District branch and state association executives immersed themselves in the
organizational tools offered through APA's "Model District Branch"
program at the annual executive staff leadership conference held in
Washington, D.C., in
The conference was attended by many state association and district branch
executives, who focused on ways to implement aspects of the "Model
District Branch" document, which was created by the APA District Branch
Advisory Corresponding Committee in 2007 and revised in October. The model
provides the basic guidelines that district branches and state associations
can use to provide services to their members more efficiently and
comprehensively. It describes the essentials of managing a district branch and
optional functions to enhance service delivery and respond to "external
Linda Bueno, director of industry relations for the American Psychiatric
Foundation, facilitates a discussion on grant writing with attendees at the
executive staff leadership conference. With her are (clockwise, from lower
left) Michael Thompson, Andrew Mann, Robin Huffman, Linda Vukelich, Paige De
Mille, Rebecca DeFilippo, Pam Armstrong, Deb Wilson, Meryl Camin Sosa, and
Credit: Sylvia Johnson Photography 2008
The model provides guidance on activities organized by district branches,
qualifications that branch executives should have, and sample bylaws under
which the branches can operate. The recommendations for increased efficiency
described by the model and at the meeting on such topics as recruitment and
retainment of new members are particularly important in a time of lean budgets
and shrinking medical-industry support, according to APA leaders.
"This meeting is very valuable for APA," said APA Medical
Director James H. Scully Jr., M.D., in comments to the attendees about the
benefits provided to the overall Association.
Many attendees agreed that the training and materials provided during the
conference were particularly well timed.
"This will be really helpful in making our organization more
functional and compliant" with tax and other regulations, said Paige De
Mille, executive director of the Utah Psychiatric Association.
De Mille came to the November meeting specifically for insights on Web site
design and content. A good district branch Web site can help not only its
members, she said, but also the public, the media, and other physicians
through the information it provides on mental illness and its treatment.
DB executive directors Janet Shaw and Robin Huffman participate in a
best-practice sharing workshop during APA's District Branch/State Association
Credit: Sylvia Johnson Photography 2008
"The members want this, but it is also a good connection to the
community," De Mille said.
The wish to improve connections with other district branches and other
groups concerned with mental health issues brought Valerie Lewis, executive
director of the Vermont Psychiatric Association (VPA), to the meeting. The
insights she gleaned on techniques for successful cooperation with other state
advocacy groups and medical societies will be used to increase collaborations
on a regional level. Such relationships help make up for shortages of a
district branch's funding and time, she noted.
Lewis also hoped to learn more about effective state legislative lobbying
during a session on that activity. The session included training on ways in
which district branches can promote, oppose, or amend legislation. Lobbying
insights are especially important to the VPA, she said. The VPA accepts no
pharmaceutical industry funding that it can use for advocacy or other
activities, and plans to push for legislation in 2009 requiring more open
disclosure by drug and medical device makers of payments to physicians and
Rebecca DeFilippo, executive director of the Eastern Missouri Psychiatric
Society, described the November meeting as "motivating" because
discussion of the model district branch taught her not only what
organizational documents a district branch needs to keep but also provided her
and the other executives with model forms for gathering and organizing such
information. She cited the model ethics documents as an example of the type of
valuable documents that APA provides.
DeFilippo, as well as other executives with whom Psychiatric News
spoke, was effuse in her praise of APA for using its resources in lean
economic times to continue to provide much-needed training through the
November leadership conference. That assistance, she said, is an extension of
the training APA provided when she first started in her position and guidance
that APA staff continues to
"I find it so helpful to be able to learn from my counterparts and do
the job without having to reinvent the wheel," she said.