It's The Leadership, Stupid!

The effectiveness with which WPSR is managing its programs now is very heartening. We've not only clearly defined the 2016 strategic plans for our Climate and Health, Nuclear Weapons Abolition and Income Inequality programs; we have also enlarged the task forces working on each program.

However, the most important development over the past two years has been the expansion of our leadership. We have very committed co-chairs for each task force who are bringing exceptional leadership skills and program competency to our work. As with any successful organization, it all starts with leadership - leadership that involves not only commitment and time but knowledge of both the program and organizational principles.

Our Climate and Health task force is led by Mary Margaret Thomas and Mark Vossler. Mary Margaret brings an exceptional history in organizational effectiveness and transformation together with interpersonal skills that make people want to be involved. She also has a rich experience with Healthcare Without Harm. Mark has engaged the climate change issue with a ferocity that is remarkable. In spite of his full-time cardiology practice, his time management skills have allowed him to be remarkably responsive to opportunities to lead, testify, educate and be involved. Together, their co-management of the task force through a detailed work plan and assignments of responsibility is a model for organizational efficiency and effectiveness. We have quickly evolved to be the state authority on the health effects of climate change, and we are participating in several powerful regional coalitions committed to cap and reduce carbon emissions in WA. Time is not on our side.

The Nuclear Weapons Abolition task force is led by David Hall and Judith Lipton. David's life-long commitment to reducing the risks from nuclear weapons has made him a national authority on the issue. He has recently completed an e-book, Planning for Global Suicide, on the history of the nuclear era and the risks posed by a nuclear-armed world. Judith was the founder of the WPSR chapter in 1979 and worked tirelessly at both the local and national levels to empower physicians to address the extreme Cold War risks. After some time out for renewal, she has re-engaged the issue and brings exceptional knowledge and passion to this work. As the US begins to launch a surprising and ill-conceived policy to "modernize" its entire nuclear triad, submarines, missiles and bombers, at a projected cost of a trillion dollars over 30 years, we have to say no. WPSR's leaders have recognized that no other organization in the Pacific NW has either the knowledge or commitment to organize civil society to educate and pressure our elected officials on this issue. We're on it, aggressively, and with the most sophisticated leadership we could hope for.

Our Income Inequality task force is led by Stephen Bezruchka and Adam Hoverman. Stephen is a national authority on health disparities and the economic and social determinants of health. He has spoken and published extensively on the reasons for the extensive health disparities in the US and has worked tirelessly to help health professionals differentiate between personal and societal explanations for the indefensible inequalities that have evolved in this country. Adam has also been deeply involved with this issue, and brings a powerful sense of economic justice to our work. His teaching position in Yakima is coupled with deep community involvement with the cultural and social issues of that region. In addition to our support for the $15 minimum wage in Seattle, we are focusing our strategic work on the passage of legislation in WA mandating paid maternity leave for families. This is our focus due to the overwhelming body of research showing that a substantial percentage of each person's health is programmed in early life - the importance of the "first 1,000 days" argument.

Our overall leadership has also been greatly enhanced by an enlarged and more diverse Board of Directors. We have expanded the board to 10 members representing a mix of both older and younger health professionals, as well as several community members. WPSR has a working board, and the level of engagement from our board is terrific.

All of this is buttressed by the remarkable leadership of our Executive Director, Laura Skelton. Laura, in a brief year and a half, has brought us effective management, guidance in our strategy formation, renewed community networking and a prodigious capacity for work. Her participatory style and warm interpersonal nature have made her a joy for all of us to work with. In addition, she has helped solidify our finances.

I'm honored to work with this team. The long-standing principle that an organization's strength and effectiveness correlate primarily with the quality of its leadership is borne out for WPSR. Our investment in thoughtful, explicit leadership recruitment and development is paying huge dividends.

Bruce Amundson, MD