Uneaten Salads and the ABMP School Forums

It’s been a decade since I sat over an uneaten salad at the meeting that would lead to the formation of the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB) and also change my life forever. At the time, I was the director of education for a large massage program with a population of around 400 students (that was 2005—one of the boom years for enrollment). I was invited to the meeting to offer my views as an educator and administrator, which I did—very vocally!  

At lunch that day, I found myself seated next to Bob Benson, then the president of ABMP. After some polite small talk he turned those piercing eyes on me and said, “If you had all the time and resources you needed, what would you create to support schools, students, and instructors in the massage and bodywork profession?” I didn’t hesitate. I launched into an impassioned monologue about what I believed would be useful for schools and ways the profession could work together to improve the quality of instructional design for students. I know now that I was preaching to the choir, because Bob and then Executive Vice President Les Sweeney had also brainstormed a list, and we shared a lot of ideas in common. I was invited to visit ABMP soon after that meeting, and moved to Colorado and joined the ABMP team just four months later. I'm grateful every day for that lucky lunch seat and uneaten salad!

My ideas have evolved a lot since I’ve joined ABMP through the dedicated mentoring I’ve received from Bob and Les, and through exposure to the innovative thinkers on our ABMP team, but mainly because I’ve had the opportunity to interact with school owners, administrators, and teachers at the ABMP School Issues Forums and hear about their challenges and successes. Massage education has taken some hard knocks over the last 10 years, and we’ve been forced to reevaluate outdated methods and old thinking to survive. Some of our tribe didn’t make it and we watched enrollment shrink and many training programs close their doors. But the rest of us—we’re still here—are just as passionate and determined as ever.

For me, this year feels like the dawning of a new epoch in massage education with brighter days ahead. There is more consensus and cooperation in our field than ever before. There is a high demand for massage therapists at clinics and spas. We’ve worked hard on projects that help us organize our efforts and communicate more effectively with each other and other health professionals (e.g., MTBOK, ELAP, the FSMTB Model Practice Act, etc.) and there is an openness to innovation that will likely benefit students in the future.

As we look forward I’m hopeful that I’ll see old friends and colleagues, and many new faces as we reimagine and evolve the ABMP School Forums. Let’s grab a salad, have a conversation, share our impassioned ideas and see what we can create!

—Anne Williams, ABMP Director of Education

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