The 36th Annual UOA Conference was held Aug 5-8 in Arlington, VA (just outside Washington, DC). My wife Marcia and I attended from our chapter, as well as six members from the Oklahoma City chapter, making a total of eight Oklahomans at this conference. Attending the national conference is both informative and enjoyable, offering medical information and ideas to improve chapter effectiveness; fun events such as the Nu-Hope Fun-Run, ConvaTec Party, and UOA Auction; a chance to meet with ostomy supply manufacturers and others in the exhibit hall; and an opportunity to participate in organizational decisions via the House of Delegates. Here are some highlights:
State of the Organization: UOA currently has
Organizational Changes: Two big changes enacted at this year's House of Delegates were: (1) The complete replacement of UOA's Bylaws, (2) A $2/year increase in membership dues (and thanks to expert parliamentary maneuvering, both were approved with considerably less debate than might have been expected). The biggest change in bylaws was to reduce the UOA Board of Directors from 20 to 12 members over a two-year period (The 1998-99 Board will consist of 16 members). This reduction was felt necessary to match the organization's smaller membership compared with its peak in the early 1980s. The $2.00 dues increase was approved with little debate because nearly everyone agreed that this small increase is needed for UOA to maintain its programs, after making every effort to minimize costs. Thus, the dues paid by each chapter to the national organization will increase from $15.50 to $17.50 per member, effective Jan 1, 1999. Then, as we decided at our April meeting, we will increase our chapter dues from $20 to $22.
Elections: As elected at the House of Delegates meeting, UOA's officers for 1998-2000 will be: Dan Tyrrell as President, Ann Favreau as Vice-President, Ron Titlebaum as Treasurer, and Velma Byler as Secretary. Eric Floyd, Lisa Ann Mayfield, Mary Lou Strain, and Susan Wood were elected to two-year terms as Directors. Also, Richard Hanken will fill out the remaining year of Ron Titlebaum's Director position as Ron moves into the Treasurer slot.
Barbara Barrie, well-known star of stage, screen, and TV, currently playing Brooke Shields's grandmother on the TV sitcom Suddenly Susan, was keynote speaker at the luncheon and also served as Honorary Conference Chairperson. Ms. Barrie has a colostomy due to colorectal cancer and recently wrote the book Second Act describing these experiences. Her speech was funny and moving, and urged us all to do more to improve representation of ostomates in Washington. Everybody was very excited by Ms. Barrie's involvement, and all agreed that this offers a major opportunity for UOA that mustn't be missed. At the Conference, Ms. Barrie sold and autographed copies of her book; then $1000 raised in book sales was donated to UOA.
Sessions Attended: Marcia and I attended numerous sessions including medical talks, leadership sessions, the Friends of Ostomates Worldwide meeting, etc. There isn't room to describe all of these here; I'll just comment on an Effective Visiting Session conducted by Peg Grover and Bobbie Brewer. This session asked whether chapter visiting programs are keeping up with current practice in the medical profession. We were informed of current management concepts ("utilization management") used by hospitals, including "critical pathways" and "care maps." Chapters must work with administrators to ensure that standard procedure for every ostomy patient includes calling a UOA visitor and notifying the patient about the UOA chapter. We were also told that a new UOA Visitor Manual is in preparation; hopefully available by late October 1998.
UOA and the Internet: In spite of uncertainty due to the departure of UOA webmaster Stu Schaefer (who resigned on June 1, 1998), a well-run Internet session was organized by Mary Ellen Futch and Larry Trapp, and they also had a booth on the exhibit floor. Both the formal session and exhibit booth were devoted to helping chapters set up their own websites. Judging by the interest shown by chapter representatives, I expect a big increase soon in the number of chapter websites.
For myself, two of the most important Internet-related events occurred after the Conference: First, immediately after the Conference ended, LaVerna Reid of the Oklahoma City chapter (who is also a UOA national board member and attended our June chapter meeting) suggested that we expand our Stillwater-Ponca City chapter website into a more general Oklahoma UOA site with information on other Oklahoma chapters. This has now been done; you can view the new statewide Oklahoma site at http://www.ostomyok.org/ [New URL obtained in May 2001] which now includes at least some information for most Oklahoma chapters, although there are still some chapters we haven't heard from. Then, about a month after the Conference, new UOA president Dan Tyrrell asked me to serve on the UOA Internet Committee, which I have agreed to. This committee will consist of Mary Ellen Futch (Metro Maryland), Larry Trapp (Evansville, IN), and myself, with staff support from Tom Kimball at the UOA office.