The Birth of a State Neurological Society

Advocacy in Action

December 17, 2007

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This is the first in a series of articles from physicians who are leading efforts to advocate for their patients and their profession at the local, state, and national level.

By Terri Postma, MD
Chief Resident, University of Kentucky
Lexington, KY
Author Disclosure

The idea to create a state neurological society had been germinating before I was accepted as a Fellow for the AAN Palatucci Advocacy Leadership Forum, and became firmly rooted during my training at the Palatucci meeting in January 2007. While there, we were challenged to formulate action plans for advocacy issues we were interested in pursuing; mine was to start a state neurological society in Kentucky. The task was both exciting and overwhelming. Several current and former Palatucci graduates were pursuing or had succeeded with similar goals in their home states, and I was able to take advantage of their experiences and advice. I discovered several key indicators to ensure success for a state neurological society:

1. Create a survey

Drs. Dominic Fee and Tarvez Tucker from the University of Kentucky, Department of Neurology, laid the groundwork by sending a survey to practicing neurologists in the Commonwealth. The survey indicated a strong desire and interest for the organization of a state society.

2. Plan the start-up carefully

The University of Kentucky, Department of Neurology, led by its Chair, Dr. Joseph Berger, was integral in the start-up by covering initial costs, donating manpower, and offering moral support.

3. Enlist statewide interest

Neurologists from key geographical areas of the Commonwealth expressed motivation and interest in the development of a state society.

4. Utilize AAN expertise and resources

The American Academy of Neurology offered support in multiple ways including supplying a website home page, personal contact to help answer questions and problem solve, materials and marketing support, and offering expert speakers for meetings.

Even with this strategy, it was a challenge to organize the first annual CME-accredited meeting. We chose to work with the University of Kentucky's CME office to coordinate the venue and handle the CME paperwork. We solicited pharmaceutical companies to obtain unrestricted educational grants and offered display space in exchange for financial support. We also endorsed their assistance to help us reach neurology practices we may have overlooked. In addition to AAN assistance marketing the event, we sent out multiple emails and mailings. We invited dynamic and nationally recognized speakers to address topics that would appeal to a wide range of practicing neurologists and associated professionals. These included E/M coding, migraine, and spinal surgery advances. We also offered a well-attended botulinum toxin injection workshop.

Nearly one year later, I realize how far we've come and how far we have yet to go. Our first annual meeting drew 20 participants from nearly every corner of the state. We are currently in the process of formalizing membership and developing a strong core leadership that truly represents neurology in the Commonwealth. I am hopeful that our next event will draw and appeal to even more neurologists.

I'm confident that we can build on our successful start by adhering to some key tenets:

  1. Choose representative leaders (try to involve as many geographical regions of the state as possible and include both academic and private practice physicians)
  2. Create a clearly defined structure (bylaws, consider incorporation)
  3. Address the needs of both academic and private practice physicians
  4. Be inclusive (involve associated professions, ancillary staff, residents, students)
  5. Garner the support of local universities, the AAN, state medical societies
  6. Gain pharmaceutical industry support for functions and marketing

I encourage those who are considering developing neurological societies in their home states to take the plunge. The burden, when shared over even a small group of motivated individuals, is light, and the rewards are great for the practice of neurology and the patients we serve.

Disclosure

Dr. Postma has nothing to disclose.