HFMA’s South Texas Chapter hosted a women’s leadership conference on Jan. 20 in Austin, Texas. The theme was Empower, Encourage, Elevate, and it was the first event of its kind for the Chapter. Things went so well that they’re already planning to do it again next year.
Trying something different
Amy Raymond, vice president of deployments and revenue cycle operations for healthcare AI company AKASA and the Chapter’s programs chair, partnered with Rachel Pugliano, senior manager, healthcare revenue cycle services at Eide Bailly LLP and Chapter vice president and programs co-chair, to plan the event. Step one was convincing other Chapter officers the time was right to host a women’s leadership event.
“We faced some skepticism when the concept was originally proposed,” said Pugliano. “Our board is a mixture of seasoned professionals and early careerists, and there was comfort in continuing to provide the events that we’ve always provided. However, the newer voices were convincing, and I think it was the confidence we had in the success of this event that propelled it forward.”
Executing the plan
Once they got the green light, the program committee went to work. Raymond explained that the Chapter’s committees are small, and volunteers wear multiple hats.
“That means we’re all very involved with planning and executing an event like this,” said Raymond. “This one was a lot of hard work since it was an event that we had never done before, and we were looking for speakers outside of our usual pool of people. But that’s also what made it fun!”
Despite a strong vision and goals, there were some challenges.
“The fact that we were doing something that was the first of its kind for our chapter, in a venue we hadn’t used before, with speakers who weren’t necessarily our normal speaker profile, all meant that we were starting from scratch on almost every front,” said Raymond. “That alone was challenging and meant that most activities took longer and involved discovery or research prior to execution. We learned a ton though and have so many ideas on how to make the planning of our next one run more smoothly.”
The Chapter traditionally makes a small donation on behalf of its volunteer conference speakers to a local nonprofit. One of the goals for the women’s event, however, was to sponsor a local nonprofit in a larger way. After doing some research, Raymond and Pugliano selected Austin’s chapter of National Angels, which supports children, youth and families in the foster care community.
“It’s an amazing organization founded by Susan Ramirez, who delivered a powerful and inspiring message to our audience,” said Pugliano. “She shared the story of how she bravely left a very successful career to follow her passion. Susan also talked about what National Angels does and how people can support it.”
And the attendees responded. Through raffle ticket sales, speaker donations and a gift card drive, the event raised and donated $2,100 to National Angels.
Attendance for the event topped out at 97 ― a South Texas Chapter record.
“When we started planning this event, based on our usual attendance, we set a goal of 60, but 100 as our ‘shoot-for-the-moon’ number,” said Raymond. “Deep down, 100 was always my goal, because I wanted to prove there is demand for an event like this and make sure it was something we could repeat over and over.”