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Getting Started in Professional Organizations

posted May 10, 2016, 12:54 PM by Explore More   [ updated May 10, 2016, 1:00 PM ]
Author:  Kari Beth Watts, DO
About 10 years ago, my younger brother decided to become a New York Mets fan. He was nurturing a newfound interest in baseball, having grown up as an avid football fan. He carefully researched teams, eventually settling on the Mets for reasons still unclear to his Midwestern family full of Cardinals, Cubs and Brewers fans. The next steps were easy, he said: “I just bought a hat and changed my homepage.”
Diving into osteopathic involvement actually isn’t all that different from my brother’s baseball dilemma. As you nurture your own unique interests within our special profession, thoughtfully consider which “team” is the best fit. Make a list of what you would value as a potential student, resident or practicing physician member. The most important question is: What opportunities excite you? You may find that the answer is one of the following:

-    Procedural workshops
-    Advocating for the osteopathic profession as a whole
-    Learning from and networking with other DOs in your given specialty
-    Osteopathic manipulation
-    Leadership training
-    Practice management & business
-    Academic medicine
-    Medical student outreach
-    Offering your skills as an artist, writer, teacher or tech junkie

You may find an organization that is solely focused on one of these elements of our profession, and then devote your time and energy to that specific topic. Or, like me, you may find organizations like the AOA, ACOFP or your state osteopathic medical society that offer resources, volunteer opportunities, and skill-building in all of the topics listed above.

In any case, your next step is as simple as my brother’s: “Buy a hat and change your homepage”! OK, so not every organization has a hat—but I guarantee that they have a website. I started by subscribing to emails from the ACOFP, which led me to read about an opportunity to attend their Future Leaders Conference. The conference topics sparked my interest, and on a whim, I shared the email with my program director. She immediately encouraged my interest and even offered to nominate me as a potential attendee! Once selected, I gathered my courage, bought a plane ticket, and flew down to San Antonio, TX for my conference as a new physician. 

And here’s what I learned: the “Hat-Homepage Strategy” will not fail you when you are thoughtful about which team to support! My experience at the conference was amazing—I met interesting, thoughtful, empowered colleagues who challenged me to better myself not only as an osteopathic family physician, but as a human being. Once I had enthusiastically committed myself to a “team” (ACOFP), I “changed my homepage” (subscribed to emails) and soon “bought a hat” (OK, so it was actually a free t-shirt from the conference). Because I had researched and reflected on which groups best aligned with my interests, I was guaranteed to hit it off with other osteopathic family physicians who shared my enthusiasm! Applying this philosophy also led me to rewarding opportunities in the Illinois Osteopathic Medical Society. Perhaps a blog on work-life balance is in my future?

But hats and websites aside, the message is simple and can be customized to Mets and Yankees fans alike: Get excited, then get involved!