Goodbye to the big/little organization that makes a huge difference

Jeff Porter (left) with 1972 Olympic runner Jeff Galloway during the Health Journalism 2012 conference in Atlanta.

Jeff Porter (left) with 1972 Olympic runner Jeff Galloway during the Health Journalism 2012 conference in Atlanta.

Monday will be my final day as AHCJ’s director of education, as announced some weeks ago. I plan to help my able successor, Katherine Reed, but my time for day-to-day operations will close.

My retirement marks 20 years of work in the nonprofit world in bringing resources and training to journalists. Before that, I spent 21 years in the newspaper business, covering or editing almost everything newspapers cover.

During my newspaper career, I had a near-deadly stroke that gave me some perspective on what’s important: other people.

My background is small-town Arkansas. I’m the son of a schoolteacher and a telephone company worker. I didn’t comprehend until years later how fortunate I was to have a rather idyllic childhood. I have strong feelings about cornbread recipes and a passion for distance running. To this day, my wife Laura and I go back to our hometown, try to spoil our grandsons there and drive by the house where I grew up.

The closest thing to a mantra for me was displayed on my AHCJ office wall, on cross-stitch art made by my mother: “Always behave like a duck — keep calm and unruffled on the surface, but paddle like the devil underneath.”

My 12 years with AHCJ have been quite a ride. Among other places, I’ve visited a laboratory full of live mosquitoes and a government library designed to protect vital books from nuclear attack. More importantly, I’ve met a galaxy of incredibly smart and talented colleagues and fellow staffers, gifted health experts, and those countless people behind the scenes who have helped our events take shape.

I’m a big fan, as many friends know, of a British television show. The main character lives and travels in a structure that appears small on the outside but is enormous on the inside. “It’s bigger on the inside” is one of the show’s catchphrases.

AHCJ, too, appears small on the outside with a full-time staff of just eight and modest offices.

Consider, though, the more than 1,500 AHCJ members and thousands of journalists, speakers, hosts, sponsors and more who’ve attended our conferences, workshops, fellowships and webcasts. Consider the hundreds who’ve written for the organization.

AHCJ is, as the catchphrase goes, bigger on the inside.

11 thoughts on “Goodbye to the big/little organization that makes a huge difference

  1. Cheryl Weinstock

    So sad to see you go. Working with you has been great! YOu are one of the kindest and most talented professionals I ever met. Good luck with whatever you do next or wherever you may go. Warm wishes, Cheryl

  2. Len Bruzzese

    Jeff, you truly were a partner during my time as executive director. I knew with your help — and calm demeanor — I could handle the many obstacles that appeared. I will now look to you to help me solve woodworking issues! All the best, Len

  3. Liz Seegert

    Jeff, you were a rock for so many of us — calm, cool, incredibly helpful and kind. I will miss your quiet efficiency, ability to troubleshoot just about anything, along with the sage advice and support you unquestioningly offered over the eight years we’ve worked together. Enjoy your next chapter, stay in touch, and above all, (although I know you already do), have fun with those grandkids! Sending warm hugs your way.

  4. Bara Vaida

    Jeff, it was so great to get to you know over the years and work with you. You were indeed, always calm and unflappable on the outside. And I knew you were always working hard behind the scenes! Enjoy your next chapter with the grand kids and please do stay in touch!

  5. Karen Blum

    Hi Jeff — I have enjoyed working with you over the years organizing a couple of panels for AHCJ and most recently discussing the health IT position. And I think I first met you in Atlanta when you organized the run session with Jeff Galloway where you’re pictured above. Wishing you much happiness in your retirement and whatever you choose next!

  6. Irene Wielawski

    Congratulations on your retirement, Jeff. I’m sure for you, as for many of us, it will only be partial. You’ll find a way to keep your hand in–and still spoil the grandkids. I’ve appreciated your calm, unruffled above-the-waterline demeanor on many tight conference deadlines. Best of luck in the next chapter!

  7. Andrew Holtz

    So long, Jeff. You made a difference. Reliable. Sharp.
    ‘and thanks for all the fish’… oh, wait, that’s a different Brit SciFi franchise

    Cheers… the next round is on me.

  8. Tara Haelle

    I hope you’ve already started enjoying your much-deserved retirement. I will miss you and your always-steady, always-calm demeanor, no matter the challenge. Yours was among the more thankless jobs, but it was also among the most important. You were truly an engine behind AHCJ for so many years. Allons-y!

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