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Becoming ASPR – Winter 2015

By Jerry Hess

Becoming ASPR
By Jerry Hess
“The time has come,”
The Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes - and ships - and sealing-wax
Of cabbages and kings.”
Lewis Carroll

I recently noticed how many senior recruiters like to pass out advice. This is, no doubt, due to our inability to set a bad example. We tell stories of things that never happened and exaggerate about the things that did. We have selective memories and we pass on historical events that make us look good. Alas, it is my fate to recall for you what we refer to as “the good old days,” which may be better described as “those trying times.”

All organizations have stories to tell. What we fondly recall of the early days of ASPR- while they are a bit fuzzy in my mind - were not all golden. In those days, physician recruiters were a rare breed. We were a strange combination of strong individuals who had learned our lessons the hard way. (As though there is any other way to learn!) We came from different parts of the country and had backgrounds in administration, nursing and counseling. We worked for a variety of organizations; clinics, hospitals, HMO’s, academic institutions and even an “integrated healthcare organization” - whatever that was.

In any case, we would see each other at various meetings and career fairs. It was obvious we were not a particularly dangerous group, but rather a lot of fun to be around. So when I was asked to approach NAPR about partnering with them to form a group of in-house, staff physician recruiters, I figured they could not possibly refuse such a great group. Unfortunately, the idea of “us” partnering with “them” did not appeal to the NAPR board and we were sent away to figure something out on our own. In retrospect that was probably a good thing.

In the fall of 1989, we formed a committee known as the “unknowing asking the unwilling to do the unnecessary.” We were very “formal” – meeting in hotel lounges to discuss plans for our future. We had a few pens but no paper, so we absconded with a few hotel napkins and wrote down our motto: “Be good; be careful or call us.” We all agreed we should organize because real fun is too important to be left to chance! As one of our guiding principles we wrote “social” on our napkins. After a bit, we also agreed we could teach each other a few tricks of the trade, which is not the same as learning the tricks without learning the trade. We all wrote “education” on our napkins. Finally, someone said we should “enhance the profession.” That sounded good too, so we all wrote that down on our napkins.

We needed fearless leaders to actually do something, so we wrote our names on our napkins and passed them around so people could add titles behind the names. Susan Bray was named Vice President; Bill Norris, Treasurer; Bill Matthews was commandeered as Secretary; and I wound up as the first President. So far, so good. No money, no meetings, no old business. Might as well have a drink and go home!

There was still work to be done, however. We needed bylaws and I happened to have a book from the library called “Do It Yourself Contracts.” I just had it along for looks but, what the heck, it could be useful. I filled in the blanks and sent the form to Bill Norris who convinced an attorney on his staff to file the paperwork for us in New Mexico. We picked New Mexico because we thought we could meet there in the winter and write it off our taxes! Did I mention that the filing was free?

We held our first meeting in conjunction with the American Academy of Family Physicians’ annual meeting in Kansas City. We doubted that anyone would come to one of our meetings if they were not already in town! We asked the AAFP if Linda Carter could speak to us about her recently published article, “How to recruit a family physician.” Linda did a great job and our educational conference was born!

At some point in our history, we felt it would be beneficial to take a test to prove we knew what we were doing - or at least remembered what we had been taught at our annual meeting. We were not alone in that thought - NAPR and Roger Bonds met with us to see if we could agree to come up with one test for all manner of physician recruiters. NAPR had the money; Roger had the moxie; and ASPR had the members. We all agreed one test would be reasonable, so we went our separate ways and each wrote our own tests. So much for a united front!

We quickly realized our $10.00 annual dues were not going to cover much in the way of company expenses – they barely covered the cost of our quarterly newsletter. We knew we would need outside help if we were to continue growing the organization. Joe Thomure, the president of PracticeMatch, offered to sponsor a reception for us at one of our meetings. Our relations with vendors have matured and blossomed since then and vendors are now an integral part of the ASPR family.

After a few years, all of the meetings and the association work became a distraction from our paid jobs so we asked John Arlandson, President of Office Enterprises, to assume the day to day operations for ASPR. We may have forgotten to tell John that we only collected dues in January so he would have to work a few months without pay. Tim Skinner, who could talk his way into and out of nearly anything, helped with that tricky situation!

Things went much smoother after that and our membership grew, our annual meetings took on a professional air, and the newsletter became the Journal. John retired a few years later and David Ewald took over the management duties for ASPR. We maintain that relationship with Ewald Consulting to this day and appreciate their efforts on our behalf.

So there you have it – the story of how ASPR got started! Some may say I am delusional and I can only point to four decades of physician recruitment to justify myself. I do know the decisions we made in the past became our history and the decisions we make today will become our future.

The goals that were outlined on those napkins remain constant and much remains from that first meeting. Caring for each other, sharing our knowledge and enhancing the profession – these values still resonate with ASPR.

I am honored to have been a part of the early days of ASPR, and I share my favorite poem to reflect on my feelings about the organization:

“From quiet homes
And first beginnings,
Out to undiscovered ends,
Nothing is worth the
Wear of winning
But laughter and the
Love of friends.”
Hillaire Belloc

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