Remarks from 2017 President-Elect Bruce Bobbitt

In these remarks, my final set as President-Elect, I use the opportunity to take a brief look back at the past year and offer some information about what we aim to accomplish this coming year.   As in the past remarks, I will offer some depth on a particular aspect of the organization and mention current issues.  The topic for review in this issue is how MPA is governed and how this relates to the work done by the various parts of the organization.  This discussion leads to a review of the various MPA committees that do the lion’s share of the day-to-day work of the Association.  The focus on committee functions will be a recurring topic of my Presidential remarks in 2018.

MPA Governance and Operations - How We Do What We Do.  As I spent time this past year planning for 2018, it became clear to me that despite many years in MPA governance I did not have a complete sense of how the organization operates.  Starting in the Spring of this past year, I started to attend as many committee meetings as I could in order to understand the operations of each of the committees.  In the process, it became clear to me that we have a large and energetic group of people working hard to achieve our goals and live up to the mission of the organization.  MPA also has a formal governance structure of psychologists and psychologists-in-training who oversee the organization and chart its direction.   It is important to understand what the governance group does and what the committees do.

The MPA Governing Council (in other organizations this group would be referred to as the Board) is made up of elected general members, division heads and the Officers of the Organization.  The purpose of this group is to chart the overall direction and policy of the organization.  The broad directives from the Council are implemented and overseen on a daily basis by the Executive Committee (EC), which consists of the Officers of the organization - President, President-Elect, Immediate Past President, Treasurer, and Secretary.  The actual work of the organization is carried out by its committees.  At the end of this essay, all of the committees are listed along with the committee chairs.  Some of the committees engage in activity that affects our finances (Membership, Education and Training, Annual Convention, Rural Conference Committee, Diversity Conference Committee) and others focus on directly on services but do not directly generate revenue (Ethics, Legislative, Diversity).  All of the committees are equally important to the success of MPA, but it is important to understand that four of our committees support educational activities that generate much needed revenue and income for the organization.

One of the common challenges for all associations is developing a governance structure that meets the needs of the organization and is the right size and complexity for what organization is trying to do.  MPA is no different.  One of the interesting aspects of our organization is that while the committees and their chairs do much of the day-to-day work ,the committee chairs are not part of the formal governance of the organization.  The chairs are appointed by the President and approved by the Governing Council.  In some cases, a committee chair is also an elected part of governance.  In addition, we have slots on the Governing Council for Divisions that are no longer active or engage in modest activity.

This past year the Governing Council spent a fair amount of time reviewing this situation and contemplated making some changes in the governance structure of MPA.  The group was not able to come to agreement about the best way to redesign the organization, and this issue carries forward into the new year.  In the first week of October and again in the first week of December, we had our annual planning meeting which was attended by all members of governance and all committee chairs.  We spent the October session hearing presentations from all of the committee chairs and the December session focused on divisions.  While we did not solve some of our organizational challenges, I think that all of the organization leaders came away having a deeper appreciation for what everyone is doing and the sheer effort that it takes for the organization to do what it does.  This coming year we will continue with the work of redesigning the organization to better fit the current state of the field.  This is likely to show up in incremental changes to the way MPA is organized.  We are bit cumbersome, but we somehow make it work.

As noted above, the EC is one of the various committees in the organization.  The Chair of this group is the President of the Organization.  This past year, the EC met in person once a month and also had almost daily contact throughout the year.  We operated as a team with different members of the group attending to different parts of the organization.  This coming year, we are going formalize some of that work by each of the EC members by having each one of them assigned to a committee, acting as the EC liaison to that committee.  Not all committees currently have an EC liaison, but all will in short order.  The assignments are as follows:

Annual Meeting Committee - Bruce Bobbitt

Education & Training - Bruce Bobbitt

Rural Conference Committee - Bruce Bobbitt

Membership - Susan McPherson

Payer Committee - Steve Girardeau and Robin McLeod

Legislative Committee - All EC members attend the Legislative Committee and are actively involved with this group

President’s Conference - Multicultural Conference - Robin McLeod and Bruce Bobbitt

Diversity Committee - Robin McLeod

Award Committees (Academic, Patterson, Community Service) - Bruce Bobbitt

Ethics Committee -  Bruce Bobbitt

This structure allows for reciprocal accountability for the committees and also for the EC.  A couple of comments about this organization are in order.  First, Matt Syzdek is the newest member of the EC and is stepping into the Treasurer role.  Given that this is Matt’s first few days and weeks in this role, he will not have a committee assignment to start.  Matt is on the Annual Convention Committee and will be well prepared to assume an assignment in the future.  Second, Susan McPherson has stepped up to develop a task force to review and redesign how we are approaching our membership work.  MPA membership has remained relatively flat for a number of years and is certainly not growing in proportion to the number of licensed psychologists in the state.  Fortunately for Susan’s task force, the current Chair of the Membership Committee, Steve Gilbert, will be a member of the task force.  As a result of this effort, the Membership Committee is no longer operational while the task force completes its work.  Finally, I am delighted that the President’s conference this coming year will be focused on multicultural issues.  This conference has been in the works for some time and is being driven by the Diversity Committee and by Robin McLeod.  The Multicultural Conference Committee is being chaired by Robin and by Jessica Gourneau.  While I will be attending as many of these meetings as I can, the actual work and focus of this conference will come from this committee under the leadership of Robin and Jessica.  More on this conference below.

Current Events.  As noted in my last remarks, issues with Blue Cross Blue Shield Minnesota continue to be attended to by all in MPA leadership.  In December, we sent a letter to the CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield asking that the company stop efforts to recoup Medicaid overpayments.  We accompanied this with a press release.  The Star Tribune ran a story on this topic on December 18, 2017,and quoted me and Robin McLeod.  This issue and other payer issues will continue to be at the forefront of what we are doing.  We continue to be concerned by issues of access to care for consumers who have plans with highly restricted networks.  As we have more information to share on this we will do so through all of our communication channels. 

Finally, also in December we issued a press release taking issue with the Federal Administration’s directive to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to not use certain words in their budget proposal documents.  We find it abhorrent for any level of government to restrict speech.  Many of the words on the restricted list also referred to people in diverse communities.  Such attempts to restrict speech have no place in a free society.

2018 Educational Offerings.  All of you should have received a postcard outlining the first six months of our First Friday Forums.  This is an exciting list of continuing education events.  All of these will be heavily promoted through our various channels including the Tuesday Update and postings on the web and social media.  I again call your attention the Annual Convention which is being held on Friday, April 20 and Saturday, April 21.  Our theme is “Sharpening Clinical Skills to Enhance Client Care” We have two outstanding key note speakers for this year’s Annual Convention.  On Friday, Kirk Strosahl, Ph.D, one of the founders of ACT psychotherapies will provide an interesting talk on the state of effective psychotherapy.  On Saturday, Sue Abderholden, Executive Director, NAMI Minnesota will discuss what is needed to assist people who are struggling with significant mental health issues.  Together these talks will support the overall theme of the conference and will align with the other talks that are in store.  The Annual Convention Committee is in the final stages of selecting the presentations and we will be getting a registration postcard in the mail soon.

Hot off the press - we have just learned that Rosie Bingham, Ph.D., President-Elect of APA has accepted our offer to be the keynote speaker at the President’s Multicultural Conference on September 21, 2018.  Dr. Bingham is not only a national expert, but an engaging speaker.  We will be communicating more about this conference throughout the year.  Please mark your calendars.

Transitions.  I close by thanking people who are leaving governance this year and welcoming new people to leadership.  After 17 years, Sy Gross will be leaving the Federal Advocacy Coordinator position.  On behalf of all at MPA, I thank Sy for his diligent and steadfast work in leading our federal advocacy efforts.  After six years in MPA leadership, Zachariah White has decided to step down as the Multicultural Division and Committee Co-Chair.  Zachariah has greatly enhanced MPA’s diversity and multicultural efforts.  Also stepping down as Co-Chair from the Multicultural Division and Committee Co-Chair is Yasmine Moideen.  Yasmine’s energy and focus will be missed.  Yasmine also stepped down from her EC role as Treasurer earlier in the year.  Fortunately, Yasmine will continue in her role on Governing Council as a general member.  Jack Rossman, longtime Chair of the Academic Awards Committee stepped down this past year.  Jack is also a former President of MPA, and his steady hand and wise voice are already missed.  Jean Chagnon who has been a dedicated Chair of the Ethics Committee for many years has decided it is time to let someone else lead this committee. We appreciate Jean’s contributions to MPA.  After nearly a decade of work on developing and coordinating the Rural Conference Kay Slama has decided to retire from that role.   By virtue of her unique, skills perseverance and sheer hard work Kay has led the Rural Conference from a central Minnesota regional event to an international conference with attendees ranging from Australia and Hawaii to Minnesota and Tennessee (and other locations in between).   Kay’s energy and diligence will be missed.  Finally, I thank Carolyn Parson for her contributions to MPA as the Co-Chair of the Private Practice Division.  Carolyn decided to step down after her term was up this year.  Andy Fink and Bebe Newman also left Governing Council this past year.

We welcome Jessica Gourneau as the new Chair of the Multicultural Division and Trisha Stark as the new Federal Advocacy Coordinator (FAC).  Jessica joined MPA this year and will bring vitality and energy to this important area of MPA.   Jessica will also be the Co-Chair of the Trisha is well known to all because of her work as the Chair of the Legislative Committee and is a perfect fit for her new duties as Federal Advocacy Coordinator.  She will continue as the Legislative Committee Chair and will join Governing Council as she assumes the FAC role. We are also excited to welcome Andrea Zuellig as the new Chair of the Ethics Committee.  Joan Ostrove is now the Chair of the Academic Awards Committee.  Jon Aligada is taking on the role of Coordinator for the Rural Conference.   I am delighted that Jon has agreed to do this important task which is Jon’s first leadership role within MPA.  Penultimately, I congratulate Matt Syzdek in his appointment to the position of Treasurer for MPA.  Matt is a GC General Member and will bring his skill and insights to the Executive Committee.  While Susan McPherson has been a member of the EC as Treasurer in 2017, we welcome her to her new role as President -Elect. Finally, Robin McLeod has agreed to stay on the Executive Committee in 2018 as the Association's Secretary.

I thank all who are moving on to other ventures for their contribution to MPA and welcome others to new roles.

As I noted in my last remarks, I welcome your comments or communication about anything related to MPA.   


Please write or call.    [email protected]       (612) 418-1952


List of Committees with Chairs:

Education and Training - Susan Rydell

Annual Meeting - Bruce Bobbitt and Mary Louise Stevens

Rural Conference - Willie Garrett and Scott Palmer

Presidents Conference - Robin McLeod, Jessica Gourneau and Bruce Bobbitt

Membership -  Committee is on hold - Susan McPherson leading New Membership Task Force

Diversity -  Jessica Gourneau and Robin McLeod

Legislative -  Trisha Stark

Payer -  Robert Van Siclen

Ethics -  Andrea Zuellig

Community Service Award - Scott Palmer

Academic Awards - Joan Ostrove

Patterson Award - Bronwyn Neeser

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Thanks to Bruce for providing helpful details about the nuts and bolts of how MPA actually works, or is supposed to work. I hope that MPA leadership will continue to work on changing - improving- the structure of MPA to make the organization more nimble and more responsive to the needs and concerns of the members - and even nonmembers, and maybe even make it more of interest to non-members.

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