Colleen Eubanks
CEO, International Association for the Study of Pain

Why do you invest your time & efforts in association work?

I am a strong believer in supporting and amplifying the voices of vulnerable people. When we invest in strengthening institutions and communities to support specific human conditions, we make the world a better place. 

Global associations and scientific societies make strong contributions to improving conditions of people all over the world.  In particular, my association is passionate about solving or mitigating one of the most common human conditions; that of severe pain. It is a tremendous privilege to serve as the leader of an association made up of the worlds’ preeminent scientists and clinicians who are dedicated relieving pain through science and the best clinical practices.  

I invest my time as the staff leader of IASP because I believe we can make a serious difference in the lives of countless people around the world through our support. The scientist and trainees working in labs to help solve problems related to pain from sickle cell to cancer to neuropathic pain; the patients and their caregivers who suffer, the healthcare providers who really want to relieve and help their patients with chronic pain live a high-quality life – these as well as my incredible staff team are the things that inspire me and energize me to come to work every day. 

What are the top three success factors of impactful association work?

Collaboration and developing partnerships across disciplines and cultures is one of the most important factors to drive change in the field in which we work.  

One of the key attributes to doing this is to be a good listener and to be able to envision a way to build coalitions, sometimes between unlikely groups.  Getting to know different people and organizations and then serving as a conduit or connector can be one of the most powerful aspects of being an association executive.  

I think the difference between the association/non-profit sector and the private sector is that we realize that the payoff is not necessarily financial, but rather the overall improvement of society or community.  What is the same is that all sectors (government, private sector, non-profit/association sector) do understand the need for an ROI for funds, time and other resources dedicated to the mission or objectives of the individual organizations.

What should we #ChooseToChallenge when it comes to association work?

I think we should challenge working in silos. Sometimes I think associations and societies compete against each other when they should collaborate. 

For example, I am fully aware that my association is a secondary or even tertiary association for many professionals.  In working with other associations, I believe we can amplify the work of our members who are on the cutting edge of research about many pain conditions, the voice of people with the lived experiences of pain across many conditions, and the compassion of health care providers across many disciplines.

 In that way, an association like mine can enhance the work of other organizations and expose their members to a variety of information, science and treatment options they might not be aware of by staying only in their specialty association.

How is the association sector dealing with diversity and inclusion? Has it changed?

I think a truly global organization has to include voices and experience from around the world, which in itself will help with the inclusion of previously marginalized or unheard voices or constituents.  I believe where we need to do a better job in encouraging and developing programs in the better resourced countries to ensure those groups and chapters are committed to diversity and inclusion at their national level. We are currently in the end stages of developing a statement on this for our chapters and federations. 

As a global organization we focus tremendously on diversity and inclusion and have for years.  All our task forces, working groups, committees and other groups are deliberately made up of individuals from around the world with representation in a variety of disciplines, health care practices, and we are strongly committed to including members and voices from under-resourced countries.