Women’s History Month: Q&A with ACA President Dr. Michele Maiers

In honor of Women’s History Month in March, ACA Blogs catches up with Michele Maiers, DC, MPH, PhD, who is the first woman elected president of the American Chiropractic Association. Dr. Maiers and Kathy Boulet, DAAPM, DC, Dipl. Ac., who was elected vice president, also made history together by becoming the first all-female ACA executive team.

While her role as president may be new, Dr. Maiers is no stranger to ACA leadership. She has been an active ACA member and leader for the past 24 years. She was elected national chair of the Student ACA (SACA) in her early years and, following graduation, returned to leadership in the ACA House of Delegates with terms as both alternate delegate and delegate for the state of Minnesota. In 2016, she was elected to the ACA Board of Governors.

Dr. Maiers has made a mark outside of ACA, as well, by serving in leadership positions with both the World Federation of Chiropractic and the American Public Health Association Chiropractic Section. She is also executive director of research and innovation at Northwestern Health Sciences University in Minneapolis, where she leverages high-quality research to inform healthcare policy and innovation initiatives on local, regional, and national levels.

Below, Dr. Maiers reflects on the year ahead and ACA’s priorities, diversity, and what her experience has taught her about leadership as well as the resilience of ACA members:

What are you most excited about as you begin your term as ACA president?

We have a great year ahead of us at ACA. I am most excited to work alongside so many talented leaders to advance ACA’s strategic plan. Gaining Medicare parity remains our top advocacy goal, and we have great momentum to build on in Washington.

Diversity has become a frequent conversation among ACA members. It seems providential that ACA elected its first female president this year. Do you think more women and minorities will aspire to leadership positions in the coming years? 

ACA is becoming a more diverse organization, which is an important reflection of increasing diversification in both the chiropractic profession and the communities we serve. Yes, we will absolutely see gifted individuals from across genders and minority groups move into leadership positions in the years to come. My advice stems from an important lesson I learned from our NextGen members: There aren’t female leaders, or black leaders, or gay leaders. They are leaders, without qualifiers. My advice is not to feel constrained by a label, and to know you have experienced advocates in your corner whose best legacy is to support those aspirations in others.

You are also the first SACA national chair to rise to ACA president. What has the journey in between taught you about leadership, and specifically about leading at ACA?

SACA provides an amazing opportunity for leadership development. My experiences in SACA taught me the value of teamwork, humility, and robust professional networks. I am in this position thanks to a long list of ACA and SACA colleagues who made—and still make—me a better leader.

What do view as the two most pressing challenges facing ACA at this time?

We often find ourselves playing both offense and defense at the same time. Parity of access and payment is a pressing challenge for many of our members, and ACA continues to defend the profession in this regard. But ACA also has a strong offensive plan. We are anticipating the changes that lie ahead in a dynamic healthcare marketplace, and we are positioning chiropractic for success well into the future.

Has governing during the pandemic taught you anything special? If so, what?

I’ve certainly learned a lot about change management! This year has been a good reminder of how special our community is. Our members served their communities in new ways, adapted their practices, supported one another, and remained committed to ACA. Our members have risen to the challenges of the past year in remarkable ways.

What message would you like to share with ACA members?

Chiropractic’s value proposition has never been stronger. Between the burden of back pain and lifestyle diseases, the aging population, and an opioid abuse epidemic which has worsened during the COVID pandemic, we are well positioned to be “at the table” with evidence informed, patient-centered solutions. I am incredibly proud to be leading an organization of members who do so much to elevate the health and wellness of their communities. You are truly hands-down better.