Supporting our Member Section with Monthly Casual Conversations

By Lisa F. Cohen, CHCP, co-chair of the Medical Specialty Society Section

If anything, this pandemic has taught us that we must ask for help when we need it. In the early days of the pandemic, which honestly seems like years not months ago, it was hard to even catch our breaths. Both Brian Thompson and I, the co-chairs of the Medical Specialty Society (MSS) Section, were trying to keep our heads above water at work, pushing out as much online education as possible to support our members, while trying to figure out what to do with our live programs, revenue-generating products, supporting our staff,  and most importantly, being there for our spouses, children, extended family members and friends. At the same time, we knew many, if not all, our members of the Medical Specialty Societies were dealing with similar stresses. 

So, together with our board liaison, Beth Wilson, we put our heads together to come up with a way to engage our members without adding to their stress/workload. 

In July, we launched a series of one-hour Zoom calls, focused on a topic of interest that was posted by our members in our listserv.  The MSS Section has a very active listserv, with at least one of our members posting a question or providing a resource each week.

From these posts, Brian and I saw the most pressing topics that our MSS members were discussing.  To date, we have held three Casual Conversations and, depending on the topic, the number of participants has varied from an intimate conversation with eight participants to as many as 40 members on one call. 

Brian and I moderate the session by asking some specific questions to get things started.  Then we ask participants to share pearls and pitfalls, examples and resources. 

“In a time where nothing is normal, the MSS Casual Conversation series has been encouraging and motivating. These relaxed conversations with colleagues provide real-time solutions to new and evolving challenges at a time where we cannot engage in-person,” said Samantha Luebbering, director of Education, American Association of Neurological Surgeons.

To date, we have covered the following topics:

  • Transitioning From a Live to Virtual Meeting
  • Medical and Nursing Boards: What Are You Hearing and How to Support Our Members?
  • Virtual Posters: Pearls and Pitfalls

We have received favorable responses from our member section and plan to host at least one Casual Conversation each month for the foreseeable future. Susan Carlson, chief learning officer at the American Society of Anesthesiology said, “I have found the Casual Conversations so important, especially now that we are pivoting our education and finding new ways to connect with our colleagues and our members.” 

Our goal is to continue to find ways to support and learn from each other as we navigate these uncharted waters. 

To the members of the MSS Section, thank you for your continuous contributions to our listserv, our community and for joining us for our Casual Conversations.  Please remember: Brian and I are here to support you. Please send any ideas for future topics to


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