Caucus or Not to Caucus?

What is a “caucus” and what do they do? Webster’s defines “Caucus” as 1) part of a legislative process; 2) any meeting or group organized to further a special interest or cause. The AAPA has several Special Interest Caucuses who support various issues. So AAPA members who are veterans, friends or family of veterans, care for veterans, or are simply interested in veteran’s health or any veteran’s issues are eligible to become a member of the Veteran’s Caucus (known from this point as “the Caucus”) of the AAPA.

The Caucus is the primary advisory group to the AAPA leadership for all veteran’s issues. We represent veteran’s issues to the House of Delegates as a voting caucus. We do NOT replace your constituent organization or their representation of you. It is possible to have differing representation. For example, a specialty PA may have a practice issue that is specific to the specialty. They could address that issue to the specialty organization for representation. Perhaps there is a state issue that needs to be addressed such as licensing or practice guidelines. Those issues can be addressed thru the state constituent chapter. Another way to think of it as the state organization represents your ability to practice and the specialty represents your actual practice. Think of the Caucus as adjunct representation of your interest.

Supporting professional organizations is a vital part of becoming the consummate professionals PAs are known to be. Participating members make these organizations stronger and gives them the influence that is required to effect change. The Caucus has an incredible history. We have a successful scholarship program, veteran student’s assistance program, Opening & Memorial Day ceremonies at the AAPA and we are committed to Veterans Health Issues. These programs require members with the will and need to serve. There are over 10,000 veterans who are members of AAPA yet only 500 are members of our caucus. My question is “Why is that?” If you are supporting your ability to practice and your practice guidelines, why are you not supporting your special interest?

Whether scholarships, financial assistance for emergencies, or any other veteran’s issues, support is necessary. The Caucus is part of our professional tradition. Just as Navy Corpsmen were the first participants in 1967, the first official discussion group was by military veteran’s to share their mutual support and informal networks began to develop in 1979 at the AAPA conference.

On average, we present over $25,000 annually for veteran’s attending PA Programs. Currently we have over 13 scholarships available for varying amounts. We have funds available to any veteran PA student who requires financial assistance for various emergencies, i.e water heater breaks, medical emergency, auto breaks down, etc. This is meant to be short term. Everyone needs a little help now and again. Not only do we participate the opening ceremony of the AAPA conference, but also the House of Delegates. I have been attending AAPA conferences for many years and have participated in several of these ceremonies.

I had the privilege of speaking at one of the Memorial Day ceremonies. It was truly an honor. I have met more PAs interested in veteran’s issues and veteran’s healthcare at these ceremonies than just about anywhere else. If fact I have met more non-veteran’s than veteran’s at these functions. They feel it is their way of honoring the beginnings of the profession, those who have served, and those who continue to serve. The Memorial Day Ceremony is always followed by a reception with auction items to help support our Scholarship program.

The Caucus has a mentorship program which enables members to help other members. They can assist with transition to civilian life, contract negotiations, humanitarian projects, etc. Members can create or join with others with similar interests or needs. These programs can only work with member participation. One of our most successful programs is “Topic in the Tropics” CME Conference in December. It is a great way to beat the winter blues and still be productive, gain CME, and network with colleagues. It is the “Best Bang for the Buck” you will find.

This brings us back to the start; what a Caucus is and what they do, whether to Caucus or Not to Caucus. The Veteran’s Caucus is as varied as the people who participate in our programs. As the AAPA is moving the dates of the conference from the Memorial Day holiday, 2015 will be our last Memorial Day Ceremony. Going forward will be a celebration of veterans, their service, their pride, and their tradition. Visit our website for more information on any of these programs or please join us 25 May 2015 in San Francisco. We encourage you to stop by our table at in the Constituent Organization of the EXPO beginning 0900, Tuesday 26 May thru 1200, 27 May. We will have membership applications, “Topics” brochures, Caucus brochures and members of the Caucus available to hopefully answer your questions.

If you are not a veteran, the odds are you know one, will be one soon or take care of them. How better to assure that the Veteran is well cared for, than to become an active participant in a professional organization that supports all veterans.

Cheryl Gregorio, PA-C, MPAS, DFAAPA
Col (Ret), USAF, BSC
Director at Large