Weekly Address from Mary Faria: Week 10

This weekly communication is to provide updates on the following topics:

  1. AOMA’s desire to combat racism

In the communication that was emailed on June 12th I outline actions AOMA plans to take. In addition, at our Townhall Meeting on June 16th many of our students provided other wonderful suggestions. There is a commitment to act now and we are working towards achieving all as soon as possible. The only barriers are time and finances during an extremely financially strained time due to COVID-19 and the need to close our clinics.

Some immediate action that has been taken:

  • Identifying individuals of color in our community who may be potential members of AOMA’s Governing Board and working towards bringing 1-2 on board this year.

  • Using our website and social media to share important history about acupuncture, specifically NADA, and it’s value in helping underserved Black and other communities of color.

  • We are in the process of updating our hiring policies to ensure that we intentionally include diverse pools of applicants.

  • We have begun specific student recruitment efforts with historically black universities and colleges.

  • We are developing a plan to begin to implement needed training for our faculty, students and staff.  

2. Plans and issues related to COVID-19 crisis including clinic and campus re-openings

We will conduct our 6th clinic re-opening pilot this week. Each pilot done north and south has allowed us to test plans for safety, identify safety gaps, identify what must change in the clinics for maximum safety, develop the best screening processes, determine what limits we will have to place on capacity to ensure proper physical distancing and to determine how much PPE and sanitizing materials will be needed. Opening will be phased, with the first being the most conservative as we know despite our pilots we will no doubt learn more as we begin opening. For students and supervisors, we  will always offer options for those not ready to return to clinics or campus. Campus re-opening pilots have just begun, so there is much more to learn but what we’ve learned with clinic planning is important. COVID-19 case rates in Austin/Travis county, and local authority guidelines/mandates must drive timing with all of our re-openings. Therefore,  please remember,  all re-opening timelines are tentative.

3. Key operational issues or updates

  • Our campus remains closed. A few of us are still coming to campus daily to ensure someone is available for important deliveries, important mail, and to ensure the campus remains safe.  We have had two break-ins on campus, one that involved the library and classroom B1 and one involving the south clinic.

            If for some reason you do come to campus we ask that everyone mask and maintain physical distancing of 6 feet or more.

  • Over the last two weekends we’ve been working with a videographer to create the 2020 Virtual Commencement Ceremony.  Special thanks for Estella Proctor (our Financial Aid Director) and Carlee Brignole (our new CE and Special Events Coordinator) for all they are doing to make this event a very special one.

4. Important announcements or answers to questions sent in by students, faculty or staff

  • With our Clinic closures, AOMA’s finances have been severely impacted. We were able to secure a Payroll Protection Plan loan that was a significant help. We are though managing expenses carefully and developing ideas for new sources of revenue for the school. We are also exploring and implementing new ways of doing work that will provide savings and be more effective. The Clinic re-openings will be key, but until then we are doing the following:

  1. Working with all our vendors to negotiate better pricing

  2. Holding off on filling our receptionist role. Our part-time receptionist Jean Green was offered a full-time job with the state office she worked for 25 years, Texas Workforce Commission. We will not fill that role at AOMA until it makes financial sense, later in the year.

  3. Our part-time HR Coordinating role held by MJ Melhorn will not continue.  MJ was wonderful in many ways, but we have chosen to work with a group that provides virtual services providing much more comprehensive HR support and at a savings for AOMA.

  4. Title IX Coordination will now be led by Stephanee Owenby. Susan Snipes with the new HR group will provide back up or deputy Title IX support.

  5. A rapid design session was held with some key leaders at AOMA and we developed some wonderful ideas for doing work differently and to provide financial support and growth for AOMA now and into the future. These ideas have been prioritized and several work teams are being established to implement as soon as possible.

Despite a closed campus there is much work going on!  Despite the challenges of this time there has also been tremendous opportunity!

Take care, stay safe and stay healthy (mind, body and spirit). With Love and Peace,

Mary Faria

President & CEO

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