December 2011 Clinical Laboratory News: Flaherty Stepping Down as AACC EVP

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December 2011: Volume 37, Number 12

Flaherty Stepping Down as AACC EVP
Tenure Marked by Technological Change, Growth

By Genna Rollins

After 20 years at the helm of AACC, executive vice president Richard Flaherty is leaving the association effective December 31. Flaherty, who announced his retirement in February, felt that this was an opportune time to hand off the organization’s leadership mantle. “AACC’s at an inflection point where we have all this new technology, social networking, and more and more services,” he said. “I think we’re at one of those points where we’re going to look back and say this was a key time of change. So it’s probably good after 20 years for someone else with a new way of looking at things to come on board.”

Flaherty leaves AACC in a strong position to take on these new challenges, according to AACC president, Ann Gronowski, PhD. “Rich has taken the association through an amazing period of financial, technological, membership, and international growth. Together, these things have made AACC the strong and well-respected association that it is today,” she observed. “These things were made possible, in part, because Rich created an environment that has lead to great trust and openness between the AACC staff and volunteers. He will be sorely missed.”

Richard Flaherty
Thanks, Rich, for a job well done from all AACC members and staff.
Godspeed on the next leg of your journey.

In reflecting on his tenure, Flaherty noted it was no accident that changes at AACC had mirrored trends in the field. “When we created the Program Coordinating Committee in 1999 we wanted to look at the totality of members’ needs and the totality of what we were providing in order to evaluate where we needed to do better and fill in gaps,” he recalled. “By the same token, we’ve put a lot more systems in place to get feedback from annual meeting attendees so that the organizing committee can get a better sense of what the leanings of the field are as they plan the meeting.”

Flaherty also noted how much over the years AACC has stepped up its collaboration with other organizations. “When I joined the association, there already was an initiative to reach out to other groups. Today, we’re much more outward looking. In terms of formal interactions and relationships, we’re probably tied into 35 to 40 organizations.” Likewise, AACC’s international presence, is much more prominent today through programs like Van Slyke Foundation International Travel Grants, Spanish versions of webinars, and Clinical Chemistry content translated into nine languages. “Even 20 years ago, we were more international than members realized. We were known as ‘American’ but in reality we had a very substantial number of international members. Over time, we’ve come to recognize that more and embrace it.”

While he hesitated to point to one milestone achieved in the past 20 years that stands out, Flaherty expressed particular pride in the success of Lab Tests Online, AACC’s public resource on clinical lab testing. The U.S. site launched in July 2001, and by the next year had received a laudable 1 million visitors. By February 2011, that number had soared to more than 100 million. “Not only was Lab Tests Online an outstanding accomplishment as a patient education service, but in my mind it also is very important because it reflects a change in how our members think about their relations with other healthcare groups and with patients. Historically we were in the basement laboratory hidden away. The launch of this website represented the first time we actually started talking to the public, and with that move, a very empowering attitude developed.”

Flaherty expressed appreciation to the AACC staff and board, as well as his family, for their support over the years. For now, he plans to enjoy some down time with his wife, Ellie, and their four children and grandchild, before plotting the next chapter in his professional life. “I’m too young to stop contributing, but I don’t know yet what my next contribution will be. I’m very grateful to the field for the opportunity I’ve had, and I’m going to miss it.”

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