The Autrey File
- Director of administration and governance for the American Society for Health Care Engineering (ASHE) of the American Hospital Association
- Certified Association Executive through the American Society of Association Executives.
- Led staff on ASHE’s 2013 50th Annual Conference & Technical Exhibition celebration. Highlights from ASHE’s past annual conferences were on display, a commemorative booklet was distributed and over 25 former ASHE presidents attended, including Robert (Bob) Paul, FASHE, one of ASHE’s founding members and its 1967 president.
- Successfully facilitated ASHE’s migration from paper balloting for elections to electronic balloting resulting in easier voting and increased member participation in the election of board members.
- Master’s degree in public administration, Roosevelt University, Chicago.
- Bachelor’s degree in business administration, Roosevelt University.
As she neared her 30th year with the American Society for Health Care Engineering (ASHE), Sharon Autrey, MPA, CAE, director of administration and governance, announced her well-deserved retirement. Before she left in January, Health Facilities Management conducted a valedictory interview with her.
When did you start at ASHE, and what was your first job?
I started with ASHE in April 1991 as an administrative assistant. The executive director was Nancy Montenegro. I had achieved my Certified Professional
Secretary designation, and Nancy was quite impressed. I did my best to ensure she knew she had made the right decision in hiring me. I came from a corporate environment but had previously worked at the American Medical Association, so I also had some previous association experience. My job required supporting the executive director and assistant director.
What have been some of your other jobs as you’ve risen up the ranks?
When I wanted to advance my career, I moved from the administrative support realm of ASHE to the marketing and communications area, mentoring under the marketing and communications manager.
By continuing to work directly with the executive director, I determined my best skill set was working directly with the members and providing the support the executive director needs to fulfill their responsibilities.
This led to more involvement with the ASHE Board and committee work. I became the manager of administration and governance. With the support of ASHE management, I went back to school and achieved my master’s degree in public administration and my Certified Association Executive designation.
Opportunities arose to provide more direct input and support in the strategic operations of the society, so I was promoted to director of administration and governance.
How long have you been director of administration and governance, and what does this job entail?
I was in this position for a little more than 10 years, and I loved it! My job involved working with ASHE executive management and the ASHE Board to help set and develop the strategic direction of the society based on input from members, affiliated chapters and stakeholders in the field.
I also worked with administration of ASHE committees and task forces. Oversight of the annual elections was also under my purview.
Through my involvement with the ASHE Board over the years, I have served as a staff liaison and resource for ASHE former presidents and former ASHE Board members. Internally, my job entailed working with the staff to ensure member queries and staff needs were met in an efficient and timely manner.
How has ASHE changed, and what have been some of the organization’s milestones, during your tenure?
The most obvious observation is membership growth, from fewer than 3,000 when I started to over 12,500 now. We also only had seven staff members back in 1991; we are now at 23 ASHE team members.
Over the years, ASHE has built alliances with organizations that support the advancement of the health care facilities management profession, which, in turn, benefits the entire health care field: patients, providers and suppliers.
Working within the American Hospital Association, ASHE has built relationships with governmental agencies (e.g., Federal Communications Commission, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration); accreditation and codes bodies (e.g., The Joint Commission, National Fire Protection Association, International Code Council and Facility Guidelines Institute); and other organizations (e.g., ASHRAE and the American Institute of Architects) that support ASHE’s mission of optimizing the health care built environment.
ASHE also is now, more than ever, engaged in ensuring the future of the health facilities field by extending its outreach to high schools, colleges and universities to introduce opportunities in the field to the younger generation to support its succession planning initiatives.
The most momentous milestone was when ASHE celebrated its 50th annual conference in 2013.
The focus of the celebration was reflecting and respecting the past and looking positively toward the future. It was so nice to celebrate with the many former presidents in attendance and to hear their stories of ASHE and ASHE members’ challenges and how they differ from, yet are the same as, today.
What have you liked best about working at ASHE?
Hands down, it’s the people. I’ve loved working with the ASHE team members over the years. Everyone brought different strengths to the team, which helped ASHE grow and reach new heights. Even through challenging times, those events served as lessons to grow to where we
And the members! I’ve always loved talking to members on the telephone and seeing them in person at our conferences. Listening to them and learning from their stories — both personal and professional — helped me to get a better understanding of how best to serve their needs.
Immediacy is always an issue because their responsibilities often require an immediate need for information or a service to complete a project or answer a request from their own management or, perhaps, to prepare for a survey.
It is important that we can provide them with information, or at least point them in the right direction. I’m “old school.” Email is great for transmitting data, but there’s something to be said for the personal and interpersonal relationships developed through networking and talking with one another.
ASHE members are the best! Most serve in their positions not just for the paycheck, but because of their love for the patients and supporting the efforts toward successful outcomes for them.
What do you plan to do in retirement?
My first priority is to finally be able to take care of me. I’ve been a caregiver, so now I can focus on personal areas of attention.
I am also active in my sorority, Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc. We focus on providing service to the communities and supporting students and education. I plan to increase my activity with sorority functions.
And, of course, I plan to get a little travel in. We have so much to see in the United States; I want to see more. I have traveled with ASHE, but, this time, I will be traveling to enjoy the experiences of the locals. It’s going to be exhilarating!
What will you miss most about ASHE?
ASHE was the first area I worked in when I came to the American Hospital Association almost 29 years ago. My love for the members and staff and the mission of this organization has kept me here for all of those years.
I enjoy speaking with the members, learning of their challenges and successes, and hearing what they say we can do to help them do their jobs better. The ASHE team has always had a passion for ensuring the members have the information and materials needed to do and be the best at their job.
That passion from both the staff and members is what I will miss most.