Managing the administrative work necessary to keep members of the Virginia Society of Rheumatologists (VSR) active and engaged was proving a challenge for volunteer rheumatologists balancing their society activities with busy practice schedules.
After attending several other state society meetings and talking to society leaders about the value of creating an executive director role, VSR President Neil Sullivan, MD, and VSR board member Harry Gewanter, MD, FAAP, MACR, agreed outside support was necessary to better connect rheumatologists and allied health providers through a better rheumatology society in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
“You don’t really know you need an executive director until you have one and see what can be done better to achieve a new level of education, connectivity and advocacy on behalf of the rheumatology community in your state,” says Dr. Gewanter.
Making the Decision
In October 2017, Dr. Gewanter and Dr. Sullivan formally proposed to the VSR board the concept of hiring an executive director. “We knew our society could be more than a group coming together for an educational meeting,” Dr. Gewanter shares.
After weighing the pros and cons and discussing the right fit needed for an executive director, the VSR board decided to seek support from the Richmond Academy of Medicine Services Corporation, an organization that supports many other Virginia specialty practice societies and is engaged with the Medical Society of Virginia, an important voice for physician concerns, Dr. Gewanter says.
Starting this past May, Elizabeth Schroeder Craig of the Richmond Academy of Medicine Services Corporation hit the ground running as the VSR’s first executive director.
Tackling Society Operations Challenges
Ms. Craig says an executive director for a state society functions best when the position is tailored to meet specific needs, such as managing the board, setting up meetings, ensuring bylaws are being followed and supporting the volunteer physician leaders in setting and achieving optimal goals for society activities. She attributes 32 years of strong leadership and dedicated service from VSR members to making it possible for the society to hire an executive director.
Her first order of business with the VSR has been to organize and enhance email communication to better ensure current and future VSR members are receiving all the information they need to engage with the society. She launched a quarterly newsletter for the VSR and is providing the administrative support for the VSR’s upcoming annual meeting, to be held Sept. 21–23, and for the society’s 2019 and 2020 meetings.