Donna D. Ohnmeiss, PhD, is Chair of the NASS Membership Committee and has been a NASS member since 1993. Dr. Ohnmeiss is President of the Texas Back Institute Research Foundation in Plano, Texas, and has more than 25 years of experience in spine research and education.

1. What is your mission this coming year?

We have proposed several changes to the membership section of the bylaws, which includes allowing all membership categories to serve on committees. This reflects the goal of increasing the level of involvement by more members and enhances NASS’ potential to draw on the strength of its multidisciplinary composition and to make sure we get input on needs and viewpoints from a broad spectrum. We also recommended changing the name of the “Corresponding” membership category to “International.” This change clarifies the category and is in line with our initiative to increase our international membership.

This year at the Annual Meeting we are hosting a reception for new members and those interested in applying for membership. This provides an excellent forum for interaction with NASS leadership, to learn more about the society, and meet others attendees with similar interests.

2. What are your committee’s highlights over the last couple years?

Despite an overall declining economy, we have not only maintained, but have continued to increase the membership.  We’ve maintained the strong traditional presence of our surgeon membership at about 72-75%. We are also happy to have maintained activity among non-surgeon spine care physicians, including physiatrists and pain management specialists.  We have reached out to groups such as PAs, NPs, PTs, nurses, and others who specialize in spine care, but traditionally have not been a part of a spine specialty society.

NASS has had a presence at multiple national and international conferences for various specialties to increase awareness of the society, its goals, activities, and to learn more about spine education needs. These efforts have increased interest in NASS.

3.  What are the committee’s long-term goals?

  • We want to maintain the membership base we have and recruiting new members is always a goal. However, we want to make sure that current members’ needs are being met through educational courses, publications, patient education materials available, NASS’s advocacy efforts, guideline development, networking opportunities, various other services and activities and by being part of a large society drawn together by the single common goal of quality patient care.
  • I think it is also important to continue to reflect the origins and heritage of NASS as a multidisciplinary society where ideas and viewpoints are exchanged during the forum provided at the Annual Meeting and in publications.  We are maintaining our strong surgeon membership and a large group of non-operative physicians, but we also want to continue to grow through reaching out to others involved in spine including PAs and NPs who continue to take on an expanding role in patient care. It would also be good to strengthen our biomechanics, basic science and research membership who contribute to the development and evaluation of new treatments.
  • We want to reach out to primary care providers who are often the first to see patients with back or neck pain to provide education and resources to help them make the best treatment decisions early in the care of these patients and help them to answer patients’ questions about new treatments they have seen in the news or advertisements.
  • We want to increase interaction with spine specialists throughout the world. Although NASS is the North American Spine Society, the needs and challenges in spine are becoming more similar internationally than in the mid-1980s when the society was founded. Technology has made international communication and collaboration much easier than before. With new treatments becoming available and used on multiple continents, there is much to be learned through sharing experiences which should accelerate the evaluation of new interventions including safety, refining indications and ultimately improve treatment outcomes.

4. What challenges face your committee?

One challenge is identifying spine specialists who may be interested in NASS. Spine covers such a broad spectrum of disciplines, it isn’t easy to identify the subgroup in each discipline who work in spine or the primary care providers who see many back or neck pain patients who may be interested in NASS to keep up with treatment guidelines and/or need resources to answer patients’ questions.

5. How long have you been a NASS member?

Since 1993. I attended my first NASS in 1989 in Quebec City and haven’t missed one since!

6. When did you first volunteer? What Committee was it?

In 1996 I served on the first Outcomes Compendium Task Force. In 2002, I became involved with the Patient Education Committee.

7.  What would you tell other people about serving on NASS committees?

I very strongly encourage them to do so. The committees are small working groups that provide a venue to make a contribution to the spine community as well as offering personal and professional growth opportunities. It also helps to increase appreciation and respect for multiple viewpoints on issues that arise. One of the best things about serving on a committee is the chance to interact with people you otherwise may not meet.