VISIONS recently caught up with Frank Leone, president and CEO of RYAN Associates, to talk about the 26th Annual National Conference


Q: Twenty-six years – that’s a long time – why is this conference still standing?

I feel that we have stayed focused and built on our experiences from year to year. By focus I mean that we have worked to remain within ourselves, and not get greedy when times are good. We try to remain true to what we do well. For example, each year we debrief our board following the conference. We are always learning what we need to do to be even better.

Q: An organization can become stale after 26 years. Why is this year any different than other years? In other words, what’s new?

More than ever, this year’s conference is consumer-driven. Using input from our board we designed a list of about 30 topics that we might address this year and then sent a questionnaire to NAOHP members asking them to rate their interest in each topic. The 12 most highly rated topics became our curriculum. I guess you could say that this is a “registrant’s conference.”

Q: What else is different?

Once we knew the core topics we asked senior contacts in each area for faculty recommendations. Most of this year’s faculty was identified in this manner and they offer new insights.

Q: For example?

Sales and marketing come to mind. It is a popular topic and I would usually wind up teaching most of it. This year we are bringing in the best and the brightest healthcare marketing specialists who represent the crème de le crème of expertise in such areas as branding and social media.

Q: Tell us about this year’s keynote speaker?

It’s Emily Friedman – and I couldn’t be more excited. Emily is based in Chicago and is a noted health policy and ethics analyst. She is brilliant, proactive, and full of vigor. I have read and admired her material for years. We have had many great keynote speakers over the years, but Emily really stands out.

Q: Your national conference social events have a great reputation. What do you have on tap this year?

You are right – our social events and networking get rave reviews. It probably goes back to my college days when I threw the best parties in town. Funny how seemingly non-descript skills can come back to help you later in your career. Thanks to our generous sponsors (MediTrax, UL PureSafety, Integritas, and the Health Connections Network), we are holding classic receptions all three nights. The first two are in lovely ballrooms and the stately Drake Hotel and the Tuesday night reception is at one-of-a-kind Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse only a few blocks away.

Q: I hear there is a golf tournament.

Yes, we have reserved an hour’s worth of tee times at the nearby Harborside International Golf Center starting at noon on Sunday. We’re pairing everyone by skill level. Can’t wait!

Q: What else is going on over that weekend?

Well, the Chicago Marathon is on Sunday; runners pass near the hotel. And Columbus Day weekend in Chicago is so much fun. The weather is usually great and Chicago is such a fantastic city. Plus the Cubs-White Sox World Series should be gearing up (laughing). On the academic side, we just entered an agreement for ACOEM to offer their popular Worksite Wellness course on Saturday, and we will be offering our veritable Core Components course through the weekend. Offering this as a stand-alone program makes it easier for newcomers to take the course over the weekend and free them up to enjoy the rest of the conference.

Q: And the Drake hotel?

The Drake is the grand dame of Chicago hotels. Just breathtaking.

Q: How about your goals for the conference? What do you wish to accomplish?

Like every year since 1987, it’s the same thing: to ensure that everyone leaves with pragmatic information to do their job more effectively. Roughly 10,000 people have attended prior national conferences, and I can only hope that their conference experience made a real difference.

Q: Finally, what do you think lies ahead? Are you optimistic?

A loaded question since I am inherently very optimistic, but I am bullish on things right now. We are seeing an enormous uptick in energy this year and feel that occupational health is well-positioned to become a more central force in healthcare over the coming years.

Q: What final message do you have for our readers?

Love what you do. Occupational health is a wonderful place to be. And please make it to Chicago in the fall. This year’s conference has so much to offer.

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