My presidency of IAAH started at a very challenging time when Bruce Dick, our 7th president, had to prematurely end his term due to severe illness. I was in my 2nd term on the council (vice-president, Oceania) and, in addition to working with Bruce, had the honour of working with two prior presidents. Ueli Buhlmann, the 5th president of IAAH (2005-2009), effectively brought me into IAAH by inviting me to chair the scientific committee for the 9th World Congress in Kuala Lumpur in 2009. I was encouraged to nominate for the IAAH council where I learned a huge amount about IAAH under Lyn Bearinger’s presidency (2009-2013). When the IAAH council asked me to take on the last year of Bruce’s presidential term in 2016, my primary focus was on ensuring the success of the 11th World Congress in New Delhi, India which, less than a year ahead, was facing some highly complex challenges. Ably supported by David Ross and Pierre-André Michaud (co-chairs, scientific committee) and Sunil Mehra (chair, Indian organizing committee), the meeting was a resounding success.
The end of my ‘presidential apprenticeship’ coincided with growing recognition of the importance of adolescent health within the UN agencies, and of the centrality of adolescents to the success of the Sustainable Development Goals. While my long engagement with IAAH enabled me to appreciate the Association’s potential value, I was equally aware of the internal challenges it faced as an organisation with few resources; these reflections informed my presidential priorities.
- My 1st priority was to address the internal workings of IAAH by defining a clear purpose and ensuring that this was reflected in our communications. The development of a suite of internal governance policies was required before embarking on more strategic engagement with others, including donors. Development of a committee structure led to clearer roles and responsibilities for council members, with a focus on policies and governance; communications; scientific events and education. Beyond my excitement that IAAH has finally gained a contemporary logo and website, I have been thrilled with the frequency and quality of our communications through our regular newsletter, e-blasts, and social media.
- My 2nd priority was to work with the Council to see IAAH become better recognized as a federation of associations dedicated to adolescent health. This required engaging and partnering with a wider group of organizations, and an evolving orientation beyond individual memberships. Much stronger two-way linkages with leaders of associations for adolescent health are now apparent, underpinned by Presidents Connect, a listserv for presidents of national and regional associations.
- My 3rd priority was to reorient the World Congress from a 4-yearly to a 3-yearly meeting. Sadly, the pandemic delayed our initial attempt, but having hosted the highly successful (virtual) 12th World Congress in Lima, Peru last year, we are now on track to hold the 13th World Congress in 2024. This change in timing has been complemented by a constitutional change to reduce the length of terms for Council members to a more manageable commitment of 3 years. Consistent with greater engagement with national associations, and the challenges of reducing our carbon footprint, I am also pleased that IAAH is more regularly co-hosting regional meetings led by our Vice-Presidents.
- My 4th priority was increasing the participation of young people and early career professionals in IAAH. Many of you will have heard me say that when IAAH was formed in 1987, the extent of youth participation within each World Congress was ahead of its time. But it was timely for us to rethink the nature of young leaders’ engagement within IAAH more generally. After much consultation, we created the IAAH Young Professionals Network (YPN), integral to the Council, that aims to support the next generation of multidisciplinary global adolescent health leaders. The new auspice that IAAH has with International Adolescent Health Week is also part of this strategy, creating a pipeline of youth leadership.
I have been blessed to work with a great Council, which helped me to achieve my priorities (and many more!). I wish to thank them for their hard work, personal support, and sleepless nights: virtual meetings of a globally representative executive meant that our 90-minute monthly meetings started at 11pm in Melbourne and 4am in San Francisco! I wish to particularly thank our inaugural YPN co-chairs for so capably implementing my vision and acknowledge the thoughtfulness with which they are supporting the transition to new YPN leaders. We could not have achieved the strategic reorientation and organizational restructuring of IAAH without generous financial support from AstraZeneca’s Young Health Programme. My final thanks are to Jenna Baumgartner, our executive administrator, who has been the backbone of IAAH since 2009.
After a long 5 years, I am delighted to hand over the leadership of IAAH to Jon Klein, our 9th president and the safest of hands. I will be delighted to assist him and our new Council to develop the next chapter of our Association’s history. Sadly, the pandemic has diverted the trajectory of the SDGs from their growing orientation to adolescents. Ensuring that we get back on track is an even greater priority than it once was. But I am pleased that, in partnership with others, IAAH is ideally positioned to enhance individual competencies, national capacity and global investment in adolescent health.
Immediate Past-President, IAAH