The American Hospital Association's Board of Trustees relies on the input of various committees as it works with staff to shape the association's policy and advocacy positions. Hospital trustees play a critical role! Our expertise and insights inform and shape AHA policy, and our advocacy efforts help effect favorable changes in both federal and state legislation by educating legislators and influencing public opinion.

The Committee on Governance, AHA's leading trustee involvement group, spearheads grassroots advocacy and provides input into the association's policy development efforts. Members serve three-year terms, are expected to attend three meetings annually and must be associated with an AHA-member hospital or health system throughout the length of their terms. The regional policy boards serve as one of the primary lines of communication between the AHA and its members. Members provide input on policy issues and serve as an ad hoc development committee when appropriate. They also help identify needs and challenges unique to each region and assist in developing solutions.

AHA recently issued a call for nominations. To learn more, visit www.aha.org and click on "Trustee and Community Leadership" under "Member Center." Nominations are due Feb. 16.

If you can't devote time to an AHA group, there are many other ways you can be involved. Throughout the year, AHA will call on hospital leaders to advocate on various issues. As a trustee, you are in the best position to help policymakers understand all that your hospital does for the community and the challenges that you face as you strive to continue to deliver much-needed services. In addition, all current and former hospital trustees are encouraged to participate in the AHA Trustee Leadership Network, a forum for trustees to stay abreast of the latest news from the AHA. For more information, contact Meg Leahy at 312-422-3343 or mleahy@aha.org.

If you've been an active participant in the AHA in the past, thank you for your commitment and keep up the good work! If you are interested in taking on a greater role, I encourage you to explore your options and get involved.

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