Almost 30 years ago, Clara Peller, a noted character actress, became an overnight celebrity when she appeared in a commercial declaring, "Where's the beef?" Over the last six months, I have on occasion been reminded of Ms. Peller's query when I meet members who have opened our conversations with something like, "I have only one beef with ASHA" and shared a recent frustration or one that has been simmering for years. With more than 150,000 members, it is important that opportunities for us to chew the fat are not left to chance. So, I join with Nancy Alarcon, chair of the Speech-Language Pathology Advisory Council (SLPAC), and Wayne Foster, chair of the Audiology Advisory Council (AAC), with the prime objective to focus on the Advisory Councils' work in providing input to the ASHA Board of Directors and to highlight avenues for ASHA members to communicate with the Board.
Through ASHA's web-based "In Touch" form, members can contact the Board directly 24/7, and several times a year the ASHA Boards holds Member Forums for face-to-face communication. The Board also disseminates a report and then posts that report on ASHA's website following each official meeting to keep members informed on the topics under discussion. Another popular forum is the online "ASHA Community," where members can contact one another, engage in discussions on member-identified topics, customize and integrate personal profiles with other popular social media sites, and browse a resource library to access and share files and direct one another other to topics of interest. Many members also frequent ASHA's Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube pages for updates and community conversations.
Member input and communication at the highest level of ASHA governance have also long been priorities. When the membership of the association topped 100,000 and the legislative climate grew more complex, it became obvious that ASHA needed to reconsider the effectiveness of the official decision-making process. Thus, the Legislative Council voted itself out of existence in 2007 in favor of a new governance structure that includes the Board and two Advisory Councils. Legislative Council membership was determined by the number of ASHA members in each state, but the Advisory Councils are composed of one elected audiologist and one elected speech-language pathologist from each state, the District of Columbia, members who reside outside of the United States, and the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association. Each Council elects a chair who serves on the Board for a three-year term.
Advisory Council members are not asked to represent their respective states, as was the case with the Legislative Council. Instead, the Advisory Council members, who encompass a broad spectrum of work environments and areas of expertise, are tasked to use their knowledge and experience in deliberating on important issues facing the professions. This advice is frequently amassed by the chair and related to the ASHA Board. Throughout the year, Council members stay in contact through the ASHA Collaboration Site, a digital community that provides the opportunity for daily communication. Serving as ASHA's "think tank," these volunteer colleagues are an invaluable conduit of information to the Board.
Since their inception, the work of the Councils has become more focused and the advice provided to the Board more timely. Already this year, the AAC has helped plan the ASHA Health Care Conference in October and have generated important insights about the impact of online hearing aid sales on hearing health care service delivery models. The SLPAC has provided perspective on the development of resources in the area of scope of practice, education/training, and supervision of speech-language pathology assistants and has generated ideas regarding services and resources to benefit the membership and strengthen the association.
The relationship between the national office staff, the Board, and the Advisory Councils offers the ASHA membership a unique combination of leadership and scope. The national office has the resources to research issues in great depth. The Councils contribute the aggregate of member voices that reflect many years of practice experience across the broad spectrum of service provision throughout the United States and internationally. The Board is thus able to make nimble and fully informed decisions on behalf of members while remaining grounded in member input.
We hope these examples inspire you to ruminate on the ways in which you can connect with your Board and with your colleagues and encourage you to let your voice be herd. As you can see, there is no need to make a reservation to share your questions, comments and beliefs with us. We relish your ideas and truly want to hear from you.