Why is “Transforming Values into Action” the theme of our 2021 Annual Meeting? Leadership is core to SGIM’s mission, vision, and values, and is a common thread across many of SGIM’s offerings and activities. This leadership is not leadership for the purpose of titles—it is leadership to effect positive change. As noted in the “who are we” section of the SGIM Web site: SGIM is a diverse community of talented people in academic general internal medicine who are passionately committed to improving health through research, education, and advocacy.
Compassion is bringing our deepest truth into our actions, no matter how much the world seems to resist, because that is ultimately what we have to give to this world and one another.1
We all have the opportunity to lead both as individuals and as members of communities and organizations. Furthermore, we all have the opportunity to continue to grow and learn in our roles as leaders. It was this realization, and the unique role that general internists play in leading from multiple levels, positions and perspectives, that lead to selection of the 2021 SGIM Annual Meeting theme—Transforming Values into Action. Leadership is not a new theme for SGIM Annual meetings. Recent leadership-related SGIM Annual Meeting themes have included—“Courage to Lead: Equity, Engagement, and Advocacy in Turbulent Times” (2019); “Health IT: Empowering General Internists to Lead Digital Innovation” (2018); and “Celebrating Generalism: Leading Innovation and Change” (2013).
Why is “Transforming Values into Action” the theme of the 2021 Annual Meeting? Leadership is core to SGIM’s mission, vision, and values, and is a common thread across many of SGIM’s offerings and activities. This leadership is not leadership for the purpose of titles—it is leadership to effect positive change. As noted in the “who are we” section of the SGIM Web site, SGIM is a diverse community of talented people in academic general internal medicine who are passionately committed to improving health through research, education, and advocacy.2
It is this focus on action that particularly resonates with me. As a clinician-investigator, I have long said that I did not want to conduct research for the sake of publishing papers. Research has to matter. The research question in the first place, and the findings from the research, has to make a difference to those who are affected by the research findings. One of my favorite things about being a Division Head was being in the position of learning about the passions of faculty, trainees, and students and finding ways to help them thrive and succeed. I often describe my current role as Chief Medical Officer as that of “cultural navigator,” interpreting the worlds of the academic and hospital/health system and identifying and facilitating action to achieve common goals. I am a firm believer that, for the most part, people are well-intentioned and truly trying to do what is best. Even in the most contentious situations, if we can bring the discussion back to “what is best for the patient” (or family or community), we can reach agreement on a path forward.
As leaders, one of our most important roles is to articulate a clear, overarching purpose:
- making it clear how what we are doing contributes to the social good and addresses pressing issues;
- showing how the work at hand contributes to a larger mission; and
- empowering people to solve problems, make suggestions and implement their own ideas.
A leader’s most important job is “to connect the people to their purpose.”3 That said, transforming values into action is not limited to those in titled or formal leadership roles. The actions that we take on a day-to-day basis can be manifestations of our values and those of our communities and institutions. The decisions we make about how and where we spend our time and effort and emotional and intellectual capital should ideally be rooted on our core values. We can all find ways to transform our values into action. To quote Sheryl Sandberg, “Leadership is the expectation that you can use your voice for good. That you can make the world a better place.”4
As the 2021 Annual Meeting Chair and Co-chairs (Drs. Rita Lee and Yael Schenker) and I were ideating potential 2021 meeting themes, we reflected on what we were seeing around us in spring 2020, particularly how people are making connections and creating community in a fragmented, uncertain world, and how everyone is leading in their own way and uniting for the common good. As one SGIM Council member stated, “Our priorities haven’t changed but our environment has.” Drs. Lee and Schenker have assembled the 2021 Annual Meeting Planning Committee and we, along with the SGIM staff, are committed to creating a meaningful learning and community-building experience, even as we face an uncertain future as to the format of the 2021 Annual Meeting. Together, we will stay rooted in our values to enhance our ability to act for good.