Out with the Old Boys Club and In with the New
My first experience at an ASRA meeting came in the Spring of 2008 and, ever since that time, I have been hooked, although maybe it’s because I was still a resident and it was in Cancun – which felt very exotic and not at all like the typical confines of an anesthesia resident. Either way…I WAS HOOKED. I loved everything about the meeting: the science, the workshops, the social activities and networking! I knew I wanted to do a pain fellowship so I thought to myself, “Hey you! Why not get more involved in this society!?” I went online and looked at the opportunities that were available and saw that there was a call for members in the Resident Section Committee – PERFECT for a resident member of ASRA interested in getting involved! The due date for materials was in a few days so I quickly reached out to a few of the pain faculty members at my home institution for letters of recommendation (thanks Nirmala Abraham and Mike Ferrante!) and submitted my application to ASRA just in the nick of time.
Well, for those of you who don’t know me, although I’ve got the energy level and demeanor of a slightly over-caffeinated thespian, deep down I’m an introvert and a notorious catastrophizer. I thought I would probably not get asked to join but, lo and behold, I was! I was thrilled at the opportunity to make a difference in ASRA as part of this committee. I attended every ASRA meeting – both spring and fall – to get to know my fellow committee members, and I got involved in whatever way I could by writing newsletter articles and going to the resident/fellow special sessions. I always made it to the Saturday night celebrations too (Cancun still wins in my book – fire dancers and techno music – ahhhhmazing). I also knew that ultimately I wanted to get even more involved in committee work or as associate faculty, so the introvert in me had to muster up the courage to go to the networking events to start meeting more of the involved faculty in ASRA (ProTip: bring a wingperson who can introduce you).
ASRA is a society that encourages participation from ALL of its members and one that believes we are stronger through diversity and inclusivity.
Slowly but surely things started to build organically from there. It started with offers to review for journals, including Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine. I always accepted every invitation and spent a lot of time giving thorough and thoughtful reviews. The hard work on these reviews then turned into editorial board opportunities. I continued to apply for more committee positions and, although I was not chosen a few times, I continued to apply. My persistence paid off, and I was selected to serve on the Newsletter Committee. YES!!!
Around the same time, one of the attendings I’d met at a Resident/Fellow Meet & Greet put my name in the ring for an associate faculty spot. I sent in my CV and personal statement, and I was delighted when I was asked to do a couple of workshops. I made sure I showed up prepared, with high energy, and got to know the leads of the workshops well ahead of and during the meeting. I paid my dues and worked very hard as an associate faculty – always making it known to anyone who would listen that I was available during that meeting if something happened last minute. Many times, I was asked to help or fill a spot, and I never said no. After three years of service as associate faculty, I was over the moon when I was promoted to be full faculty. I’ll never forget my first meeting as full faculty, feeling so proud and excited and even being asked to give a refresher course. Little did many people know at that meeting, I had brought my 9-month old infant son and spent each day of the meeting running back and forth from all of my required sessions to breastfeed or pump, including in the lobby *immediately* before my refresher course! Mad props to all the nursing mamas out there in ASRA – and I would love to plug that we now have specific nursing rooms to meet the needs of our lactating meeting attendees!
Things have since persisted and grown after being welcomed into the ASRA society. I was named the 2019 Pain Medicine Meeting program chair and sit on the CME Committee. I am a founding member of the Women in Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine Special Interest Group where our mission is to promote, mentor, and sponsor not just the females in our specialty, but to promote the inclusivity of all sexes, genders, orientations, races, and ethnicities.
I realize that when I first got involved in ASRA, it may have been easier for me to get involved if I had known specific people or was a resident/fellow/faculty of specific institutions that were heavily involved in ASRA. But, I can say with certainty that this true introvert who tends to come off as extroverted is now working in a society that has changed and morphed over the last decade…and for the better. ASRA is a society that encourages participation from ALL of its members and one that believes we are stronger through diversity and inclusivity.
So – if you want to get involved, get yourself out there! Go to meetings, attend the networking sessions (bring a wingperson – heck, I’ll be your wingperson!), apply for committees and re-apply if you don’t get selected the first or second time, apply to be associate faculty, and definitely go to the Saturday night events (if not just for the entertainment, go and cut loose with the ASRA faculty and staff).
Trust me, even if it takes 10 years, like it did for me, it is worth it!
Andrea Nicol, MD, is an assistant professor at the University of Kansas School of Medicine in Lawrence where her clinical responsibilities include chronic pain and her research interests include fibromyalgia, centralized pain syndromes, and mechanisms of the chronification of pain. She is the chair of the 18th Annual Pain Medicine Meeting, which will be held November 14-16, 2019, in New Orleans, LA.