The last President’s column has traditionally been one of reflection—on what has transpired during the presidency year and on hopes for the future. As I consider this past year during which it has been my pleasure and honor to serve as your president, my first thought is that I can’t believe that it has been a year already. Without the usual cadence of our professional lives, I, like many, have lost track of time. I think back to when Dr. Tom Gallagher first called me on a Friday morning in early January 2019 to ask if I would consider running for SGIM president. I clearly remember where I was when Tom called—in the mountains taking our nephews to ski lessons. It was a beautiful winter day, filled with blue skies and sunshine. Remembering back to that day, and the ensuing weekend where I contemplated whether or not to accept the nomination and reviewed the statement that I included in my nomination packet, it struck me that what I felt and said then is even more strongly reinforced now, as I close out my year as your president. I wrote the following:
“….In this rapidly changing environment, there are distinct opportunities for general internal medicine, which has always led the way for whole person care. Academic general internists have what our institutions and the broader health and health care environment needs. Care across the continuum? Check. Social determinants of health? Check. Population health? Check. Use of evidence to inform high value health care and related policy? Check. Integrating learners with the quality, safety, and value goals of the institution? Check. Innovative approaches to care delivery? Check. Team-based care? Check. Underserved populations, health disparities and advocacy? Check.”
These attributes have been even more evident as SGIM, and each of you, have led through the unprecedented events of this past year.
Dr. Giselle Corbie-Smith, in her last President’s Column in April 2019, talked about the work done during her year to “to clarify our vision, refocus our mission, better understand our organization’s capacity, and identify how we may capitalize on our collective strengths.”1 She described it as “…a time of active reflection, planning, and gearing up for forward momentum.”1 Specifically, during Dr. Corbie-Smith’s presidency, SGIM clarified its vision, mission, and values and underwent a strategic planning process, articulating four broad organizational goals and strategic priorities:
- fostering the development of future leaders in academic general internal medicine;
- catalyzing and disseminating innovations and scholarship in high-value, evidence-based, person-centered, population-oriented approaches to improving health;
- advocating for our vision of a just health system that brings optimal health for all people; and
- ensuring organizational health and a thriving SGIM staff.
SGIM also developed a set of metrics and targets by which to judge our progress toward meeting these goals.
As I entered my president-elect year in 2019, it was clear that this work had created a strong foundation upon which SGIM could move forward.
During Dr. Karen DeSalvo’s presidency year, not only did she focus SGIM on the theme of social determinants of health but also advance the rejuvenated organizational goals and strategic priorities that resulted from the just-completed strategic planning. As Dr. DeSalvo described in her first column as SGIM President in May 2019, in addition to focusing on social determinants of health, SGIM would carry forward the developmental work by: building Web site functionality, defining metrics and targets for the organizational goals and strategic priorities, further strengthening SGIM’s financial standing, encouraging cross-cutting efforts, enhancing career development efforts, and augmenting partnerships where we have mission alignment.2 In her last President’s Column in April 2020, Dr. DeSalvo noted the following:
“The reality is that some of the successes we achieved this year have been years in the making….SGIM presidents also strive to see that the members, staff, and our key partners see continuity year over year in our strategy, major organizational priorities, and work effort. This means respecting the work that was started in prior years and ensuring that we follow through. It also means seeking to minimize distractions from the many competing priorities and issues that daily come through the inbox of SGIM leadership. We are constantly working to find balance in maintaining a focus on core priorities that can be achieved within our resources against the issues and new opportunities that arise every day.”3
It is on this solid foundation that I assumed the SGIM presidency one year ago, just as the COVID-19 pandemic was gathering steam and defining our lives, as individuals and as an organization. If not for the thoughtful planning that was achieved during Dr. Corbie-Smith’s presidency which was expanded upon and operationalized during Dr. DeSalvo’s presidency, I don’t think that SGIM would have weathered this turbulent year as well as it has. It is due to this strong foundation, exceptional SGIM staff, and volunteer engagement and leadership and the commitment of each of you that SGIM has had such a remarkable year. To be fully transparent, there have been rocky moments—as we realized the financial impact of loss of income from in-person annual meetings—and also incredible achievements and accomplishments. I am confident that SGIM has continued advancement of the four organizational goals and strategic priorities set forth in 2019 as well as the challenge that we issued to ourselves and the broader community related to social determinants of health.4 If anything, as I said in my first President’s column in May 2020, “We are well suited to be at the forefront of addressing the complex clinical, social, political, educational, and research aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”5 At that time, I also wrote, “I’d hate for us to get so caught up in solving the immediate problems that we lose sight of the priorities that we have identified as a field, as an organization, and as individuals. We must simultaneously solve the immediate problems in front of us and look to the future while staying true to our fundamental values.”5
I am confident SGIM has excelled over the past year in advancing these goals, further cementing general internists and SGIM as leaders in addressing the complex issues that we are facing now and in the future. I close out my president year with deep gratitude to the SGIM staff, the volunteer leadership at all levels, and to each of you for keeping us moving forward in our mission of cultivating innovative educators, researchers, and clinicians in academic general internal medicine, leading the way to better health for everyone. Each and every one of you is a leader. And, with your engagement, we will achieve our shared vision of a just system of care in which all people can achieve optimal health.