Global Spotlight: Divide and Conquer

By / Oct 15, 2018 (Nicoelnino/Getty Images)

How one medical association stays on top of the world.

During any given week, the American Urological Association’s international endeavors are in full swing, with 50 educational programs and activities being offered to urologists across 40 countries. AUA, which has more than 21,000 members from nearly 120 nations, partners with organizations around the world to provide medical training and education—its core mission—for urologists at every career level through conferences, mentorships, visiting scholar programs, equipment donations, and more. It also provides education to thousands of nonmembers—and plans to keep growing.

With a sole, constantly traveling global chair heading up AUA’s small international operations department in the U.S., it was apparent that the division’s organizational structure needed an overhaul. The solution was division itself: split the oversight into three separate regions—one for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa; one for Asia and Australia; and one for Latin America and the Caribbean—each to be run by a newly hired assistant secretary. The trio would report to AUA’s top-level secretary, who is part of a physician officer group that oversees the association. The beleaguered global chair position was eliminated.

The change made sense not just to spread the workload, but also because “it’s hard to find someone who has expertise in every area of the world,” says Lori Agbonkhese, senior manager of international programs.

In June, AUA installed three urologists, who are also instructors at university medical schools, to lead the regional divisions. They will work in tandem with the secretary and global staff team to concentrate on maximizing partner relationships, along with expanding and enhancing regional programs and membership.

“There are 700 to 800 urologists in Brazil coming to our annual meeting,” Agbonkhese says by way of example, “but there are 4,000 in the country.”

The ability of the assistant secretaries to focus on their regions, she says, “will help the future sustainability of the organization by helping urologists internationally see the value of [AUA] and how we can fulfill their needs when we take education abroad.”

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