When the pandemic began to spread in the United States last March, Beth Brooks, CAE, was scrambling. As executive director of the Texas College of Emergency Physicians, she was working to get scarce supplies of personal protective equipment to members, finding ways to support weary first responders, and turning its annual business meeting into a virtual event.
At the end of the year, with cases spiking, TCEP’s needs were still acute. But Brooks says she has developed partnerships and digital strategies that have helped the association survive the crisis—and will make it more resilient in the future. Early in the pandemic, Brooks began sitting in on daily calls with the Texas Medical Association (TMA), which occupies the same office building. Eventually, more state medical groups participated in the calls, which helped TCEP coordinate its own responses.
“Every TMA department reported out: Here’s what communications is doing, here’s what legal is doing, here’s what advocacy is doing,” she says. “Committees were being formed to work on public health, legal and legislative clarifications, PPE. We got to hear what TMA was hearing and what was happening at all the specialty societies.”
Over time, the COVID-specific calls diminished to once or twice a week, but Brooks says she considers these regular check-ins essential to TCEP’s work now. At the same time, calls with the board have ramped up and are staying that way: Quarterly meetings became monthly Zoom calls, conversations that are part strategy session, part wellness check. “We talked business, of course, but we were also just hearing how everyone is doing,” she says.
TCEP also saw the power of countering disinformation during the pandemic. For the first time in years it hired a public relations firm to encourage people who needed emergency care to head to ERs instead of staying home due to fear of exposure to COVID-19. The messaging was so relevant—and reassuring to members—that TCEP plans to keep PR in its budget in 2021 to encourage vaccinations.