When I reflect back on my past three years as Secretary/Treasurer of the ARO, I think mainly about the growth of the society. I have often thought of the new parents who watch their young child make its first attempts at standing and, then, walking. There is the fleeting impulse for them to put their foot on the child's back to stop the advance and keep things simple and as they were. But the parents quickly realize that growth is inevitable and not necessarily bad.
So, have many considered slowing the growth of ARO, only to realize that the growth of the society is most likely inevitable and not necessarily all bad. Probably nothing has symbolized the growth of the ARO more than the move from the Happy Dolphin Resort in St. Petersburg Beach to the Surfside Holiday Inn in Clearwater Beach - the move from rooms on the beach and the quaint hotel to rooms off the beach and a formal hotel atmosphere; from a banquet which we all attended to long lines to sample hors d'oeuvres; from crowded, noisy meeting rooms to large meeting rooms and poster sessions. In making the move, I thought about why ARO grows.
I believe it grows for two reasons: 1) The association fills a need, and 2) People enjoy coming to the meetings. The ARO is the only international society devoted entirely to research of the head and neck. The founders of the ARO worked very hard to develop a feeling of a COMMUNITY of friends meeting to discuss their mutual interest in the wonders of the structure and function of the head and neck.
Thus, as Secretary/Treasurer, I felt it was crucial to provide the best possible forum for presenting and discussing our 'science,' but in an informal atmosphere that would continue this feeling of a community. How to do this with 400, then 500, then 600 attendees was the challenge. I knew we couldn't emulate the past of the Happy Dolphin, but hopefully we could benefit from those experiences by correcting problems and finding new ways to maintain the sense of an informal community.
The society continues to grow; there are more and better papers at the meetings; AND I still see people gathering on the beach, in the foyer over a cup of coffee or a drink, and on the sidewalks interacting in a spirited fashion. It gives me hope that the meetings, although larger and different, are still fulfilling the same needs and meeting the same expectations that they did in the past. Looking back usually calls for turning around to see where you might be headed. I suspect that managing the ARO in the face of growth will be the major organizational topic for the Council over the next few years. We have been incredibly fortunate to have been served by outstanding volunteers with a passion to make the ARO work. We have, however, outgrown the abilities of even the most capable and ardent volunteers. The job of managing the ARO can no longer be done entirely by volunteers. We need help, but in seeking this managerial assistance, I hope that we keep in mind where we came from; that we work hard to keep the 'child' in the society; and that we'll never return. It has been a pleasure helping marshal the society to this point, but I also will be happy to have others help take us the next step.
Bill Yost, Ph.D.