Up Front: Strengthening Our Foundational Initiatives

Photo of Gina Ross Murdoch
Gina Ross Murdoch

By Gina Ross Murdoch
MSAA President and CEO

At the conclusion of each fiscal year, we reflect on the past 12 months in terms of MSAA’s positive impact on the MS community, ways in which we made a difference, and how we can improve on these achievements in the upcoming year. Looking back at our last fiscal year, covering July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021, we were still deep in the pandemic at the start of the year – without a real sense of when vaccines were going to become available – and our view of the future was unclear. We continued to face a myriad of challenges, but saw signs that some light was starting to shine through.

Despite the positive steps that have taken place, we acknowledge that our world still struggles with health inequities, social injustice, economic hardships, and profound loss. The MS community has been, and continues to be, impacted by these difficult forces. However, we have not lost hope for an end to the pandemic and look for resolutions to the many issues the MS community faces.

As we have done since the beginning of the pandemic, MSAA continued our dual efforts of focusing on our core programs and evolving into new ways of living our mission. Over the years, MSAA has built a strong foundation of partnerships throughout the MS community. In these challenging times, that foundation served as a launchpad to new collaborations and increased support for mental health and wellness awareness programs, MRI funding assistance, and outreach to underserved MS communities, just to name a few areas. We are proud that MSAA has not reduced or eliminated any of the vital and free programs the MS community depends on each and every day.

This fiscal year saw such innovations as our first virtual “Together at Home” Improving Lives Benefit, the launch of the COVID-19 and MS Pathfinder digital tool as well as a series of webinars on COVID-19 and MS, the initiation of our “Improving Lives Through Art” series, and the conclusion of our 50th Anniversary social media campaign. In addition, we had staff representation on critical advisory boards focused on health equities, an MS Awareness Month dedicated to Improving Mental Health and Wellness, as well as an Instagram “takeover” by actress and MS community member Selma Blair.

This strengthening of foundational initiatives and the expansion of new collaborations formed the basis of our updated strategic plan covering 2021, 2022, and into 2023. The plan encompasses findings from our 2018 Needs Assessment, plus feedback from people living with MS, care partners, healthcare providers, staff, MS experts, and MSAA’s Board of Directors. All voices were critical in creating this plan and continue to be vital as we seek to respond to the drastic changes seen in 2020 and 2021 with a transformative plan for the future. You can visit our website at mymsaa.org/strategic to see the updated plan and quarterly progress reports. I encourage you to contact me at president@mymsaa.org with thoughts on this plan, how MSAA can continue Improving Lives Today, and ways in which you may want to get involved in our mission.

As we end this fiscal year and look forward to the next, there is much to be proud of, but also, much still to be done. We need to create new connections as well as build upon current partnerships. We must stay flexible in our approach and firm in our commitment to our mission of Improving Lives Today.

Together, we are charting the next chapter of support, information, innovation, care, and education for all impacted by multiple sclerosis. Thank you to all who have been part of our past, and welcome to all who will join us for our future.

Gina Ross Murdoch is a seasoned executive in non-profit management. Her career includes leadership positions with chapters of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society as well as the American Diabetes Association. Earlier, she spent 14 years overseeing development activities at a large chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, leading explosive growth initiatives and ground-breaking strategic projects. An active member of the community, Ms. Murdoch has held several town positions and volunteers for her college alma mater, Drew University.

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