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Leadership transitions are an essential part of the maturity of any organization. I have been board chair of Society for Participatory Medicine (SPM) for many years and now it is time to pass the torch to Mary Hennings so that I may become our first chief advocacy officer. Allow me to explain.

Incoming board chair Mary Hennings

As many of you know, this year the board has undertaken a process of self-assessment and renewal to prepare us for future stability and growth. To help with this, we engaged Lisa Thompson from Sturbridge Growth Partners, who is now finalizing her deliverables. At various points, Lisa involved many members, both on and off of the board.

The project comprised an ambitious listening and information-gathering exercise to understand our challenges and opportunities, a revision of our strategic plan, a review of governance and related structural issues in collaboration with our governance committee, a staffing structure and plan that will culminate in our hiring an executive director, a financial model and forecast, and an implementation plan. More information will be forthcoming on all of this.

Twelve industry leaders founded the Society in 2009, and John Grohol and I are the only founders who remain on the board. At the founding, I was elected to be founding co-chair (along with e-Patient Dave). I have continued to serve as either president or chair ever since.

While some continuity of leadership is helpful in an association, a healthy churn of leadership is essential. I felt a pang of joy in 2011 when I passed the presidency to Sarah Krüg, who was our first non-founder president. Despite my willingness to pass the role of chair to someone else over the past nine years, we had no takers (nor did we have a process for succession), although I did serve part of that time with Dave and then with Joe Ternullo as vice-chair.

As Lisa reviewed the organization’s governance, it became clear that I did not have the bandwidth to split my time between the operational role of board chair and the externally facing role of increasing exposure for the Society, forging relationships, and advancing our mission. The board agreed that my time would be better spent in a new role of chief advocacy officer, but making this change would leave the position of chair vacant.

Over the past several years we have developed a tremendous bench of leaders. One such leader is Mary Hennings, who has been leading SPM as president-elect and then president for just over a year. Mary has done stellar work for the Society and, as we will likely be phasing out the duplicative president’s role, she has been willing to assume the mantle of acting board chair. At a recent board meeting the board unanimously approved this transition.

Having worked closely with Mary for a couple of years, I am supremely confident in her capabilities and potential as board chair. Moreover I am excited to be able to serve the SPM as its Chief advocacy officer (abetted by the stellar marketing team, ably led by Judy Danielson).

It has been a great privilege serving as your board chair. But I’m thrilled about this transition, which marks a new chapter for the Society. While you will be hearing more about the coming changes in Part 2, I wanted to communicate this news as soon as possible.

As always, feel free to contact me anytime with any questions or concerns.

Danny Sands


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