By Kathy McCarthy, TAFP COO
In recognition of the 15th anniversary of my time at TAFP, I’d like to take a moment to reflect. In these tough economic times, most feel lucky just to have a job. I am especially blessed to have one that I enjoy, that challenges me, and that rewards me in so many ways. I began working for TAFP in 1996 as a secretary and left after about nine months to get certified to teach grade school. After a few months of substitute teaching, I knew that I was not well suited to teaching. I returned to Austin and found myself back with TAFP on April 7, 1997, as “special projects coordinator.”
I’ve seen lots of changes in those years, many driven by revolutionary technology. When I started working in membership, we still had a microfiche machine to view member records and speakers would show up for our CME event with slide carousels!
Our staff has changed quite a bit—not just the individual staff members, but the overall character of the people I work with every day. When I came onboard, the average tenure for the staff (with a few exceptions) was less than two years. If you had been to more than one Annual Session, you were an expert! Our current staff of 11 has over 85 years of experience with TAFP (that’s an average of almost eight years) and that experience means a great deal for TAFP. It allows us to build on our successes and work together to make our meetings and services better each year. It allows us to work with our leaders in a more meaningful way to meet the needs of our members.
If you’ve read anything about generational trends, you know that I am an outlier. People of my generation are supposed to change jobs and careers every few years. So why am I still with TAFP? There are a few reasons. One is the constant challenges. No year at TAFP has been quite like the one before. I’ve had half a dozen different titles and even when my title has stayed the same, the work has always changed. There is always a new conference to consider, a new scholarship to develop, a campaign for AAFP office, a reorganization of the staff, and always a new president to work with. That variety and challenge keeps me interested and curious about what is around the next corner for TAFP.
Another reason I’ve stayed is opportunity. Jim White was the executive director when I started and I honestly don’t know where I would be today without his influence in my life. Having a liberal arts degree from the University of Texas at Austin, a little office experience from a college job, and no idea what I wanted to do with my life, he allowed and encouraged me to learn new things. I was frequently in over my head in those early days, but I worked hard, figured it out, and then moved on to the next challenge. When I started in 1996, I was the secretary for the TAFP Foundation and in 2005 I was appointed their executive director. That is a full-circle moment. In 2006, I studied and passed the exam to become a Certified Association Executive and by then I knew that this is what I was supposed to be doing with my life. When Jim retired in 2007 and Tom Banning become CEO, we reorganized the staff and I became Chief Operating Officer. Tom and I formed a partnership that leverages our strengths and I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish in the past four and a half years.
The final reason I’ve stayed at TAFP comes from an essay by a high school teacher and mentor that I read while applying for college. She had written about her philosophy of teaching for an award she received. After relating a touching anecdote, she summed up her philosophy saying that she “cared about her students and everything else worked itself out.” That is how I feel about my work with the family physicians of Texas. I care about the leaders I’ve had the privilege to serve, I care about the staff I work with every day, and I care about the docs out there struggling to care for their patients in this changing health care system. Everything else just works itself out.
Thanks, TAFP, for all you have given me. I look forward to all the challenges and opportunities ahead.