By Mark Steffen, CRA, FAHRA
April 2012—One of the benefits of AHRA membership is the networking opportunities to connect with your peers to discuss either work-related or professional development issues. While networking over email or phone is helpful, I really enjoy meeting face-to-face with peers. I think that is why I am really excited about the increase in free local area meetings that are happening across the country.
I first become involved in planning local meetings with a team of four peers in the Seattle area. I was new to the area, having recently relocated from Chicago in May 2009. Our first local meeting was held at Swedish Medical Center in November 2010. The meeting consisted of appetizers, two speakers (providing two CE credits), an hour of networking, all at no cost! From there, our local team met regularly to plan quarterly meeting sites that rotated to each planning team member’s site. As hosts, we had to develop topics, secure speakers, and plan for the pre-meeting food and drink. Within a year, we had the process down to an art and had an average of 50 attendees at each meeting.
I relocated back to Chicago in October 2011 and wanted to replicate the success we experienced with local area meetings in Seattle. I invited a few peers of mine in the Chicago area to join a local planning team meeting – including representatives from downtown, the north and south sides of the city, and the suburbs – with the goal of planning quarterly meetings. Our first meeting was held last month at my hospital, offering a great opportunity to showcase my organization! Danielle Jaramillo, radiology operations manager at Advocate Condell, presented on the world-class service we are providing to outpatients. I reached out to my colleague from Washington state and friend, Brenda Rinehart, to present her talk on radiation dose and community awareness that she had given at a local Seattle area meeting. The feedback was amazing from the 50 attendees at our meeting. We have meetings already planned in May, June, and July at Chicago area hospitals with some amazing speakers on topics of technology, cloud storage, and centers of excellence.
So, you may be asking yourself: “I’d like to host (or start!) a local area meeting/group, but how?” Your first step is to contact the helpful staff at AHRA headquarters. They will provide you with step-by-step instructions on how to get your meeting started and approved for CE credits. You will need to come up with an agenda and potential topics that your peers would find interesting. I take a look at topics presented at other local meetings on the AHRA website to see if the topics are interesting and if I can use the same speaker. Our meetings have been in the evening to allow for people to come directly from work, but I know some other areas plan meetings during the day with high turnout.
I have also found that vendors are more than willing to sponsor a meeting by paying for speaker travel and/or food for the meeting. The only caution is how your organization develops vendor relations policies on sponsorship.
Once you have the meeting agenda set, AHRA does much of the rest. They promote the meeting to the membership in the area, secure reservations for attendees, ship meeting materials a few days before the meeting (which may include some nice gifts for attendees!), and follow-up with speaker evaluations and CE credit certificates. You can contact AHRA about planning an area meeting here.
I have found that planning and hosting meetings have been a great experience! I have expanded my network so that I have several contacts when I need information in regards to policies or professional development. I would be happy to talk with you if you require additional information.
Mark Steffen, CRA, FAHRA is a commissioner on the RACC. He is also the director of radiology services at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, IL, and he can be reached at email@example.com.