The AHA’s 28-member Committee on Governance (COG) helps mobilize trustee involvement in grassroots advocacy and provides input into AHA policies. The AHA seeks hospital and health system trustees to serve on the COG, regional policy boards, and other governing councils and committees beginning in 2017. It wants to hear from interested trustees by Feb. 24. Learn more by clicking here  or contacting Rita Harmata, the AHA’s director of trustee and community leadership, at or 312-422-3311.

AHA News recently talked to 2016 COG chair Margaret Wagner Dahl, a board member at WellStar Health Network in Marietta, Ga., about the role of trustees in a changing health care environment, service on the COG and trustee advocacy.

AHA News: What is the biggest challenge facing hospital and health system trustees today?


Dahl: Ensuring we are able to accomplish the goals of the Triple Aim – to improve the patient experience, improve the health of our community populations and reduce health care costs in a realistic way. This requires trustees to be intentional in every aspect of health care leadership that concerns patient-centered care, understanding the complexities of care coordination, clinical integration and becoming more efficient. When you realize 30% of our service are inefficiencies that can be addressed and start doing the numbers on a national level, we have a huge responsibility to sort this out.

AHA News: Trustees are viewed as respected and independent voices in the community and as the hospital’s bridge to the community. How important is that credibility in gaining the community’s trust and support for its hospital?


Dahl: Absolutely crucial. As the provider arena becomes more and more complex, trustees must be able to communicate effectively and knowledgeably about these changes in order to assure their communities they can trust what is happening. This touches all aspects of community leadership-economic development … the role of health care for employers … social justice – access and equity – and community pride in having excellent health care period.


AHA News: And how important is that independent voice and credibility in helping state and federal policymakers understand the many ways the local hospital benefits the community and in speaking up against policies that threaten health care?


Dahl: Trustees are inherently community leaders. They understand how important it is to ensure their state and federal representatives are informed and grounded in the environment that we must operate in locally. Health care is personal, and we all have our personal experiences and stories to be told that illustrate what policies can do on that personal level. This resonates with policymakers in a way that can go far beyond a sophisticated hospital executive leadership strategy.


AHA News: How has your service on the AHA’s Committee on Governance helped you to have an impact on health care policy?


Dahl: The ability to connect regularly with 28 trustees from across the nation who are all dealing with the transformation of health care within their own specific ecosystems is invaluable. The information sharing and the commitment to advocacy is very powerful and the ability to bring this type of information back home reinforces trustee credibility and trust within our own specific communities. But it is also rewarding to be part of the national situation and to have a voice that needs to be heard from not just the trustee perspective, but as the conduit to the health consumer living in this new world.


AHA News: Why should a hospital or health system trustee consider serving on the AHA’s Committee on Governance, Regional Policy Board or other AHA governing councils and committees?


Margaret Wagner DahlDahl: Because it is truly a way to have a direct impact from the trustee lay-person, real-world perspective on what is the largest and most prestigious hospital association in the country. I think the COG voices are respected and acknowledged as the part of this field that makes profound decisions every day to ensure their community’s health care is high-quality, safe and reasonable. It is an incredible responsibility and the AHA COG is our voice to be the reality-check for the AHA. But it is also a great group of people, the AHA staff who organize the COG are wonderful, so the experience is really enjoyable as well.

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