EB: What did the Program Committee see as the biggest challenges in planning our first in-person meeting in 3 years?
MT/NR: When the Program Committee first met, we had to decide whether the meeting should be conducted virtually or in person. At that time, it was unclear how much longer the COVID-19 pandemic was going to last despite optimism about the availability of vaccinations. Although SGIM had converted its Annual Meeting to a virtual format in 2020 and 2021, the Program Committee and SGIM’s Council felt that members were longing for an in-person national meeting. We therefore decided to plan for the meeting to be held in person in Orlando, Florida. Once we were in the midst of the subsequent unpredictable summer and winter COVID-19 surges, contract commitments and safety concerns guided our path forward.
The Council and Program Committee also had to decide whether to include opportunities for virtual participation in the meeting. Many people expressed interest in having a “hybrid” meeting, but hybrid meetings can be very complicated and expensive to pull off successfully. Given the constraints, we decided to go all in on having an in-person meeting with plans for asynchronous content to be delivered after the meeting on the new learning management system, GIMLearn.
Once that decision was made, we had to establish policies and procedures for minimizing the risk of attending the meeting. Working with the Council, we settled on a policy requiring attendees to provide proof of vaccination (including a booster) and to agree to follow masking and social distancing precautions at the meeting.1 We also asked attendees to notify SGIM’s Deputy CEO if they were diagnosed with COVID-19 within a week after the meeting so that we could be transparent with members about the number of attendees who tested positive, while keeping the information confidential. Twenty-two people ended up reporting a positive test within a week after the meeting. Each person with a positive test confirmed that they notified anyone with whom they had close contact. No one reported being seriously ill. SGIM will use this information to guide decisions about future meetings.
EB: What were the most successful aspects of the 2022 Annual Meeting?
MT/NR: The most gratifying aspect of the meeting was seeing members reconnect with each other. We offered attendees a choice of green, yellow, and red badge-holder ribbons, with the idea that green would signal a willingness to give or receive a hug, red would signal a desire to maintain social distancing, and yellow would signal something in between. The vast majority of the 2,058 people who attended the meeting chose the green ribbons. The most frequent feedback we received from attendees related to how much they enjoyed seeing colleagues in person. Clearly, members had missed the in-person networking that has been one of the greatest strengths of SGIM’s meetings.
The meeting was very successful in many other ways. The plenary speakers were superb in addressing the meeting’s theme of “Dimensions of a Generalist Career: Discovery, Equity, and Impact,” including our President, Monica Lypson, MD, MHPE, as well as Carlos del Rio, MD (Executive Associate Dean for Emory at Grady Health System), Deborah Prothrow-Stith, MD (Dean and Professor of the Charles R. Drew University College of Medicine), and Gbenga Ogedegbe, MD, MPH (Director of the Institute for Excellence in Health Equity at NYU Langone Health). We had a wonderful series of sessions led by Distinguished Professors in Health Equity (Tracie Collins, MD, MHCDS, MPH), Hospital Medicine (Vineet Arora, MD, MAPP), Geriatrics (Eliseo J. Perez-Stable, MD), and Women and Medicine (Amy S. Gottlieb, MD, FACP). We also had an engaging trivia contest for teams of medical residents, an entertaining podcast on clinical pearls led by the Curbsiders, and a lively podcast on anti-racism in medicine led by the Clinical Problem Solvers.2 Networking was enhanced by mentoring panels and interest group meetings. Of course, we also had great learning opportunities in the special symposia, oral abstract presentations, poster presentations, workshops, and updates in clinical medicine, education, and research. For those who missed the meeting or could not attend all the sessions they were interested in, we are making 36 of the most popular sessions available on GIMLearn.3
EB: What are the most important lessons learned from the Annual Meeting?
MT/NR: The pervasive buzz of enthusiasm throughout the meeting reinforced how much members love the networking that occurs at the Annual Meeting. We must continue to design meetings that feed that strong desire for networking.
We also were reminded of how important the Annual Meeting is in inspiring and energizing members who share our commitment to the mission of cultivating innovative educators, researchers, and clinicians in academic general internal medicine, leading the way to better health for everyone. That inspiration is particularly important at a time when our core values are threatened by many external forces. Our members have helped move the Society forward, cultivating sustainability efforts and continuous learning to keep us close knit year-round.
Finally, planning for a meeting during uncertain times reminded us about the need to be flexible and nimble as individuals and as a Society. The passage of HB 1557, colloquially known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law, stimulated discussion about how our Society can best advocate for equitable treatment for our colleagues and patients and support the local community. With the Council’s support, and in collaboration with the Health Policy Committee who led engagement with local community partners, the Program Committee provided an opportunity for attendees to participate in a photo op and demonstration at the meeting venue to show solidarity with the LGBTQ community and raise awareness about the potential for negative health and societal impacts of this legislation. The event, and the resulting national news coverage, was consistent with the emphasis on equity and impact within the 2022 Annual Meeting theme.4 This was not the first time SGIM members have organized events to shed light on local policy issues during an Annual Meeting, and likely will not be the last.
Disclosures: Dr. Redmond contributed to this article in her capacity as Co-Chair of the SGIM 2022 Annual Meeting Program Committee. The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the National Institutes of Health, or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.