Part One: Academic Leadership Council Meeting, October 2017

This is Part One of a multi-part report about the Academic Leadership Council meeting that was held in Dallas Texas on Thursday October 26, 2017.

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Yesterday I participated in the Academic Leadership Council meeting in Dallas.  I have not participated in this meeting previously, except for perhaps a presentation I assisted with for NBCOT some years ago.  It was definitely my first participation associated with being in a program director role.

One of my persistent concerns about these meetings is that they are not generally open for public scrutiny, and there is little reporting to everyday practitioners out of these meetings.  In bygone days some OT-oriented periodicals might 'cover' some events but that generally doesn't happen any longer.  As a result, important information that is disseminated and discussed is only known by a privileged few.  That is problematic in my opinion because I have a longstanding opinion that many occupational therapists are separated from the decision making process.  The reasons for this separation are complex; my objective in sharing information is to help promote engagement.

In a conversation on Twitter one person commented to me that AOTA/ACOTE should livestream these meetings.  I don't think they would do that because there is little reason for them to charge money to attend if people can just watch on the Internet.  However, a part of this meeting was theoretically "open" to the public: the ACOTE presentation on their draft standards.  This part could have been attended by any person but opening up part of a meeting in Dallas, TX on a Thursday from 10:45 am to noon can hardly qualify as making a solid attempt at promoting participation.  If they live streamed  even that one part and allowed audience questions online it would have been a gesture at least.

There were several comments during the meeting that ACOTE did a poor job with promoting transparency and this is an example of why they get this kind of feedback.  Given the high stakes involved in the current proposals it is surprising that they don't make greater efforts in this area.  My recommendation to AOTA/ACOTE is that if they can find a way to livestream the conga line at opening ceremony of the annual conference then they should find a way to livestream open meetings that people actually have interest in and that matter to many stakeholders.

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The meeting was heavily attended, as conferences go.  I don't know what 'normal' is but hundreds of people were in attendance - both program directors and deans/provosts from schools all over the country.  I was surprised at the number of people who identified that this was their first Academic Leadership Council meeting.  It was a sizable group, maybe 10 or 15% (conservative guess).  This matters if you think about the state of the faculty workforce, which was a very popular topic of discussion all day.  It was not difficult to find people who had concerns about open positions, not enough qualified faculty, and having people serving in positions for which they had marginal or inadequate qualifications, and so on.  There was a lot of recruitment going on at that meeting, which I did not expect.

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The meeting began with announcement of staffing changes at AOTA/ACOTE.  The participants were told that the Executive Director of AOTA retired and the Associate Chief Officer for Accreditation was resigning.  I indicated on another platform that I don't think it is respectful to engage in what I call 'palace intrigue' conversations.  The timing of these changes is a concern but I wish these people well.  From a simple point of observation, starting the meeting with this announcement set an unfortunate tone because I heard side conversations about this topic throughout the day, particularly in context of all the changes that are being proposed.  I don't think that was healthy or positive at all.  I also don't think many people were satisfied with the announcement.  A search process for a new Executive Director was announced.  Out of respect I will leave this topic at that.

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The conversation then switched to comments from AOTA President Amy Lamb related to her interest in helping to promote 'a return to occupation' in practice.  Her concern is that not enough clinicians are implementing evidence in practice.  These are interesting opinions, and in some ways I wonder if I agree, but since there wasn't any context or evidence offered to substantiate the concern it is difficult to be certain if I agree.  As it relates to predominance of reductionistic (vs. occupation based models) I think there is a conversation that is worth having.  Unfortunately, I can't be certain if that is what she was talking about.  

Her comments emphasized her perspective that value was a function of quality/cost and that quality was correlated to what was referenced in the OT Practice Framework.  I am not sure how many therapists define value and quality of service in those terms.  She discussed her interest in developing the occupational profile tools, linking those to CPT terminology, and hopefully having those inserted into electronic health records.

Many academics accept the Practice Framework without too much question, but I am not certain if many have studied the intentional redefinition of terms in that document over the last 15 years.  Most clinicians that I have contact with, including most of the fieldwork supervisors in my region, do not accept the Practice Framework, based on my observations and based on reports of colleagues and students.  That creates a situation where some are accepting a premise and others are not, and that is not a particularly helpful place to start if you have a big initiative.  As I indicated, there are lots of good topics to have conversations about related to occupation in practice, use of the Practice Framework, etc but it would be helpful to have justification for the concern and a little more context for what is perceived as a concern and why a controversial document would be used as the basis of an initiative.  

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I will follow up with more perspectives on the rest of the meeting in a few days, once I am back home!

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