It is with gratitude to the members and a sense of great responsibility to the organization that I now serve as president of the Association of Chiefs and Leaders in General Internal Medicine (ACLGIM). I am stepping into a role that has been ably and admirably filled by great leaders in general internal medicine over the past 21 years. I’m writing this article as COVID-19 rages all around us and calls upon us to lead in ways we could not have imagined a few months ago. I cherish the opportunity to learn from others in ACLGIM about how they are approaching this crisis with courage, creativity, patient centeredness, and grit—all the characteristics that define general internist leaders. I’m looking forward to continuing to share what we’re learning and to supporting each other.
ACLGIM is an organization that has sometimes struggled to fully articulate its value to established and particularly to emerging leaders. Yet many of us keep coming back year-after-year for the Summit and the Hess Institute and the connections that we reach out to periodically between meetings to help us with our day-to-day questions and responsibilities. As a result, we continue to grow as a group, extending our welcome to leaders defined broadly. So, we must be doing something right.
As I’ve contemplated the coming year, I’ve had a chance to reflect more on what ACLGIM has meant to me over the years. I’m not sure I should confess this to the membership, but I joined before the “L” was added a few years ago—and before, I was actually a chief of a division. Possibly in violation of the rules. Michael Barry, one of the great leaders and mentors in GIM, graciously invited me to attend a Summit shortly after I arrived at the MGH to develop the Inpatient Clinician Educator Service. I was leading a group of three at the time with the intent to expand the group to eight. I asked Michael if he was sure I would be allowed at the meeting (I was far from being a division chief). And he reassured, “It will be fine. You’ll attend as my guest and I’ll introduce you to folks.” Michael had a conflict arise at the last minute and couldn’t attend but assured me that it would still be fine. And I showed up by myself, sat in the back of the room, battled a bit of the imposter syndrome being in a room of luminaries in our field, and somehow managed to make a few connections—and learned a lot about leadership. More than enough to want to return the next year and the next year and the next year. And I kept sneaking in until the “L” made my attendance legitimate.
I hope we’ll each channel the Michael Barry approach to mentorship and think about leaders in our divisions who would benefit from joining ACLGIM. And nudge those emerging leaders to join us for the Summit and stay with us for the camaraderie and shared wisdom of a great organization.