea how impressed I have been watching you. I have never seen so much passion—passion for patients and passion for your work and science. I have been sitting in rooms with you all these years planning conferences and education and listening to you talking about your day-to-day work, and it’s so inspiring,’” Mr. Haag says. “I thanked them for allowing me to be a part of the medicine and rheumatology world; they love what they do—it’s very obvious—and it motivated me to go do what I love to do.”
David Haag’s Watch
Mr. Haag does not give himself enough credit. It’s evident he has channeled his passion into the ARHP, too. He has touched the rheumatology community.
It was during his tenure that the ARHP matured into the unique and rewarding professional society it is today, functioning in tandem with the ACR. Mr. Haag says he has never found another medical society where physicians and health professionals come together in this way.
“The first 10 years I was in the job, we managed our ARHP Annual Meeting—the whole program sessions and abstracts. We did not offer CME (continuing medical education) credit for our part of the Annual Meeting, and our attendees needed it,” Mr. Haag says. So, working with the ACR education department, he helped merge the ARHP Annual Meeting Program Subcommittee under the ACR Annual Meeting Program Committee so a single CME program could be offered to health professionals and physicians.
“The ACR/ARHP Annual Meeting is the largest and most well-known rheumatology annual meeting in the world, and I feel the program integration makes it richer,” Mr. Haag says. “Across all ACR committees and subcommittees, there are now two to four health professionals on each, and there are one to two physicians on all ARHP committees and subcommittees. This governance integration has benefited our membership and the rheumatology specialty.”
A big success for the ARHP has been the Arthritis Care & Research (AC&R) medical journal. In 17 years, AC&R grew from six issues a year to 12 and increased from 200 subscriptions annually to 1,100. The manuscript acceptance rate dropped from 56% to 23%. Meanwhile, the journal’s editorial staff grew from one to four employees. This growth has propelled AC&R into the top tier of rheumatology journals worldwide.
Mr. Haag also helped create the ARHP’s invaluable online educational offerings, driven largely by the reality that health professionals often have limited resources and opportunity to travel for professional development.
The first online offering, the Advanced Rheumatology Course (or ARC), is a 19-module training program designed to help rheumatology practices bring nurse practitioners and physician assistants on board and train them quickly.
“It’s comprehensive—adult, pediatric—covering everything you need to know,” Mr. Haag says. “We also have fellows in training who take it and physicians who are not in rheumatology but in general practice and want to understand these diseases.”
Since 2008, ARC has generated $1.1 million in revenue for the ARHP. It is now in revision and will launch with CME in November 2018.
Additionally, in 2012, the ARHP began offering a basic-level online Fundamentals of Rheumatology Course (see p. 19) for new clinicians to rheumatology. The original five modules were so popular they were revised and expanded to 10, launching with CME in December 2017.
In January 2017, the ARHP launched six osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis eBytes, free, bite-sized rheumatology modules that can be completed over a lunch break. “In their first year, more than 400 eBytes were taken for CME,” says Mr. Haag, noting that 50% of registrants were physicians.
Working with the ACR education department, [Mr. Haag] helped merge the ARHP Annual Meeting Program Subcommittee under the ACR Annual Meeting Program Committee so a single CME program could be offered to health professionals & physicians.
For all the success, Mr. Haag thinks the ARHP’s online education is just getting started and has so much growth potential.
“Our online education has a global untapped market” he says. “We need to reach out to international medical professionals and to domestic training programs in nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, pharmacy, physician assistant, and get our rheumatology courses into students’ hands. … If students are taking them, they might start thinking about this as a career and help grow the specialty.”
He also sees opportunity to grow the ARHP’s membership, particularly given how many health professionals there are in North America who could benefit from being part of the multiprofessional organization. “Membership is at 1,200, but it should be four times that size because there are many more health professionals out there.”
The ARHP offers a plethora of volunteer and professional development opportunities for members, along with networking, awards, governance and more. And Mr. Haag explains, the organization is poised to do more. The ARHP has been looking hard at collaborations and reciprocity with other rheumatology groups. “We are learning that one association membership can’t create everything for everybody, so we’ve reached out to sister rheumatology societies and domestic disciplines.”
When Mr. Haag interviewed for his role at the ARHP 17 years ago, he was a bit surprised because he lacked a medical background. But he’s grateful for all he has been able to help accomplish since. “We’ve achieved a great deal in my 17 years,” he says. “But the next 17 years are going to be even better.”
Kelly April Tyrrell writes about health, science and health policy. She lives in Madison, Wis.