You might not know that I have “three unusual loves.” 1) I love to meet with younger people over coffee chats. 2) When I was an active pediatric professor, I loved the charm of “ward rounds,” advising young doctors about their patients. And 3) I love “advisory boards.” How do these three, seemingly different, “loves” tie together? Americans overuse the word “love,” but hey, I really mean this. In my personal view, these three loves are all variations of the same theme. And, actually, this is an important secret, a practical secret, of my “career paths!” Let me jump right away into advisory boards, and work in how they overlap with ward rounds and coffee chats!
Most of my adult life I became a great admirer of the value of boards of advisors. Actually, this sounds too formal, practically bureaucratic. But there is really a great secret in all of this, which I have personally deeply appreciated. During my heavily academic life, I led many large research “program projects,” and started a Perinatal (mother-baby) Research Institute, one of the first in the country. I quickly came to see the value of, and need for, boards for these complex activities. In particular, I learned from watching the Children’s Hospital Board and its sub boards, in action. The noble volunteers on the Board provided such great role models, and good advice, directly and indirectly, that they left a lasting impression on me.
Since I was once the lone Vice-Chairman, and at other times one of 3 Vice-Chairmen, of Pediatrics in our Children’s Hospital, I had an unusual opportunity to witness the meetings of the Hospital Board at really close hand. This was a new experience for me, and I was quite touched by it. Board members came from all walks of life but mostly they were, to my initial surprise, not doctors nor nurses. They sacrificed their valuable family time for us, and the only gifts we “repaid them” were good coffee, snacks, and fine camaraderie around the table. Most importantly, I think they enjoyed the sense of satisfaction of contributing to a greater, more meaningful future for children, and society.
When faculty and staff, doctors and nurses, are “feet on the ground,” and stressing out on day to day activities, we can lose sight of the “big picture” of what our priorities should be, to the community, and even world we serve. Thus, the board provided a “fresh perspective,” and real encouragement that there was a strong community that was “out there,” rooting for us! And, likely, thinking “out of our boxes,” especially since they were not doctors and nurses! It’s an amazing feeling, let me assure you!
In fact, I think just the mere fact that we, the faculty and staff, were presenting our plans to a slightly “mysterious” Board was “exciting.” We were no longer just doing our own thing in our own usual narrow academic way. The Board was somehow “making big decisions” for the future, with the “big picture” in mind, and we could feel that we were truly an integral part of the greater history and scope of a highly reputable organization.
In my personal life also, I deliberately set about to find excellent advisors to surround me, at every important stage in my life. These advisors started to advise me at first on a one-to-one basis, and then I would gather them into small boards for various purposes. Indeed, I have always appreciated the gentle reminder of wisdom from “the multitude of counselors,” emphasized in The Book of Wisdom, truly my life long advisor.
The advice given on a one-to-one basis was personal and direct, about my own life and difficulties. With my one-on-one advisor, we prayed for each another, and sought a greater power and wisdom for difficult decisions, in a private manner, usually somewhat casually over coffee at many Panera “coffee houses,” or simple salad or sandwich lunch (at Panera again!)
In turn, in my hallmark “coffee with Uncle Reggie” style, I advised younger people, some through many years of their lives, by meeting, chatting, and praying with them, regularly. Most often, I could see, reassuringly, personal steady growth in their lives, but every so often a mini-crisis showed up, and it was good that the young person knew that there was a shoulder to lean on. Even now, as I am away from Cincinnati, where I served for 47 years, I am so happy I can still do this, quite efficiently, on video-chats, through Skype, WeChat, WhatsApp, or Google; there are so many good options today! I can even use the “good old phone,” which to my surprise, however, sometimes has a worse connection than the other WiFi options.
A vivid illustration of how an advisory board really helps, especially in major efforts, is when I helped start Medical Services International, MSI, a mission for Southwest China poverty areas. We had boards at headquarters in Hong Kong, and for each center from “sending countries” or regions, from which doctors and professionals were mobilized, to go into minorities focused areas in China, where the actual work was being done. Each board served to encourage and motivate members of the center, and especially its Coordinator, the main executive person. There were obviously huge differences among centers over the world, and between these centers and areas in China, in culture, language and attitudes, so it was really exciting to set up these critical boards that helped us negotiate the complicated terrain.
My USA board in particular provided me with great encouragement and strength, especially when I was frustrated with work and progress of MSI, or when I was frustrated with work and progress of MSI, or when I simply felt misunderstood by colleagues or others. This board would pray with me, allow me to present the problems, and make valuable suggestions. Just the mere fact that they would sit there for an hour or more and listen to my presentations and provide feedback, was probably wonderfully “therapeutic.” “Everyone needs a psychiatrist,” and this was definitely better than the stereotypical and expensive psychiatrist’s lounge chair! And gentle nudges and comments often steered me into good decisions that I could not have made alone.
Do you feel the excitement of boards, and how they could help you….. please continue to read… to be continued in part 2