President's Column 12/22/11
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By Miriam Alexander, MD, MPH, FACPM

I write this column on this, the second-to-last week of the year, in reflection. This has been a topsy-turvy year for every one of us in many different ways. In some ways it reminds me of a favorite movie of mine: Parenthood with Steve Martin and Mary Steenburgen. The two lead characters are sitting at the dining table with their heads in their hands bemoaning the chaos of their family, when the very elderly grandmother (played by Helen Shaw) tells a story about how she used to love to ride the roller coaster. Steenburgen’s character quickly gleans that Grandma is telling a life lesson about the ups and downs of family life—the thrill and fear of going up toward the unknown and then the whoosh of excitement and nerves as you shoot down with your stomach in your throat and whizz around the bends. Steve Martin (my all-time favorite) wails that he just wished life was a merry-go-round; round and round, expected and sure; always knowing what comes next with perhaps a tiny thrill of reaching for the brass ring.

Well, joy for me WOULD be a merry-go-round, but 2011 for all of us certainly has been a roller coaster. The economy still is stagnant with forecasts uncertain, while the stock market gives "volatility” new meaning. Following politics and the machinations of the federal government can make one squeamish; public health is floundering; and poverty and social woes are at a recent new low point.

Yet, there are glimmers of hope. The Public Health and Prevention Fund still survives, and some important provisions of the Affordable Care Act slowly are being implemented—if only barely perceptible; two steps forward and one step backward, but still moving forward. Despite the Secretary of HHS historically overturning the Food and Drug Administration and its expert panel’s recommendations, the FDA is being recognized more for its vital work. Prevention is the buzzword on everyone’s lips, and every Tom, Dick and Harry is eager to get on the bandwagon. Opportunities are abundant and every sector seeks to get involved!

Reflective of the times, ACPM also has experienced a roller coaster year. Our list of accomplishments is long, as we have led, participated in, and contributed to many successful endeavors…not the least of which was another wonderful annual meeting in San Antonio with another stellar program on the way this coming February in Orlando. Our journal, the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, is attracting significant attention for the quality and relevance of its work, and our members continue to be recognized worldwide for their contributions to our field. We have made significant inroads advancing the preventive medicine agenda within both the executive and legislative branches of government and have signed on to and supported an unprecedented number of prevention-related activities. Through dint of hard work by members and staff we have adopted a new strategic plan and are developing an implementation plan that will allow us to align our mission, vision, and resources with the goals and activities that we all want for our College. We have a fresh and contemporary new logo with a great tag line supporting a new web site and association management system with amazing functionality.

The year has not been without its challenges, however. We began the year concerned that our finances would not allow us to retain our full complement of staff, as soft monies began to dry up; yet, through hard work by members and staff we found small pots of funds and ingenious ways to stretch dollars, so we were able to retain all of our staff and programs. However, as is the nature of soft monies, some of these grants and sponsorships were short-lived, and prospects for new grants and sponsorships are not strong. Hence, I must confess that once again we are looking ahead to a potentially-difficult 2012 and beyond. As we explore new ways to supplement our revenue streams, I recently asked all ACPM Board members to make personal contributions to the College ("The President’s Challenge”), and 100% of them reached into their pockets and made donations to support our future. Similarly, I challenge each one of you, as we reach the end of the year, also to make a contribution. Donations can easily be made through the ACPM web site. In the next few days, as you wind down your year and spend time with those you love and remember what’s important to you, I urge you to make a donation to our College to continue to support all those professional activities and causes that make us such a vibrant profession!

Have a joyous and healthy holiday season, and best wishes for the new year!

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