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Thanks - and a Great (W)rap - by Patrick Massad

Thanks - and a Great (W)rap - by Patrick Massad

My association journey began in 2001 when I joined a not-for-profit organization called the Pharmaceutical Advertising Advisory Board. That’s a mouthful so we call ourselves the PAAB. Our services are primarily regulatory in nature. We review drug advertising before it is distributed to healthcare professionals (i.e. not the television ads you see on TV but the promotional materials provided directly to your doctors, pharmacists, nurses, dentists).  Ultimately these are the folks that patients trust with their health, so we make sure that materials directed to them are evidence-based and balanced with respect to drug risk and benefit. 

A couple of years after I was promoted to lead the team of advertising reviewers, my boss urged me to learn about the CSAE and look into beginning my path towards getting my CAE designation.  I am glad he pointed me in that direction. The 44 CSAE competencies are covered in a very comprehensive manner across the following six domains:  Leadership, Structure & Environment, Direction & Strategy, Membership Services, Operations Support, and Products & Services. I remember being struck by panic when reading the list of 44 competencies before the program. That sense of panic was replaced with a sense of pride when reviewing the same list for the final exam.  The thoroughness of this program has profoundly increased the confidence I have in my ability to be a leader in my association.

For those who are considering embarking on the journey toward CAE designation, don’t just think about it. Do it. Take the plunge. Making that initial commitment can be daunting. I remember reading that students should expect to spend an average of 10 - 12 hours per week on coursework. My heart stopped. I thought to myself “Where the heck am I going to find 12hours per week?”  Don’t worry.  It has a way of finding you. CAE work will infiltrate every aspect of your life.  At times it will be the first thing you think of in the morning and the last thing you think of before bed. Maybe you should not share that information with your spouse.  But the time you invest in this program will immediately pay dividends. Long before you graduate.  In fact, each course demonstrably impacted the work I do at the PAAB. It’s uncanny how the assignments always appeared to align with a real-world challenge or opportunity that is facing my organization.

For those who are currently on their journey to attaining their CAE. Stick with it. Regardless of whether you are taking 1, 2, or 3 courses per year, you’ll eventually get to your desired goal if you can just keep moving forward (regardless of the pace). Yes, the assignments can take long. Yes, the exam is a scary and hairy beast. But when you look back at it, you’ll feel that those aspects are an important part of what makes the achievement credible.

On behalf of my classmates, I’d like to thank the CSAE for delivering such a robust program. All of us who graduated this year are here because of the dedication of the program’s teachers and organizers. We also thank our mentors. I want to thank mine in particular. In addition to being my mentor, Ray is a role model, teacher, and a friend.  

We all thank the family and friends who supported us along the way. You helped propel us forward on days when reading about the importance of bylaws, board development initiatives, or HR Flow was the last thing we wanted to do.

I’d like to extend a personal thank you to my classmates. Online learning can be a lonely and tedious experience if your fellow students are not engaged.  It became clear to me that in addition to being extremely committed to learning, members of this group were committed to helping one another. Your posts in the online forums helped me crystalize the concepts from the course readings.

Thank you, everyone, 

Patrick Massad, RPH, BScPharm, CAE

Watch Patrick Massad rap about his key learnings from the CAE Program:


The CAE designation has enhanced the lives and work of so many association professionals like Patrick Massad. The winter intake of the CAE program is open for registration.  

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