In response to its members' need for training on new industry standards, American Society of Transplant Surgeons launched a leadership development program that has boosted ASTS's reputation and its revenue.
In 2009, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America launched the Code on Interactions with Healthcare Professionals. This PhRMA Code was introduced to ensure commercial supporters were not inappropriately influencing healthcare professionals, including professional societies. As a result of this increased regulation, many medical societies experienced a decline in traditional forms of financial support and had to get creative about diversifying revenue. Luckily, at the American Society of Transplant Surgeons, we found success in our Leadership Development Program.
Where It Started
At ASTS, I work closely with the Business Practice Services Committee. This committee was formed approximately three years ago to focus on developing (preferably revenue-generating) resources, tools, and education specific to the business side of medicine for our members, who are primarily transplant surgeons but include related healthcare professionals as well.
The committee sat down and said, "Our members need to understand more about business topics like finance, accounting, negotiation, and contracting." Transplantation is the most highly regulated medical field, reporting numerous statistics through a national registry and working closely with the government through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Navigating the regulatory landscape can be daunting.
The initial concept was a program that would help our members better understand this business landscape in medicine. They don't receive this type of training in medical school, their residencies, or their fellowships. And while there are a few short course programs dedicated to business and healthcare at select universities, our members wanted something specific to the field of transplantation; what some members referred to as a "Mini Transplant MBA."
We had to figure out how to launch this program and make money from it. Our president at the time was the head of transplant surgery at Northwestern University Hospital and received his MBA from its Kellogg School of Management, so we met with staff at Kellogg. Kellogg is respected for its custom executive-education programs for corporations, government entities, and associations.
We soon decided a hosted program at Kellogg would be a good fit. First, we had built-in brainpower because we were able to secure professors from Kellogg to teach. Second, they had experience hosting these custom programs, so from a small-staff perspective, it made things easier. And third, we were able to bring in several of our own members and guest speakers to provide the transplant-specific application of the core business principles.
The most difficult aspect was determining the price of the three-day program. We ultimately charged members around $4,000. This included meals, lodging, and classes, which would all take place in the same building. The committee was nervous about the high price, but we decided to offer it and see how it did. The program was wildly successful; people were willing to pay for that level of instruction. The 60-person course sold out in two weeks and netted $57,000 for ASTS. Attendees spoke so highly about it that we had a waiting list for the 2011 course.
What the Future Holds
This year's program will take place in September. While we increased the price to $4,500, it still filled up in two days, and we are on track to make the same amount of revenue.
We realize we could see a drop off in attendance since people who are eager to attend will do so in the first few years. We may have to reevaluate if there's a continued need or start a level-two course. However, we also think there's opportunity to reach out beyond our membership and further increase revenue.
It's great to be part of an organization that was able to identify this type of need and capitalize on it in a timely fashion. While it's been a success from a reputation standpoint, what's been even better is that it made money. Associations, no matter their size, need to keep their members' needs in mind when launching any new program or product. After all, you never know just how successful your next idea can be.
Laurie Kulikosky, CAE, is director of strategic development for the American Society of Transplant Surgeons in Arlington, Virginia. Email: [email protected]
American Society of Transplant Surgeons
Location: Arlington, Virginia
Staff Size: 10
Budget: $5.2 Million