The Kentucky Association of Medical Staff Services (KAMSS) was formally founded in 1978 by four women from the Metropolitan Louisville area serving as hospital medical staff secretaries at that time.
The founding members were Bette Doane, Ivan Johnson, Arlene Arnold and Alma Berry.
Bette Doane(Audubon Hospital) and Ivan Johnson(Jewish Hospital) were established hospital employees who coordinated residency programs and inherited medical staff duties. Arlene Arnold (Clark Memorial Hospital – Jeffersonville, IN) came from a background in non-medical accounting before she began working in the medical staff office while Alma Berry (St. Anthony Hospital) began her professional career in public relations and marketing prior to accepting her position at the hospital in 1971. Bette, Ivan, Arlene and Alma soon connected and began speaking with each other often sharing ideas about their new found careers in medical staff.
The often repeated and well-known scenarios for those involved in the early stages of our profession were described as: “little-to-no direction… cardboard boxes overflowing with medical staff credentials files… pieces of paper with cryptic notes representing official minutes…no job description…and non-specific responsibilities added almost daily.” Compounding the challenges of the profession at that time was the attitude of the medical staff members who viewed “those guys in administration” with suspicion and questioned why the medical staff professional was hired. On the other hand, although, hospital administrators were still not certain about how the medical staff professional would figure into the mix of things, they knew they had to respond to the seemingly endless requirements and standards being handed down by Medicare and the Joint Commission.
In late October 1977, the four founding KAMSS members learned of the first conference of the National Association of Medical Staff Secretaries in Chicago two weeks after it was held. Emotions following this discovery among the founding members ranged from feelings of excitement (can you believe there are other people out there doing the same kind of work we’re doing?) to disappointment (such a wonderful opportunity missed!).
Immediately following receipt of the 1977 mailing from the National Association, the founding members began holding informal monthly luncheon meetings. They learned quickly one hour did not allow adequate time to share common problems and challenges with each other, so they began holding meetings in the evening. Attempts though phone calls to area hospitals to encourage participation by others holding similar position were met with lukewarm interest initially. The phrase “I’m just a secretary” was a common refrain.
It was not until Mike Abell, CEO of St. Anthony Hospital, actively endorsed the work of the group and formally requested recognition by the Metropolitan Louisville Hospital Administrators and the Kentucky Hospital Association that the early stirrings of KAMSS took on new life.
In 1978, three of the four original members attended the second national conference (also held in Chicago). KAMSS has been well represented each year at the annual conference since then as administrators and the organized medical staffs realized the importance of the work conducted by the hospital medical staff office. The National Association of Medical Staff Services became and continues to be is a critical education link for our profession.
In the mid-1980s, sometime before centralized credentialing was formalized, KAMSS recognized the need and took on the task of developing a standardized application form for use by area hospitals. Meetings were held with medical staff professionals throughout the state, to share the application form and process. Clearly, this standardized application was the forerunner to the current centralized application processing service offered today by local county medical societies in Kentucky. KAMSS members continued over time to provide assistance in developing this service.
The primary goal of early KAMSS state meetings began with a need to provide open, sensitive sharing opportunities among the medical staff services professionals at that time. Networking and education continue to be the primary goals of the organization. The home base of KAMSS is located in Louisville; however, the organization encourages participation of professionals throughout the state. To encourage this, KAMSS holds state chapter meetings in other locations whenever possible and a one day annual education conference in Louisville that is open to KAMSS members and non-members.
Alma Hall Berry, CMSC, Founding KAMSS President in 1978 and 1997 President, reflects on the organization’s history by stating: “There have been many, many changes since that fragile beginning in 1978. We have adjusted to these changes – we support each other – we continue to grow and thrive.”
The members of KAMSS are proud of our heritage and eternally grateful for the vision of those four founding members and support of early administrators who laid the groundwork for developing the strong, vibrant organization we are today.