WPSR President's Update July/August 2014

Over the past several months WPSR has been undergoing a major revitalization effort that has implications for both our structure and our program engagements. For several years the chapter’s strength had ebbed due to dynamics that commonly impact any organization’s vitality. These included such factors as the retirement of several key leaders and long-term board members; staff turnover; strategic drift and lack of program clarity; and, the atrophy of financial support.

We currently find ourselves in a dramatically changed and improved situation. WPSR has both expanded its board and added fresh voices. We have produced a strategic plan that clarifies our priorities but also expands our “social” mission (see our 2014-2015 Strategic Plan on the website). We have recruited for the first time in many years a FULL-time executive director, and Laura Skelton has brought a terrific range of administrative and program strengths to the organization. Financially we have experienced an unprecedented level of giving from a number of board members and other members that has helped secure our financial situation, even as we currently prepare to launch a fundraising effort to significantly broaden the base of members who contribute to our work. WPSR as an organization has not been this healthy and mature for many years. Our chapter is now administered by professional management that is having dramatic impacts on program effectiveness.

Please review the full content of our strategic plan on this web site. In summary our program priorities involve the following areas: (1) working to reduce and eliminate nuclear weapons and stockpiles; (2) expanding public knowledge of and support for cleaning up the contaminated Hanford Nuclear Reservation; (3) closing Washington’s only nuclear power plant, the Columbia Generating Station; (4) addressing income inequality and non-livable wages due to their relationships to poor health outcomes; (5) engaging WA health professionals in addressing the threats to human health and the globe from climate change; (6) reducing the risks to health from environmental toxins; and, (7) supporting initiatives for peace in the Middle East through delegations of health professionals to the region.

To more effectively carry out our work in these seven areas we have established a task force for each program, chaired by a board member(s). The task forces are being expanded to include interested members or people from throughout the state who want to be involved. The strategic plan for each program area has been expanded and refined to ensure progress and accountability by the board. You will note that this ensures that the structures we have put in place are geared to support our program priorities, and this has included recruiting new board members with expertise in programs that are new or needed new leadership. Leadership has been key to our new vitality, and it is reflected across both board and staff.

This website is regularly being updated with information on our program efforts. But to give our members, our partnering organizations and other community members a better sense of the relevance and strategic nature of our current work, I would like to provide a couple examples of current work.

The nuclear monster has been with us since the birthing of PSR, and while progress has been made reducing the nuclear threat, we are still a long way from secure. This issue plays itself out in grand but horrendous style through the basing of more than a quarter of the US nuclear stockpile at the Navy’s Bangor base of Puget Sound. WPSR is deeply involved in two efforts to address Bangor. First, we are a partner in a lawsuit to halt the construction of a second explosives handling wharf at Bangor to service the new generation of Trident submarines, a suit challenging the Navy’s failure to conduct the required environmental and risk assessments for this construction. This has the Navy’s attention. Second, we are actively engaged in establishing a collaborative of WA and OR Congresspersons which could lead the opposition to the administration’s proposed funding of a rebuild of the Trident fleet. This involves presentations to key Congressional staff, gaining access to the Senators and Representatives themselves for a powerful presentation on the folly of cold war thinking, and new information on the likelihood of a global nuclear winter in the event of a nuclear exchange between such unstable nuclear nations as India and Pakistan. We are working to exploit the fact that our two states have elected an atypically large number of Congressional members who share our position on this issue, or whom are open to listening and possibly joining a NW collaborative effort to significantly impact the nation’s nuclear policies, especially regarding Trident modernization and the bloated nuclear weapons budget.

WPSR has also generated a burst of interest in and commitment to the issue of climate change. Our climate change task force has enlisted new physician and nurse participants who bring sophisticated preparation for public speaking, backgrounds on the issue and new energy to this work. The unfilled niche in WA on climate change relates to the health implications, so it is natural that we can cooperate with other effective organizations to bring a professionally credible perspective on human health risks to the regional work. With members in most communities of any size in WA, WPSR has begun to access the healthcare communities in order to bring climate-focused grand rounds to hospitals as well as presentations to the larger populations. We are committed to activate the physician and clinical communities in the state to aggressively build support for policies that aim to stem this impending catastrophe.

Your perspective, commentary and/or engagement on these and our other program activities is heartily sought. A lot is happening, and our board and staff are committed to the vision that WPSR will play a highly relevant role in addressing the major threats to human and global health and will be leaders in the healthcare community on behalf of these issues.

Bruce Amundson, MD
WPSR President