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I am so honored and excited to introduce myself to you, SPM Blog readers, SPM members and friends, and to share with you a preview of coming attractions. By that I mean that since I’ve been the new Executive Director for SPM for a day and a half, my vision for what SPM can become and can deliver over the next years is in a very formative, early stage of development.  Nevertheless, I have been invited to share my excitement, my passion for the mission and the manifesto, and to give you my very preliminary idea on how SPM can evolve.  If, after a steep learning curve I see something different, I’ll share that with you in a later posting.   I’d welcome any feedback, and your ideas and your goals for SPM.  We are hoping to offer a Town Hall in which you can meet with me virtually, and I can listen to your ideas and feedback and answer your questions.

First, some background.  I have extensive leadership experience in nonprofit management.  I founded a publishing division and was its Director at NPR; I was an Executive Director for Raising a Reader, MA; I was an Executive Director for The Curious George Store Collaboration with Reach Out and Read; and I was Sr. V.P. Development for More Than Wheels.  I have over the years, forged a wide network of foundations, strategic partnerships, corporate partners and individual givers, and I’m hopeful that my experience in raising over $20 million from these organizations will translate to a strong future stream of support for SPM.  What I don’t have is extensive expertise in the health arena, so in this area I am going up a steep learning curve, guided by the impressive expertise on the SPM Board of Directors.

I believe SPM is at an inflection point:  I believe SPM is positioned to take on the leadership role in facilitating ongoing, open dialogue between stakeholders in healthcare – doctors, patients, institutions and healthcare providers.  The need for such an intervention could not be more clear. The nation’s economy reeled in the last 1½ years due to the pandemic: in the U.S. over 600,000 have already died, and because of poor or incorrect communication, a large percentage of the population didn’t trust the science or the recommendations made by the government, the CDC, and by doctors.  SPM has over 10 years of experience as a leading advocate on behalf of an engaged, educated and empowered patient becoming a respected member of his/her own healthcare team.  The Journal provides ongoing research and education, the conferences provide an opportunity for dialogue, the blog provides access to additional voices regarding healthcare.

Now SPM has the opportunity to build on this foundation.  I’d like to see our strategic plan focused on putting SPM on the map on a much wider scale, so that the dialogue opens up between healthcare providers, patients and institutions.  One of our Directors says, ‘we need to make a big noise, we need to get everyone talking about participatory medicine.’  I agree.  All participants in healthcare – patients, doctors, nurses, insurers, corporations – need to align behind the goal of teamwork and engaged, empowered, educated patients. More doctors and insurers need to learn that adherence to medical protocols improves, and costs are lowered, when a patient is involved as a respected, informed member of the team, making educated decisions as to his/her healthcare.  Patients need to know how to become educated and engaged.

So in the short term, I’ll be working with the Board and advisors, to clarify the value proposition for SPM. What do we offer – and what can we offer – that is unique; that distinguishes us from others in the field of collaborative medicine?  Also, we need to show clear, measurable outcomes, to earn support from foundations.  If we don’t have that research, can we partner with other nonprofits that do?  (Foundations love to fund collaboration, so identifying and courting partners who bolster our own research or asset base will make us that much more fundable.) Also, we need to examine how we are serving or can serve lower income communities, which comprise some 30% of the population.  Is there an opportunity for SPM to partner with the large human services nonprofits, and reach a much greater number more quickly, and more credibly?  Do we need to think about making virtual or online counseling services available to more families, who need some guidance as to how to ask questions and become educated and empowered partners in their healthcare? Finally, do we have alternative sources for income that can help us be less dependent on foundations and donations for resources to grow the organization – such as products or programs we can offer insurance agencies or corporate partners?

In sum, I’d love to see SPM clarify our core value, and hone in on a short-list of priority goals, then build upon our 10-year foundation, and grow smoothly to become the leading service provider in participatory medicine.  We have such an impressive base of expertise and research upon which to build.

Randy Houk joined SPM as Executive Director in August 2021. She brings decades of nonprofit leadership experience and development networking to SPM, having served as Director with National Public Radio, Executive V.P. with More Than Wheels, Executive Director with Raising a Reader MA, and The Curious George Collaboration with Reach Out and Read.  She also founded and managed The Benefactory, a children’s environmental publisher for 23 years, reaching 2 million children in the U.S,. and authored and illustrated many books under license with The Humane Society of the U.S.

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