Leaving Las Vegas

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By Debra A. Lopez, CRA, FAHRA

September 2009 — Another outstanding annual meeting! I hope those in attendance enjoyed this year’s meeting as much as I did.  The educational sessions were as great as ever, the Mandalay Bay venue was fabulous, our vendor partners were there educating us in the exhibit area, supporting our meeting and some of our social functions. We had many great opportunities to network with our friends and colleagues. My thanks to the Design Team, AHRA staff, and our conference planners Hachero Hill.  Many thanks as well to our speakers, who work hard preparing and delivering their classes and sharing their knowledge.

As a result of our economy and resulting budget cuts, many of our members are experiencing reductions, if not total freezes, in their travel and education budgets. It is therefore more important than ever to make sure that your manager, or whoever signs your travel request enabling you to attend our annual meeting, or any other educational venue for that matter, is aware of the value your attendance brings to you and therefore your organization. Make sure you talk about the conference the next time you meet. Talk about some of the nuggets you have learned, and how you can apply the new information to projects and issues that your facility is currently facing. Be sure to let your manager know that you just met 5 different people at the meeting that have just installed X piece of software or X piece of equipment, and that they offered to share their protocols and lessons learned with you. Explain how you had an “a-Hah” moment in a coding class that will help you improve reimbursements. Let your manager know how much the meeting rejuvenated and inspired you. He or she needs to know that the investment made in sending you to a meeting was well worth the cost.

I am pleased to be taking on my new duties as your AHRA Board of Directors President. Penny Olivi did an excellent job last year, and has been an outstanding mentor to me. I am also fortunate in having an excellent group of board members to work with.

During Penny Olivi’s term as AHRA President, she talked about the mixture of change and stability on our board. Each year, experienced board members return to share their wisdom and knowledge about our governance structure and strategic plan, and new members come to the table with fresh ideas and perspectives.

AHRA staff also plays a very important role in the success of our association. As board members serve their terms, step down, and are replaced by the newly elected officers, the staff remains, working each day to assist members and accomplish the goals and strategies set forth by the board. Ed Cronin, our CEO, has done a fabulous job retaining and recruiting talented staff.

Each month I would like to highlight a member of our AHRA staff. I am sure you will be as impressed by their qualifications and the talent they bring to our organization as are those of us who work with them on a regular basis.

AHRA Staff Member of the Month: Sarah-Jane Belinskas 

AHRA Department:  Member Services Specialist

Hometown: Worcester, MA

Family: I come from a very large family. I have lots of aunts, uncles, and cousins, but too many to count.  My mother and father have been married for 32 years, and I have an older sister who through the years has been my biggest rock and support.  We are all a very close family, and they are my everything.

School: I attended Lesley University in 2005 for American Studies. I taught elementary education for one year and decided I needed more of a challenge, so in 2005 I attended the Massachusetts Police Academy.  After graduating in 2006, I worked as a Deputy Sheriff for Worcester County.  After 3 years of working in law enforcement, I decided to take yet another direction in my career, and that is when I came to work for AHRA. 

Interests: I like to read, write, listen to music, travel, and love to be active and be outdoors.  I also love to make people laugh, and always have a smile on my face! 

Deb Lopez, CRA, FAHRA is President of the 2009-2010 AHRA Board of Directors.  She lives in San Jose, CA and can be reached at debannlopez@pacbell.net.


  1. I read Deb’s comments with a regret of another year past but looking forward already to next year – God willing.

    I want to make the point that i have travelled to AHRA meeting7 times now from Australia. It is totally self funded and I take holiday leave to attend-that is how important this meeting is to me. So if your work travell budget is cut think maybe of the personal gain you surely get from these meetings and think of offering to your employer to help personally with some/all of the expense. They are sure to be impressed.

    Denys Wynn Lismore Australia

  2. I also think this meeting offers a great deal of information that is useful in our field. I have retired but find that I still have muck to learn from other managers as we network. I continue to use much of this information in my life daily.

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