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Steering the Ship: Navigating Meetings as a Committee Chair

In addition to their attention to detail, pathologists are also known for their ability to think critically, analyze complex information, and make accurate diagnoses. It is this skill set that prepares them to be effective in committee work and to ensure that decisions made by the committee are based on objective and thorough information. Therefore, pathologists often find themselves chairing hospital meetings, academic conferences, or groups in professional organizations. In these situations, it is essential to have strong leadership skills and know how to chair meetings effectively and efficiently.

One of the critical tools in achieving this goal is using Robert's Rules of Order, a widely recognized set of rules and procedures for conducting meetings. Robert's Rules of Order provide a framework for conducting fair and efficient meetings and help ensure everyone can participate and be heard. The rules are designed to promote clear communication, encourage active participation, and ensure that decisions are made fairly and democratically. Here is a list of functions that a committee chair should perform according to Robert's Rules of Order:

Preside over the meeting: The chair is responsible for maintaining order and ensuring that the meeting runs smoothly. This includes starting and ending the meeting on time, setting an agenda, and managing the flow of discussion.

Ensure fairness: The chair should confirm that all members have an equal opportunity to participate in the discussion and that decisions are made fairly and democratically.

Manage debate: The chair should govern discussion so that it stays on topic.

Call for votes: The chair is responsible for calling for votes on motions and ensuring that all votes follow Robert's Rules of Order.

Rule on points of order: If a member raises a point of order, it is the chair's responsibility to rule on the issue and to ensure that the meeting continues in an orderly manner.

Handle appeals: If a member appeals to the chair's ruling, the chair must handle the request per Robert's Rules of Order.

Preserve order: The chair should maintain order during the meeting and intervene if a member becomes disruptive or uses inappropriate language.

Follow established procedures: The chair should be familiar with the procedures for making and voting on motions and ensure that these procedures are followed during the meeting.

Report on decisions: The chair should provide a statement of the decisions made during the meeting and ensure that minutes are taken and adequately recorded.

Foster cooperation: The chair should encourage collaboration between members and help build consensus when necessary.

By performing these functions, a committee chair can ensure that meetings are productive, fair, and efficient. For instance, consider a scenario where a group of pathologists is meeting to discuss a new laboratory procedure. As the chair, your responsibility is to keep the meeting organized and focused, allowing all members to participate in discussions and debates. This could include setting strict time limits for each speaker, managing discussions to stay on topic, and intervening if a member becomes disruptive or uses inappropriate language.

Let's say a motion is made to adopt the new laboratory procedure. The chair would then allow for debate and discussion on the motion and then call for a vote. The chair would then follow the established voting procedures, such as a voice vote or a roll call vote, to determine the outcome of the motion.

In conclusion, pathologists bring a unique combination of medical expertise, critical thinking skills, and leadership ability to any hospital committee, making them well-suited to serve and chair committees in a hospital setting. Pathologists can use Robert's Rules of Order to ensure that their meetings are fair, efficient, and productive. Whether you lead a gathering of colleagues or a larger group, having a solid understanding of these rules will help you be an effective and confident chairperson. By following these rules, all members will have an equal say in the outcome of the meeting, and decisions will be made fairly and democratically. So, the next time you are in the chair, remember to put these rules into practice and ensure a successful meeting.

If you’re considering running for chair of a CAP committee, learn more about the committee application process.

Gaurav Sharma, MD, FCAP, is a clinical and molecular pathologist practicing at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan. He chaired the CAP15189 Committee and has previously served on the board of the Michigan Society of Pathologists, the CAP's Standards and DIHIT Committees, the CheckPath Clinical Pathology Committee of the American Society for Clinical Pathology, and the Informatics Committee of the U.S. and Canadian Academy of Pathology. Additionally, he is the chair of the Henry Ford Medical Group Charter and Governance Committee.

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