I started attending ACEP Board of Directors (BOD) meetings in 1971 when Ron Krome, MD, invited me to the BOD meeting in Miami. He introduced me as the first intern in emergency medicine and got the board to add me to the Undergraduate Education Committee as their first resident representative, a commitment to residents that continues today. ACEP was small then, about 300 members, and I met all the leaders and staff attending that third Scientific Assembly. I was hooked on ACEP.
I met new members as the college grew and was appointed to at least one ACEP committee every year. When the Council was created, I became the Maine Councillor, joining four other women on the Council floor. Seldom one to keep my opinions to myself, I spoke up at meetings and stayed in touch with the staff, board, and committee members.
So, imagine the thrill of answering the phone and hearing an ACEP Past President ask you to run for the ACEP BOD. Funny thing was, I never planned to run for the board until Karl Mangold, MD, called to ask me if the nominating committee could put my name on the ballot. I was overwhelmed and honored; my head grew three sizes that day.
Without another thought, I told him, “Of course, I would be delighted to run.”
“I’m not asking you to vote for me because I am a woman, I am asking you not to vote against me because I am a woman.” —Pamela P. Bensen, MD, MS, FACEP
Later, I explained to my husband, Kork, that no one got elected to the board on the first try, so we didn’t need to worry about the impact my rash answer would have on our young family or my job. We had two kids under seven and a house with a 100-percent mortgage. I had a 24-hours-on-3-days-off clinical job, a 30 hours a week unpaid ED directorship, a volunteer EMS teacher-director position, ACEP committee assignments, and I was co-chairing the community 911 committee. Kork had just returned to work on tug boats after a two-year bout with Epstein-Barr virus–induced kidney and liver failure, a Guillian-Barre-like peripheral neuropathy, and was battling an addiction to corticosteroids.
Running for the Board Back Then
Being a board candidate was very different in the 70s. Campaigns were inexpensive and laid back. I did not have to travel to state chapter meetings—many states didn’t even have meetings. I only had to answer written questions and attend by-invitation-only big-state-chapter cocktail parties, which were held at the Scientific Assembly, to meet Councillors who didn’t know me.