Another WCI educational conference is in the can. Notably, 2022 was largely a return to the normalcy we all enjoyed before the Great Pandemic in 2020. The 2022 edition, however, brought both familiarity and change.
We have all heard the Opening Session speech about the four original organizers (claimant's attorneys Gerald Rosenthal and David Parish each had roles in addition to the remaining founders Steve Rissman and Jim McConnaughhay). We have heard about the original tri-fold curriculum program, the dearth of sponsors/exhibitors, and the aspirations to bring entertainers. Steve Rissman reminisced last week regarding how much he enjoyed The Four Tops in one of those early years. I have been to a few conferences, but I don't remember that one inparticular.
Courtesy ClassicMotown.com, https://classic.motown.com/artist/the-four-tops/
For decades, this community has watched the duo of Jim McConnaughhay and Steve Rissman as they have developed and evolved a small state-centric gathering into the largest workers' compensation conference of its kind in the nation, perhaps the world. They have had some help, but they have been the heart and soul.
We have heard each year of the contemporary volume of programs, speakers, and perspectives. This annual reiteration portrays and illustrates a story of growth, success, and achievement. One might note with some pride that this conference consistently brings extensive diversity of thought to the fore each August. There is medicine, risk management, legal, claims handling, regulatory, and more. If you have a workers' compensation question and cannot find a specific subject-matter expert at this conference, I would find that surprising.
Steve Rissman noted in 2022 that there were well over 400 speakers in this year's program. He noted some highlights, but of course lacked the time to describe each program in detail. That would have required all day. It is fair to say, in summary, that there is a vast array of academic and interactive opportunities in this annual gathering. Those presenters are simultaneously on stage in a spectrum of individual programs throughout the massive World Center facility. It is best described as a smorgasbord. And, like any buffet, it can be overwhelming at first. I later heard one attendee note that "this is bigger than The Florida Bar meeting, and indeed it is.
Jim McConnaughhay's speech in 2022 was somewhat different. He was not plowing entirely new ground with his announcement of the new WCI Executive Director, the announcement was initially publicized last spring. But, he was expounding and expanding. The audience was hearing of the plan for this conference to persist and excel in days, years, and decades to come. It was an exciting moment for the conference, and undoubtedly for these two long-term leaders and founders. There is a reasonably clear succession path, and a provision for the future.
Mr. Sabolic, the new Director, took the podium momentarily. He exuded enthusiasm and genuineness. He voiced his gratitude for an opportunity that is simply unparalleled in this community. From my interactions with him over the years, he is experienced, steeped, and ready. The founders could not have selected a better champion to continue this pursuit of knowledge and community. Mr. Sabolic will likely be an increasingly important part of the opening session in coming years.
Andrew Sabolic is certainly different. Note that the four founders were all attorneys. Mr. Sabolic is not. Mr. McConnaughhay and Mr. Rissman (the remaining founders) hail from early in the Baby-boomer generation, and Mr. Sabolic is later, a Gen-X (which generation is now the second largest segment of the American Workforce, per Pew). Notably The founders hail from private practice experience, Mr. Sabolic has most recently been a state regulator for over 20 years, and came from a semi-academic background in the actuarial world. In short, these three have similarity in their workers' compensation focus and participation, and yet marked variety in their backgrounds and perspectives. As Forbes notes, diversity is positive for organizations.
Without doubt, anyone that has even glimpsed behind the scenes at WCI knows full well that the planning and execution of this event is dependent upon the outstanding team at Resource Managers (RMI). As Mr. McConnaughhay noted in his opening, WCI has but one employee, Mr. Sabolic. It relies on RMI for logistics, deployment, and delivery. Year after year, Kathy Shelton, Cathy Bowman, Stephanie Dodson, and Shirley Kendall deliver on those points. They likewise bring varied experiences, skills, and techniques to the fore in this annual expose.
Mr. McConnaughhay is persistent in reminding us each year, however, that this whole conference really runs on volunteers. That is apparent from the planning, programming, recruitment of speakers, and deployment of curricula. It is also apparent in the preparation of materials, assembly of registrant bags, and distribution and dissemination of information. Not less so, it is obvious in the various philanthropic involvements woven throughout this gathering, a list that seems to expand each year. This is, after all, a community.
In a word, the 2022 WCI was different. We have seen the success and growth. We have heard the history referenced and reinforced. We have annual familiarity. But, 2022 brought us a glimpse of the future in the evolving team, growing leadership, and forward focus. We have not seen 2023, but we are assured that the vision for next year and beyond is in place. We move on from this exceptional opportunity with a confidence that these three (the founders and Mr. Sabolic) are poised to deliver yet again.
Why do we persistently gather? As I noted in a previous post "what you do in August" is go to WCI. That is a quote noted in Not the Same, But . . . (August 2020), during the Great Pandemic. It's what you do. But, it is more than a habit, it is a quest. This is where we develop and gain knowledge. This is where there is critical thinking, criticism, and challenge. Not every panelist will be agreeable or concurring, and some may bring downright contrary perspectives. Here, you will hear dissent, discussion, and ideas. This is where we hear from those who bring different thoughts, diverse thoughts, and broader perspectives to challenge us.
We must strive to remember that much has been tried in this community, and mistakes have likely been made. A speaker was too controversial, a topic or challenge did not actually live up to its predicted significance, a process or promise did not deliver as anticipated. As tomorrow unfolds before us, we can look to those past experiences for guidance and this community can continue grow. Through each such attempt and challenge, we will continue to grow.
I leave the 2022 conference encouraged. I am eager to see the impact of the evolving leadership as the WCI continues to develop and grow in its delivery of the educational, interactive, and professional opportunities that have been its hallmark. I am encouraged and hopeful for the future of this, the "Granddaddy of them all" (No offense intended to the Rose Bowl or those who present it).
See you next August!