Mark Del Monte, J.D., will serve as AAP CEO/executive vice president for five more years.
The Board of Directors enthusiastically approved a contract extension for Del Monte Friday, giving him a standing ovation.
“We are so grateful to the leadership of Mark Del Monte at the Academy during the last very consequential five years, which included a global pandemic,” said AAP President Sandy L. Chung, M.D., FAAP. “As a result of his incredible energy, dedication, positivity and skillful ability to lead, the AAP has become more nimble, more responsive and continues to be at the leading edge, setting the gold standard in pediatrics. We feel so lucky to have him as our CEO and are excited to continue this journey with him over the next five years.”
Del Monte was named CEO in the fall of 2019 after having served as interim CEO for just over a year. He is the first non-pediatrician to hold the position. His work with the AAP dates back to 2005 and includes the roles of chief deputy, senior vice president for Advocacy and External Affairs, interim development director and director of the Washington, D.C., office.
Prior to joining the Academy, Del Monte served as director of Policy and Government Affairs for the AIDS Alliance for Children, Youth & Families. He holds a law degree from the University of California, Berkeley and a bachelor’s degree from Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash.
Much of Del Monte’s tenure as AAP CEO has encompassed the COVID-19 pandemic. In an address to AAP staff Friday, Del Monte commended employees for “working together to solve a generational crisis.”
Del Monte also has led the organization when standing up against children being separated from their parents at the border. He has overseen efforts to address the mental health crisis in children, support physician advocates experiencing threats of violence and dramatically enhance AAP efforts around diversity, equity and inclusion.
“This is an incredible group of people and to be the leader of you has been the honor of my life,” he told staff. “… I bring to this next five years an overwhelming sense of optimism and gratitude and energy for what we can accomplish together.”
Task force on pediatrician safety
Board members also approved a new Task Force on Safety and Wellbeing Within the Pediatric Profession. Creation of the group comes in response to the top resolution at the 2022 Leadership Conference calling for support for pediatrician advocates experiencing stress, threats of violence or public attacks.
AAP board members looking at the issue “determined very quickly that protecting the psychological and physical safety of members is a crucial necessity for the AAP,” said at-large board member Constance S. Houck, M.D., M.P.H. FAAP.
The board will shift its focus on this issue from wellness to well-being, “meaning that we needed to improve the environment and systems in which the members practice,” Dr. Houck said.
Staggering board member terms
Some AAP board members’ terms may be extended under a proposal the board discussed Friday. The move would address the issue of having as many as six board members leaving in some years and none in other years.
“We felt this was potentially destabilizing, it was detrimental to good government and not in the best interest of the Academy or its members.,” said National Nominating Committee member Anthony D. Johnson, M.D., FAAP, who led a task force looking at the issue.
The group proposed a two-year term extension for the board members from Districts V and X, which would push the end of their terms to 2026. The board member elected to at-large seat A would have a six-year term. Board members elected later this year to represent Districts VII and VIII would serve six-year terms.
The task force will ask chapter, district, committee, council and section leaders to approve a bylaw change to incorporate these new terms during the Leadership Conference in August.
Speaker on primary care
Friday’s meeting included guest speaker Rebecca Etz, Ph.D., co-director of the Larry A. Green Center, which studies and advocates for primary health care.
Dr. Etz spoke of the toll the COVID-19 pandemic took on primary care, as clinicians struggled with funding, staffing, shortages of personal protective equipment, lack of federal support and steep declines in well-child care.
In the second year of the pandemic, her group’s research found about 75% of pediatricians agreed they were “clinically fragile” and wondered when someone would notice.
But Dr. Etz reassured primary care doctors that patients still value them. Survey results showed 79% of patients would be upset if their primary care office closed, 68% said their primary care doctor helped them make sense of things and just over half said their primary care doctor was there when needed.
“It’s easy to feel like nobody sees you,” Dr. Etz said. “I think it’s really important to understand your patients do.”
The group is calling for several reforms, including a national primary care emergency fund, more assistance to address the mental health crisis for patients and clinicians, and maintaining pandemic policies that improved access to primary care.
The board approved a $142 million budget for the 2023-’24 fiscal year that begins July 1. The 9% increase in expenses was driven by factors, including inflation, the return of travel and organizational growth.
In addition, the board endorsed a recommendation to merge the AAP Committee on Adolescence and Section on Adolescent Health into a new council.