President and CEO's Blog

By Daniel Gentry, PhD, MHA posted 06-22-2023 09:46

Leading Boldly for the Future: The Under-appreciated  and Unrealized Power of Relationships 
Greetings AUPHA members:

For several months, I’ve found myself constantly thinking about relationships. Personally, and professionally. 
I don’t do “transactions.” I don’t know how. I’m not good at it. And I don’t care for the approach. I do relationships. I always have. And the older and more experienced I’ve gotten, the more I realize how incredibly important my relationships are, and the more I appreciate the profound long-term impact my relationships have had on my career and my life.

One of my longtime mentors, the healthcare quality improvement guru, Paul Batalden, now retired from Dartmouth College and living once again in the Twin Cities, recommended a short but salient and impactful article to me and several other close colleagues recently. “The New Zeitgeist: Relationships and Emergence,” by Bill Bannear, is an article mostly focused on how to drive change in complex systems. The crux of the short essay is that relationships are undervalued by governments, policy makers, funders, and industry and organizational leaders. Why? Because expanded, new, and novel relationships aren’t an “outcome” that counts. It’s not tangible enough. And that is a monumental mistake, a huge missed opportunity. 

I absolutely love the conclusions that Bill Bannear, after a six-month sabbatical exploring the undervaluation of relationships, draws. He says: “We need to stop trying to design the solution, and instead design for the conditions that enable the emergence of many solutions:
  • Fostering more, quality and trusted relationships is a critical enabler of that emergence.
  • For the catalysers of complex system change, that means starting to value relationships as a key outcome.”
Reading and pondering these insights has had an immediate and profound impact on my thinking about AUPHA’s near and longer-term future. I’ve very often described the AUPHA membership - our faculty and leaders - as the academy’s “brain trust.” And, as we have doubled the number of AUPHA Corporate Partners over the past three years, we have transformed the relationships from being mostly about financial support for AUPHA to collaborations focused on what we can accomplish together with all of our Partners each and every year. 

Using Bill Bannear’s thesis and framework about the untapped power of relationships, it seems obvious to me now that we can’t possibly know what all we should strive for and what we are capable of accomplishing through our relationships both within our academic community and our relationships with our Corporate Partners. Why should we intentionally, and I believe mistakenly, limit what we might all achieve together by not being open to all things possible, innovative, and even currently unknown? 

I can hardly wait to see many of you next week at the 2023 AUPHA Annual Meeting in National Harbor, MD, a celebration of AUPHA’s 75th Anniversary. I look forward to rekindling and replenishing our relationships, and forging new relationships with individuals from the dozens of member programs who have joined AUPHA over the past few years, and the many members for whom this will be their first ever Annual Meeting. How very exciting! 

My job, my role as AUPHA President and CEO, is about my relationships with all of you, the AUPHA staff, our Board, and the leaders and staffs of our partner organizations. When I think about the combined wealth and breadth of diversity, education and training, wisdom, and ingenuity of our academic community - and the similar zeitgeist of our many partner organizations - there are no limits to what we can accomplish. How can we possibly know what amazing ideas and accomplishments might emerge? And why would we limit ourselves? Together, we can do anything!