House of Delegates

AOA CEO reflects on ‘envisioning the possible’

AOA CEO Adrienne White-Faines, MPA, FACHE, encouraged DOs to embrace their champions during her final address to the AOA House of Delegates.


In a retrospective speech that highlighted the progress of the past five years and heralded the importance of “envisioning the possible,” AOA CEO Adrienne White-Faines, MPA, FACHE, spoke to the House of Delegates Friday in Chicago of the strategic restructuring that has been at the forefront of her tenure as CEO as she prepares to depart her post next year.

White-Faines circled back to her first House of Delegates in 2013 when four key challenges to the association and the profession were identified. They were:

  • Appealing to the growing profession, which increased 300% over the past 20 years
  • Aligning the financial infrastructure to be sustainable
  • Revising AOA offerings to be relevant to a changing workforce and evolving health care delivery system
  • Increasing awareness of osteopathic medicine and DOs

“Immediately following the House in 2013, we began setting the strategic structure with the Board of Trustees to envision the possible,” White-Faines told the gathering of hundreds of physicians, students and allies of the osteopathic profession. “The goal was to create a phased strategic realignment of the great house of the AOA, and enhance the visibility and impact of osteopathic medicine.”

The vision of the phased strategic realignment meant focusing on five key areas: membership, board certification, international presence, affiliate alignment, and governance structure.

In order to enhance and expand these areas, the AOA restructured its resources and operations, improved public policy, expanded research and scholarly work, built brand identity and addressed osteopathic graduate medical education (GME), White-Faines said.

Lessons learned

Three key lessons emerged from the strategic realignment process, said White-Faines.

The first was that “fear is an ever-present obstacle to change,” and the second was “timing brings opportunity.”

The importance of embracing your champions was the third critical lesson, White-Faines said.

Champions of the osteopathic profession include students, residents and early- and mid-career physicians as well as seasoned physicians who bring perspective and mentorship. They are also leaders within the profession and outside the profession, in health care institutions and organizations across the globe.

“The lesson is that your champions may surprise you,” White Faines said. “You have far more supporters and partners than adversaries.”

Steadfast belief

White-Faines spoke about her history of trail-blazing, which has helped her understand how to enact sweeping changes:

  • She was in one of the first classes of women admitted to an all-male New England college when they went co-ed in the ’70s.
  • She led policy change for smoke-free restaurants, cities and states.
  • She expanded access to care for underserved communities.

“Each time, people said, ‘Not now. It can’t be done yet,’ but we always pushed forward, envisioning the possible with belief in the opportunity,” White-Faines said.

History of inclusiveness

One-hundred twenty-five years ago, A.T. Still, MD, DO, the founder of osteopathic medicine, boldly took medicine in a new, inclusive direction against all odds and doubt, White-Faines said.

He relied on his values as a supporter of the Suffragette movement, as an anti-slavery advocate, and as a friend and student of Native Americans. He used his religion and faith combined with his intellectual acumen to envision the delivery of osteopathic medicine and promote the value of seeing the person inside the patient.

“He did not build his legacy from a place of fear. He built it imagining the possibilities,” White-Faines said.

As she closed out her remarks, White-Faines spoke of her journey leading the AOA and the impact it has had on her.

“You are amazing mission-oriented physicians to whom I will forever be your strongest and most loyal advocate,” White-Faines said. “You have enhanced my life profoundly through this experience, and forever renewed my spirit to envision the possible. May the AOA journey continue for the next 125 years, making an impact across the world.”

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