April 12, 2020
1. What is SGIM doing to support members who are on the front lines during the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis?
Every day we are inspired by the courage and commitment of SGIM members who are on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Knowing that our members are deeply engaged in directly providing clinical care and leading clinical programs under extraordinary stress, we made it a priority to offer as much support as we can.
First, we are collecting resources to assist members in various aspects of the COVID-19 response and posting them to SGIM’s Web site.1 The link includes resources on patient care, telehealth, hospital and clinical ethics, health equity, and caring for yourself. The site also provides links to resources created by other organizations (including the American College of Physicians, Society of Hospital Medicine, and Society of Critical Care Medicine), information about relevant Webinars and podcasts, and a special section featuring some of our own “Frontliners.” We’ve used our weekly eNews to disseminate information about these resources. These efforts have been coordinated by SGIM staff members Francine Jetton and Julie Machulsky.
Second, we helped to launch a repository of selected clinical guidance materials for the COVID-19 response from academic medical centers. After the idea for the repository was proposed by SGIM members, including Katrina Armstrong, Eileen Reynolds, and Jennifer Haas, we explored how to collaborate with other professional societies in creating and maintaining an easily accessible repository. We were pleased when the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) agreed to host the repository—it went live April 2nd and is accessible online.2 The repository contains up to date COVID-19 treatment and management guidance to help clinicians optimize patient care. The goal is to identify and highlight areas of alignment in clinical guidance, and to make the guidance broadly available to medical centers.
Third, we have used GIM Connect and the ACLGIM network to support conversations about the pandemic. Through such conversations, members have shared resources and experiences while offering valuable support to each other. During this crisis, we want all members to know that they have the full support of the SGIM community that we value so much.
Fourth, we asked the Health Policy Committee (HPC) and our professional lobbyists, CRD Associates, to do as much as possible to advocate for better governmental support for the response to the pandemic. They accepted the charge with fervor. Thanks to their efforts, SGIM has issued letters arguing for better support for critical needs, including personal protective equipment and ventilators, changing regulations to facilitate greater use of telehealth, changing policies that could limit the available healthcare workforce, and protecting health care workers from being punished if they voice concerns about a shortage of personal protective equipment available to them. We also have advocated for increasing federal support for the public health infrastructure and for research on the health care system’s response to the pandemic and new telehealth investments.
Finally, we joined the call to include non-profit organizations in the financial aid bill that became the CARES Act.
In these advocacy efforts, we remain committed to our vision for a just system of care in which all people can achieve optimal health. Our advocacy work has benefited greatly from having an experienced and dedicated HPC with strong leadership, and well-developed relationships with other professional societies. Thanks to Erika Miller at CRD Associates, the HPC team has received detailed daily updates on issues being considered and actions taken by the legislative and executive branches of the federal government, including numerous actions taken by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Although we wish the government had done more sooner, the collective advocacy seemed to help generate more action.
2. What are the financial implications of not having the 2020 Annual Meeting?
SGIM’s national meeting has a central role in the life of the organization, and is our largest source of revenue, accounting for $1.78M in 2019. Thus, it is a huge loss both for SGIM members and for SGIM as an organization to be unable to hold the meeting that was scheduled for May 6-9, 2020. After we determined it was impossible to hold the meeting, we created a simple process for refunding fees to those who had already registered for the meeting. We gave registrants the option to apply their payment as a credit for a future meeting or make it a donation. The vast majority preferred a full refund, which we understand and respect.
Before the Annual Meeting was threatened by the emerging pandemic, we were running ahead of schedule on membership renewals, thanks to new strategies deployed by our Membership Committee, which has been supported by SGIM staff Muna Futur and Marley Dubrow. Not surprisingly, once it became evident that we would be unable to hold the Annual Meeting, membership renewals dropped off. Understanding that many members are fully immersed in the COVID-19 response, we decided to temporarily extend membership benefits for those whose membership lapsed. We want all members to have access to SGIM’s community, communications, and resources during this extraordinarily stressful period. We are encouraging more members to renew their membership by the end of June.
To mitigate the financial loss from being unable to hold the Annual Meeting, we obtained legal advice on how to handle contracts related to the meeting. We applied for a loan from the Paycheck Protection Program established by the CARES Act that can be converted to a grant if we keep our staff working as intended. We decided to proceed with engaging a consulting firm to strengthen SGIM’s capacity for conducting a long-term development strategy. The consulting firm started working in March with a six-month timetable for completing its work in conjunction with the Advancement Planning Task Force we have formed. This work was made possible by a grant from the Hess Foundation. In addition, the Hess Foundation generously offered another $100,000 to help support SGIM during this crisis.
3. What is SGIM doing with the content that was scheduled for presentation at the 2020 Annual Meeting?
SGIM staff, led by Corrine Melissari, Dawn Haglund, and Kay Ovington, is working hard with the Program Committee to implement a plan for offering virtual presentations of selected Annual Meeting content to be made available for asynchronous access. We focused on plenary presentations, special symposia, clinical and other special updates, and abstracts by trainees and junior faculty that were finalists for the Lipkin, Hamolsky, and clinical vignette awards. We sent invitations to the selected presenters, asking whether they will be able to submit a recorded presentation by the end of June. We plan to include a judging process so that we can make the Lipkin, Hamolsky, and clinical vignette awards. We also plan to offer continuing medical education (CME) and maintenance of certification (MOC) credit for the virtual presentations. We anticipate being able to offer 20-30 credits, which is more than what meeting attendees usually apply for. Although there will be a fee to apply for CME and MOC credit, the fee will be discounted for members. We plan to give members free access if they only want to view the presentations.
4. How will SGIM’s annual planning process be different this year?
We have extended the timeline for committees and commissions to submit their plans for this coming year. The SGIM Council recognizes that committees and commissions may want to address new issues raised by the COVID-19 pandemic, but it will be important to balance those interests with non-COVID work that should continue. Therefore, we believe it will be very important to encourage and facilitate good communication between the committee/commission chairs and SGIM’s Council and staff liaisons as the committees and commissions discuss their priorities and plans.
(Please note that in the next issue of the Forum, we will answer questions about planning for the future of SGIM after the pandemic.)