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Explore This IssueMay 2013
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The mission of the ACR cannot be achieved without the time, effort, talent, and experience of its volunteers. Each year, the ACR puts out a call for volunteers to recruit enthusiastic members to serve on the ACR board of directors, Rheumatology Research Foundation board of directors, and ACR standing committees.
It is the vital work of our volunteers that helps us continue to advance rheumatology. Without the work of volunteers, the ACR would not be where it is today. Volunteering benefits not only the College, but also the professional lives of our volunteers. Kelly Weselman, MD, a private practice rheumatologist in Atlanta, Ga. who is a current member of the Communications and Marketing Committee (CMC), provided us with an inside look at her experiences as a volunteer and how her participation advances her personal and professional life.
FTC: How did you first get involved in volunteering with the ACR?
Dr. Weselman: During my term as president of the Georgia Society of Rheumatology, the Affiliate Society Council (ASC) was formed. I became the Georgia representative to the ASC.
FTC: How did you learn about becoming a volunteer?
Dr. Weselman: Once I was a member of the ASC, other opportunities presented themselves. For example, I had the chance to visit with one of our Georgia senators. I assisted with various projects with the ACR coding team. I was able to participate in filming the initial Simple Tasks video. I found each of these projects to be personally and professionally rewarding.
FTC: Was there a specific person or mentor who encouraged you to nominate yourself for a volunteer position?
Dr. Weselman: There has been no one person in particular, but once I became involved, the ACR staff has been encouraging and enthusiastic regarding my participation in these projects. Each good experience led to further opportunities to contribute to the ACR.
FTC: We hear about there not being enough volunteers in clinical practice. How is it being a clinician on an ACR standing committee? Do you feel like your voice is being heard?
Dr. Weselman: The practice responsibilities of clinical rheumatologists can take priority over volunteer opportunities and could discourage clinicians from participating. But, I have found that, while I am still early on in my term on the CMC, it has been rewarding to become involved in the marketing efforts of the College. Working in the smaller groups of the committee structure allows each of us to have a significant role in the ongoing projects and help steer rheumatology down the right path. The CMC opportunity allows me to focus on the bigger picture of rheumatology in the United States and gives me a refreshing break from the everyday responsibilities of clinical practice.
FTC: By volunteering on an ACR committee, do you think you have gained more experience to help you in your current job?
Dr. Weselman: Absolutely! I have incorporated the knowledge gained from ACR’s marketing efforts to educate my current health system about the importance of rheumatology and to improve our website marketing. I have authored articles for the marketing efforts of our local health system on the diagnosis and care of rheumatic diseases. In addition, I am better able to advise my patients about the efforts the ACR is taking to promote the awareness of rheumatic diseases.
FTC: Tell me about your experience volunteering on the Strategic Planning Task Force? How did it compare to being on an ACR standing committee?
Dr. Weselman: The Strategic Planning Task Force project was different from a committee in that it was a short-term commitment with a very specific agenda. We were dealing with developing the long-term goals of the ACR, including promoting and enhancing the practice of rheumatology, rather than the short-term operations. It gave me the opportunity to interact with a different group of my colleagues from a variety of practice settings and levels of involvement in the College. Participating on the task force gives one a sense of ownership in the long-term mission of the organization.
FTC: If someone were to ask you about the time commitment of volunteering, how much time would you say you spend on ACR volunteer work? What about your time on the Strategic Planning Task Force?
Dr. Weselman: The time commitment is variable and flexible. Most of our efforts involve e-mail and phone calls, which allows us to work it into our daily schedules. It is very manageable and has not taken away from my practice or family obligations. The Strategic Planning Task Force was a short-term commitment that required a bit more time, but had a defined end point. It gave me the opportunity to travel, get away from the office, and interact with my peers in a different setting, while still contributing professionally, which was very rewarding and enjoyable.
FTC: Do you have any advice for someone who is considering applying to become a volunteer for the first time?
Dr. Weselman: Just do it! Don’t be intimidated. We all have something to contribute and volunteers are critically important to our efforts going forward. There are a wide variety of opportunities to fit your talents and interests, and you will grow both personally and professionally.
FTC: Any final comments?
Dr. Weselman: I have thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to contribute to our national subspecialty society. The ACR staff is dedicated and knowledgeable, and will provide incredible encouragement, guidance, and support. Interacting with my fellow rheumatologists from across the country has provided me the opportunity to understand some of the different challenges we face, but more importantly, the difficulties and dedication to our patients that we share. Our College is a powerful tool to navigate the changing healthcare environment and it will be strengthened by your involvement.
As a volunteer, you can help the ACR achieve its mission to advance rheumatology. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, take a moment to review the eligibility requirements at www.rheumatology.org/Volunteer and nominate yourself or a colleague by June 1, 2013.
Advance Rheumatology by Becoming An ACR Volunteer Today
You have the chance to influence policy statements, network with rheumatologists from across the country, share your knowledge and experience, and help develop products for the future of rheumatology.
A complete list of the different standing committees and their descriptions can be found at www.rheumatology.org/Volunteer. Nominate yourself or a colleague for an ACR or Rheumatology Research Foundation volunteer opportunity by June 1, 2013.