First Ever Meeting of State Otolaryngology Leaders

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Brad Holland, MD -  TAO President-Elect.

The first meeting of the heads of the State Associations of Otolaryngology was held March 10th, 2017 in Washington, DC.  The idea for the meeting was spearheaded by Dr. Robert Sataloff, along with the Board of Governors, who agreed that such a meeting might help the state organizations by way of sharing ideas.  I was pleased to represent Texas at this meeting, which had over 50 attendees (some Executive Directors were present as well).

Two large state organizations, The Pennsylvania Academy of Otolaryngology, and the Virginia Society of Otolaryngology, were profiled as being "model organizations" and each had won the Academy's Award for such recently.  On a medium-sized scale, the Connecticut ENT Society was highlighted for their outstanding work. I believe Texas has a lot to learn from examining these "best practices" for state-wide specialty organizations.

The first point that really stood out is that every otolaryngology society really has two different audiences: private practice and academic.  What is seen as important, what is seen as valuable, by each of these demographics is remarkably different, and state organizations that are thriving really understand that a dichotomy is necessary in order to be unified. What makes a surgeon in private practice pay their dues is wholly different that what makes an academic surgeon pay their dues.  Accepting this reality is the basis for moving forward in terms of giving each group what they want.

Each one of the states that had large, active societies shared these things in common:  1) A strong state-wide advocacy effort; and 2) a vigorous engagement of surgical residents and their respective programs.  They were nearly universal in the societies that were thriving. Here's what that means.

The larger state otolaryngology groups all have lobbyists.  We had a very frank discussion with all the Academy Advocacy team in the room, and agreed that the Academy just cannot provide the watchdog activity given by a lobbyist, and that having an advocacy team is really what drives the agenda for the organization.  These groups paid between $6k and $12k per year for the lobbyist, but all agreed that their society didn't really start to flourish until they had strong advocacy efforts on the state-wide level.

Engaging the residents in Texas has always been a challenge, but one thing both PA and VA do to get residents to come is to have a knowledge bowl competition among all the different residency programs within the state.  This is called either a "Mastoid Bowl" or "Conchal Bowl" but has served the purpose of drawing residents in and drawing attention from the individual residency directors, who obviously want their schools to do well.  Texas should seriously look at this idea, as there is no other outlet for all the ENT residency programs within our state to take part in friendly competition.

Last, I will say that even though Texas has as many practicing Otolaryngologists as any other state, we are not the largest state society.  We all know that everything is bigger in Texas, and we want to be not only the biggest, but the best!  More in-depth conclusions of this historic first round-table will be presented at TAO's annual meeting in May.  I look forward to discussing these ideas further as we mold TAO into a first-rate "model" organization.