A recent visit to our South Carolina chapter led me to reflect on some core HFMA traits that go way beyond the industry trends, member guidance, or observations about performance improvement I usually focus on in this column.
Attending the South Carolina Annual Institute is something I have wanted to do for years. Just like other chapter leaders, the South Carolina Chapter leaders have long been after me to visit. They are very proud of this meeting and wanted to share it with me. It has been a challenge, though; HFMA has so many chapters, it’s impossible to visit them all, even over a multi-year period, and still run a national organization. But this meeting has been on my short list.
I decided to go this year to honor the life of Ray High, an iconic member, and Region 5 Regional Executive-Elect in FY17. Ray died suddenly in February at age 52, leaving behind his loving wife and family, along with hundreds of grieving HFMA members. He was one of those unforgettable guys who could get away with a bow tie and seersucker suit. Every time I saw Ray, he had a smile on his face, glasses propped up on his head, and he always could be heard saying, “Today is the best day of my life.”
What I witnessed in this brief visit was how many people’s lives Ray touched. In every conversation where his name was brought up, tears welled in people’s eyes. I learned that Ray touched not only the lives of HFMA members, but also those of people in his church and local community. He gave so much to HFMA that many of us assumed he gave us all his volunteer time and energy.
Those who went to Ray’s funeral, however, encountered a packed church with people from multiple organizations who wanted to honor him. Ray was pretty special, for sure.
While celebrating Ray’s life, I reflected on something else that I first experienced back in 1983, when I joined HFMA. We are a different kind of organization. We are family. We are friends. We take business seriously, learning about complex payment models, emerging regulations, and revenue cycle strategies, and we network about professional challenges. But at the same time, many of us develop friendships that last a lifetime. We hang out together, our families get to know each other, we support each other, and frankly, we love each other. I saw it in South Carolina. I saw it in New York. I saw it in Hawaii and Texas and Tennessee. I see it wherever I go visiting chapters and regions. It is, as they say, the HFMA “secret sauce.” We are currently changing HFMA to mirror many business and societal changes, but one thing that will never change is what might be called the “HFMA way.” As Carol Friesen captured in her theme as this year’s Chair, we are “where passion meets purpose.”
So rest in peace, Ray High. You are missed. And we will carry on your legacy across all our 68 chapters. That, my friends, is the essence of what HFMA is all about.
Follow Joe Fifer on Twitter: @HFMAFifer
From the President’s Desk
Joe Fifer expands on his ideas in his July column.