A new dawn, a new day for the ARA

After catching up with ARA President Mona Marabani and newly appointed CEO Chris Drummer we found ourselves humming the song “it’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life!” ( the Nina Simone version, NOT Michael Buble).

That’s because it seems big changes are underway at Australian rheumatology headquarters.

So why has the ARA decided to appoint its first Chief Executive Officer?

“We think it’s the beginning of a great future for us, says Mona who was appointed President of the Association at last year’s conference.

It’s been 12 months under a new corporate structure and during this time the board came together to determine what its strategic direction should be, she explains.

While the ARA did some things well, there were some areas, such as professional and patient advocacy, where they weren’t doing so well.

“We just didn’t quite have the right connections and capacity to communicate with decision makers in those areas.”

Because of this it was important to build the capacity and range of skills within the ARA office, says Mona.

“To help us grow…and we’re reaching that level of maturity now where we think we’re ready to do that.”

“Members would also like us to be more visible, they would like us to be seen as the peak body for musculoskeletal diseases,” she says.

Introducing Chris

Chris Drummer is a trained lawyer with a wide range of corporate experience, having worked as a General Manager for BUPA and more recently the radiology company I-Med.

Chris seems to have a good understanding of the issues facing rheumatologists and their patients, despite only being in the job for a week.

The first thing he’s going to do is listen and talk to members about what they actually want from the ARA, he tells us.

“It’s critical that as a member based organization we satisfy the needs of our members,” he says.

The ARA also needs to look at its strategy, resourcing and probably its structure, he adds.

“As an outsider coming in, the critical things are to raise the profile of rheumatology, to raise the profile of the ARA itself, increase advocacy and be sure that we have a seat at the table.”

There are things happening now that are critical to the profession, such as the review of the MBS and PBS, the sixth pharmacy agreement, paracetamol and issues around biologics and biosimilars, he notes.

“It’s an issue rich environment and I think we have to engage with a lot of stakeholders, get to Canberra and make sure they understand the depth and the breadth of the abilities of rheumatologists,” he says.

A new life

One of the many things the ARA is going to embark on is a re-branding exercise. They’ve recently discovered that the New Zealand Rheumatology Association own the green willow tree logo, making it a good time to consider a new look.

“It’s something as physicians we haven’t been that comfortable with but we saw some great stuff with the rheumatology advertising trophy…I think that’s one of the most critical things,” says Mona.

“The general public and politicians need to know what a rheumatologist is.”

“They need to know what we can do and how we can achieve so much for people, which in the long run actually saves government money,” she adds.

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