Those words hung in the air over the video call. It’s not like I wasn’t expecting it; I knew it was coming, having been part of SGIM’s COVID-19 response team that had met daily for the past two weeks. The night before, the CDC had banned group meetings of more than 50 people. Birmingham, Alabama, wasn’t allowing groups of more than 100 to meet. It had become impossible for SGIM20 to continue as planned. But still, I wasn’t expecting it when it had finally come down.
You might not know how much SGIM staff looks forward to the annual meeting every year. This would have been my 13th meeting (I made it to Toronto in 2007 even though I was hugely pregnant and stuck on a scooter, but I missed Minneapolis after the birth of our second son). Over the 14 years I’ve been director of communications at SGIM, I have come to know many of our members quite well. I think of some of you like extended family. Seeing you every year renews my joy in working at SGIM and reminds me why I have chosen a career in association work. Like you, I believe in the mission of our professional home. Like you, I am invigorated by the networking and personal connections that happen at an annual meeting; I come home from the meeting simultaneously exhausted and excited to start on new projects. And now, like some of you, I wonder, “How does SGIM continue in this new atmosphere? How does our organization stay relevant amid so much fear and worry—for your patients, for my children, for all of the people we love? What happens to us now?”
This extra issue of Forum, the brainchild of our wonderful outgoing Editor-in-Chief Joseph Conigliaro, focuses on some of the answers to these questions. Over the 43 years of Forum, it is the first time we are running a special issue—which should indicate the importance of this publication. We wanted to give members the opportunity to talk about concerns and issues around COVID however they see fit—through reflections, poetry, photos, Twitter chats, and scientific study. We wished to provide an atmosphere where people could listen to each other and make connections through the written word. And we hoped to help members understand that SGIM is still about community, even when we aren’t physically connected.
I’ve seen this community on every video call I’ve been on since mid-March. When I meet with SGIM committees, project teams, or our thrice-weekly staff meetings we all start the same way, “How are you? How are you coping? Tell me something good that’s happening, something you’re looking forward to, or something that you need to get of your chest.” I’ve seen volunteers and staff go out of their way to provide connection, comfort, and solidarity to each other. I’ve cried listening to stories from you and worried about you having to go into the hospital or clinic without enough PPE. And I have never been prouder of you and of my colleagues on staff at the national office. SGIM is our home.
SGIM and its members are resilient and will come out of this crisis stronger than ever. We’ll continue to help you foster connections with one another as COVID continues and beyond. We’ll be bringing you some virtual content from the 2020 annual meeting soon and our committees and commissions are already planning their work and projects for the coming year. The work of SGIM continues unabated. We are family, and we will always stand together.
I’m looking forward to seeing you in Boston, Massachusetts, at SGIM2021!