The 2010 health reform effort in Congress will soon usher in sweeping change for hospitals and health systems. The 2010 AHA Annual Membership Meeting, April 25-28 in Washington, D.C., is an excellent opportunity for new and returning board members to stay current on the latest news and trends in both health care and health care governance. We'll hear from noted experts and congressional leaders and have the opportunity to voice our concerns to AHA staff.

There also are special educational opportunities just for trustees. The AHA's Center for Healthcare Governance again will sponsor three educational sessions.

On Sunday, April 25, James E. Orlikoff, president of Orlikoff & Associates Inc., will outline the current challenges and opportunities confronting health care boards and discuss practical strategies and techniques that boards can implement to keep themselves and their organizations ahead of the demanding curve of change.

On Monday, April 26, Joint Commission President Mark R. Chassin, M.D., will discuss what a safety culture is, why it is integral to achieving and maintaining high levels of quality, and why trustees should play a paramount role in ensuring that a safety culture is inculcated throughout their organizations. Chassin will describe Joint Commission initiatives designed to assist health care organizations in reaching new heights of quality and safety.

Finally, on Tuesday, April 27, Frederick A. Hessler, managing director of Citi's Health Care Group, will address the long-term financial sustainability of health systems and the role of governance oversight, including specific board member competencies. He also will identify initiatives that health systems should implement to meet these challenges, including strategic and operational initiatives and management of financial risks.

In addition, on Tuesday the COG will again sponsor the Trustee Leadership Breakfast. This year we will be joined by Frank Sesno, CNN special correspondent.

I urge you to take advantage of these programs and look forward to welcoming you in April. Visit www.aha.org for more information and to register.

Stephen Smart, D.D.S. (scsmart@suddenlink.net), is COG chair and chair of Medical Center of South Arkansas in El Dorado, Ark.