I’ve decided to run for the American Academy of Physician Assistants Board of Directors this year. While wading through the online application process, I started wondering about the impact of having a complicated application process and stringent eligibility requirements for board positions.
Some AAPA members assert that the leadership scene within the organization is just an insider’s network. The conception is that people cycle through various leadership posts, and if they stick around long enough, they might get a shot at a spot in the top leadership level — the AAPA Board of Directors.
The AAPA has set criteria for Board of Directors eligibility. According to the AAPA Bylaws (article 8, section 3) eligible candidates must have been a fellow member of the AAPA for the previous three years, as well as a member of an AAPA Chapter, and must have accumulated at least three years of experience in the past five years in two of the following areas of professional involvement:
- As an AAPA or constituent organization officer, board member, committee, council, commission, work group or task force chair
- As a delegate or alternate to the AAPA House of Delegates
- As a board member, trustee, or committee chair of the PA Foundation, Society for the Preservation of PA History, AAPA Political Action Committee, PA Education Association or National Commission on Certification of PAs
- As an AAPA board appointee
As someone who has sought out state and national leadership roles for most of my 13 plus years as a PA, I meet these criteria. I do think that people who meet these criteria have gained important experience, and have demonstrated a willingness to serve.
But I also question whether such rules limit the diversity of our leadership, creating barriers and disincentives for PAs who have energy, ideas and a new interest in leadership.
Should we really be saying to dynamic and energetic PAs that they have to spend several years meeting the above criteria before they can throw their hat into the ring for our Board of Directors? And what about PAs who may have stepped away from leadership, but now wish to rejoin the process — should they have to start over again to meet the “in the past five years” requirement?
I don’t claim to know the answer, and I do understand that these decisions are complex. But I do worry that these rules may contribute to “Varsity Letter Winner’s Club syndrome,” in which people who become part of an elite group then look for ways to keep others out.