With assistance from the PHA Support Group Leader Training Institute, endowed by United Therapeutics, the Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA) held a regional support group leader training in Dallas on Saturday, Nov. 16. Eleven support group leaders attended, representing nine support groups from Texas, Oklahoma and South Carolina.

This rigorous day of educational and networking activities allowed local leaders to connect, share experiences and learn new information in interactive and fun ways, such as a role-playing exercises in which leaders practiced resolving difficult situations. Participants also discussed crucial aspects of support group meetings, such as respecting confidentiality as well as making attendees feel welcome and supported.

“Even though I’ve been a long-time leader, I learned new and useful information today,” said PHA support group leader Shirley Craig.

Lauri Stanfield, co-leader of the Houston Support Group, added, “I received some great ideas on planning, running the meeting efficiently and interacting with members before the meeting – all wonderful ideas.”

Craig and Stanfield are among the nearly 300 volunteers committed to planning and running meetings for individuals with pulmonary hypertension (PH) and their families across the United States.

Attendees also learned from and supported one another by discussing the challenges and successes of leading support groups, which include:

  • Providing support and connection for people affected by PH, even if it’s a small group.
  • Asking the group members what they would like to learn and seeking their input.
  • Educating patients and caregivers.
  • Learning about PH and new resources from experts and one another.
  • Experiencing the gratitude of meeting attendees.

This unique in-person meeting of leaders allowed long-time volunteers and new volunteers alike a chance to hear about the possibilities and diversity of meeting styles. “I liked the different ways we as leaders deal with meetings. It was nice to get input on all the different ways,” said Estella Medina, leader of the El Paso PHighters PHA Support Group. Adriana Araya, leader of the Flower Mound Support Group, noted the meeting gave her confidence, “The training was very informative and clarified a lot of my doubts.”

If you don’t live close to a support group, PHA can help you connect with other patients, caregivers and health care professionals in your area to determine their interest and partner with you to start a new support group. Bring support to your area now by contacting Abby at Support@PHAssociation.org or completing the volunteer form online at PHAssociation.org/Get-involved/Volunteer.