An interview by Becky LeBuhn
Edward “Ed” Susank’s professional career was with William M. Mercer, Inc. a benefits and human resources consulting firm. He began a lengthy history of volunteerism as a member of a hospital board and of boards and committees of the California Hospital Association. Since then, he has served as a public member – one who represents the public’s interest and serves on a governing body of a board or certification program. Ed has held such a role in numerous settings, including:
- The Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education
- The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS)
- The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT),
- The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP)
- The Commonwealth of Virginia
- The Catholic Diocese of Arlington, Virginia
He is currently a public member on the American Board of Imaging Informatics (ABII), the National Center for Interprofessional Practice and Education at the University of Minnesota and was recently appointed to the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA). We spoke down with Ed to understand what it takes to be a public member, the challenges and triumphs of the role and his advice for someone considering the role.
Ed’s first public member appointment was to FSBPT’s Foreign Credentialing Commission. He was recommended to that and some of his subsequent public member positions by the Citizen Advocacy Center, a not-for-profit organization that provides support and networking opportunities for public members.
When reflecting on what prepared him for the role, Ed says his time on hospital boards and committees gave him a grounding in clinical issues and healthcare governance which has been valuable background for serving as a public member. Similarly, his experience working with the Virginia chapter of AARP to enact competency demonstration requirements for health professional licensure renewal in that state heightened his understanding of the politics surrounding continuing competency. This work also gave him an appreciation for the important role public members can play in bringing public opinion to bear on credentialing policy.
Ed believes his familiarity with continuing competence stemming from his work with AARP Virginia and his service on ABMS’s Maintenance of Certification committee was a factor in his selection to be the public member on NBCRNA’s board. In a recent interview, Ed noted NBCRNA offered the most extensive orientation he could recall having received. It covered not only the technical side of governance, but also included background on some of the strategic challenges currently facing the organization. Ed currently serves on NBCRNA’s finance and appeals committees.
Asked about challenges confronting public members, Ed spoke of the need to gain an understanding of the technical issues faced by the profession: necessary skills, work environments, teamwork issues and interactions with other professions and among professional associations. These challenges aside, his professional background has helped him in this role – his work helping employers structure care for their employees and their dependents and his accumulated knowledge from volunteer service on healthcare related boards.
Related to this, Ed raised the question of how, once appointed, public members stay current with ongoing issues in the world of healthcare. He believes public members have a responsibility to keep up to date and their organizations should encourage this. Among some of the resources available to public members like Ed are programs offered by the Citizen Advocacy Center and ICE educational opportunities, including the annual ICE Exchange.
Ed says his distinctive contribution as a public member is not necessarily dramatic. The boards on which he has served have been forward-looking and sensitive to the public interest. His contribution is nonetheless significant because the questions he raises expand the boards’ thinking. Practitioners tend to view the world from their professional silos. He believes he brings a public perspective and elemental logic that broaden and enrich the discussion.
Asked what he would advise someone considering becoming a public member, Ed emphasized the importance of achieving a commonality of understanding between the organization and the public member; do they have the same expectations about the role the public member will play and the value of his or her contribution? He also stressed that public members need to do their homework to learn about the profession and the board on which they want to serve. They also need to think carefully about how to define “the public.” It is Ed’s opinion that a public member should think expansively and not represent a narrow interest or demographic group.