Why I Volunteer for the AIUM

Bagley_6One of my favorite “demotivational” posters says:  “MEETINGS, none of us is dumb as all of us.” Except, in the case of working on an AIUM committee, that poster could not be further from the truth.

Not. Even. Close!

The opportunity to participate on an AIUM committee is both a privilege and a learning opportunity. I have so enjoyed the chance to serve on a committee, and would like to take this time to let you know what you can expect if you were to become a committee member.

The AIUM committees meet in person once a year at the Annual Convention, and then work by conference call and email during the rest of the year. Naturally, the biggest flurry of activity comes in the weeks preceding the Convention.

At that time, the committee chair or AIUM staff liaison will e-mail the minutes from the previous meeting to all the members. When the minutes arrive in our inbox, it is a reminder for us to check and see if we actually completed the assignments we were given at the last meeting!

Ideally, we would have completed them soon after the conclusion of the meeting, but hey, we are human! For many of us, the previous minutes are a reminder that we still have some work to do!

While we are working fast and furious to complete last year’s assignments, there is also a call for new business. When the liaison is notified of new business, he or she sends the information out to the members for review.

Aside from completing assigned tasks from the previous year, reading the new documentation prior to a committee meeting is probably the most important thing a committee member should do. In order to have meaningful discussion and/or resolution of the issues, the members must be informed and prepared to contribute to the conversation.

On the day of the meeting things run probably like all committees everywhere. We follow Robert’s Rules of Order when conducting business. (OK…only kind of-sort of—does anyone really know all of Robert’s rules?) The committee moves line by line on the agenda. Sometimes one topic may take 2 hours of conversation, and other times, we may move through the items much more expediently. All topics are important, and each gets the time and attention it deserves.

One thing that happens as we move through the agenda is, we ask each other to think about what the next steps might be. In some cases, people will volunteer to write something, look up old data, or reach out and solicit expert opinions from a field of study.

In some instances, some issues are too complex for the full committee to tackle them…a case of too many chefs spoil the soup. A subcommittee may be formed instead. Smaller groups are better suited to break the complex issue down into smaller parts, and then each person can work on a single task. When the work is complete, a more cohesive approach to the problem can be presented to the larger group.

Subcommittee work, like all committee work is voluntary. No one is expected to participate in every single facet of a committee, but in the spirit of shared governance, everyone should commit to serve in some manner.

And then you have the super committee members, who in spite of having a demanding career, they still manage to defy expectations and volunteer for everything and come through with outstanding levels of productivity! You have to realize they have superhero powers that most of us do not have, so you cannot compare yourself to them. If you can participate in a fair share of committee work, contribute your expertise, and be prepared for meetings, then you are exactly who an AIUM committee needs!

At the meeting’s conclusion, we all take our assignments for the next year, and ideally start working on them when we get home. This year the Bioeffects Committee has scheduled a mid-year conference call, and that will help those of us with assignments stay on task and pace our work. It will also be a nice time to catch up and converse with friends. Oh, I guess I forgot to mention, when you do committee work, you not only gain new colleagues, but also friends and even new mentors.

If you are interested in serving on a committee, my best recommendation is to match your talents and interests with a committee or a subcommittee that needs your expertise. That way, the work will seem more like fun, and the entire AIUM membership benefits from your contributions.

What have you learned from volunteering? What did you like or dislike? Would like to contribute to the AIUM? Comment below or let us know on Twitter: @AIUM_Ultrasound.

Jennifer Bagley, MPH, RDMS, RVT, is an associate professor for the College of Allied Health at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Schusterman Campus in Tulsa. She currently serves on the AIUM Bioeffects Committee and is a former member of the Technical Standards Committee.