Report on UOA's 40th Annual Conference, Aug 14-17, 2002
UOA's 40th Annual Conference, held in Philadelphia, was a great celebration, denoting a remarkable comeback for an organization that was nearly on the brink of extinction several years ago. Festivities at the Opening Ceremony included a Mummers string band (a great Philadelphia tradition, known to anybody who has attended the New Year's day Mummers Parade). Celebrities present included Heinz Wolff, president of the International Ostomy Association, and Martha Nieves, president of the North & Central America & Caribbean region of IOA. Also, nearly all of UOA's past presidents, who sang along with the Mummers and helped unveil a big "40 YEARS OF CARING" banner over the head table.
Regarding state of the organization, it's been only a few years since, following many previous years of declining membership, UOA drew up contingency plans for dissolving the association. Factors which turned this around included: new bylaws that revamped UOA's governance structure, a new Income Development plan which is still growing and has relieved dependence on member dues, an energetic new Executive Director and central office staff, and partnerships with ostomy supply manufacturers. In particular, ConvaTec now includes a UOA application with every issue of its "Better Together Club" newsletter, and offers a free 6-month UOA membership to new BTC members who request it. These ConvaTec programs have added more than 1600 new UOA members!
The downside is that although some parts of UOA are growing, Chapter membership--and the total number of Chapters--continues to decrease (e.g., 10 chapters disbanded during the past year). The overwhelming reason why chapters disband is inability to replace leadership, a problem that we know well in our chapter. Thus, it seems likely that some of UOA's traditional services, in providing face-to-face contact between ostomates at the local level, will continue to decline.
Expect UOA to provide greater emphasis on YOUTH PROGRAMS. The Youth Rally (for teenagers 11-17 years old) has been a successful program for many years. A new Teen Network will probably be launched soon. A Young Adult Network (for young people age 18 & over) has been active for several years and provided many activities at this Philadelphia conference. Next year, UOA will hold its first separate Young Adult Conference, to be held a few days after the Youth Rally, in the same city as the Youth Rally (St. Paul, MN), but about 3 weeks before the regular UOA Annual Conference which will be in Las Vegas.
This year's Annual Conference did very well, with more than 600 attendees, including more than 200 who were attending their first UOA conference. As for myself, this was my 6th UOA conference. As in other recent years, I didn't have much chance to attend general interest sessions, as I was busy with functions I felt I had to attend. I sat in on the Board meeting Wednesday and attended the Chapter and Member Meeting Thursday morning. I ran the UOA Internet booth in the Exhibit Hall on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, and was a speaker in the Internet Session Saturday afternoon; then attended the Newsletter Editors session Saturday afternoon. As a new function this year, much of my otherwise free time was spent posting pictures of the Conference onto the UOA website (www.uoa.org), which appeared on the site almost in realtime (Most of the photos were taken by Joe Cooper, brother of Philadelphia Chapter president Stanley Cooper, although some were also taken by Cincinnati Chapter president Howard Rechel).
I did attend several other sessions, including an "Ask the Doctors" session, and Gwen Turnbull's keynote session on Sexuality, which was excellent (I missed the earlier keynote speech by Lu Ann Cahn of NBC, which was highly regarded by all who attended).
I also attended a session on the UOA Visiting Program chaired by Teresa Murphy of Fort Worth, who is the Chapter Coordinator for our area (North Texas and Oklahoma). Ever-shorter hospital stays provide a major challenge to patient visiting, requiring increasing numbers of visits at alternate venues such as telephone visits and visits in the patient's home. Teresa emphasized an alternative which, I realized, our chapter is already doing to a considerable extent: namely, using Chapter Meetings as a form of patient visiting. The idea is to hold most chapter meetings in a support group format, where new ostomy patients can meet with Certified Visitors and obtain the same benefits as in more traditional visits.
Also at this Visiting Program session, Linda Aukett spoke about new privacy rules and distributed the material which Alice discussed in her column earlier in this Newsletter. As one consequence of these rules, Chapters will need to be more vigilant in making sure correct procedures are followed when patients are referred to us for visits. Possibly, patients will need to sign forms to allow medical personnel to refer them to a UOA Visitor. As another consequence, as the new rules are likely to impose still another obstacle to receiving referrals from medical personnel, we need to maximize opportunities for patients to refer themselves to the UOA Chapter.
Next year's UOA Conference will be in Las Vegas, so let's all plan to attend. (I'm getting tired of being the only member from our Chapter who attends Conference).
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Content last revised 2002-09-15