Who could have imaged that attending a “strange” meeting in Chicago in 1998 as a second-year primary care resident would spark my lifetime commitment to SGIM and my ethos as a generalist in internal medicine? Thinking back on this meeting, I remember looking forward to several days of intellectual curiosity and more importantly a “free” trip to my hometown where I could see my family. Somehow over the years, I have always reconnected to SGIM as it is where I found near-peer mentors, many of whom looked like me and could guide me in the potential and real dangers of navigating a career in general internal medicine. SGIM has always been a nesting place for me and others to develop their full professional identity as an academic generalist. SGIM is also a place where I discovered a diverse cadre of colleagues and allies who were also interested in, and more importantly committed to, systemic changes to garner equity in health care.
The fond recollection of my long SGIM membership must acknowledge the realities of the organization during this same time period. If I poke the memories a bit, I can also recall several struggles SGIM faced—for example, the annual battle to ensure that the Minority in Medicine Faculty Development Precourse was held and the reoccurring defense of the contribution of the Minorities in Medicine Interest Group. Not to mention the organization’s debate on whether to maintain or disband the Disparities Task-Force. I also recall the scars created when the decision was made to hold the annual meeting in Arizona despite the enactment of SB 1070, Arizona’s anti-immigrant law (criminalizing many daily interactions with penalties for undocumented immigrants).
SGIM’s mission is to cultivate innovative educators, researchers, and clinicians in academic general internal medicine, leading the way to better health for everyone.1 For us to remain true to this mission, we must take a careful and close look at ourselves to determine how we ensure “all” of our members are on the path to a sustained and fulfilled career that leads to “better health for everyone.” One of the ways in which our organization is making progress toward this aim is by confronting the dual epidemics of COVID-19 and racism. Under the leadership of Jean Kutner and the loving provocation of our devoted staff member Ms. Muna Futur, SGIM revisited our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) beyond our statements of support. With Council endorsement, they assembled a DEI workgroup charged with crafting a formal statement and plan of action.2 The Council DEI workgroup, led by Eleanor “Bimla” Schwarz, with representation from the Health Equity Commission and the Women and Medicine Commission, developed the recommendations (see Table).
Early in this process, the Council noted that SGIM needed to keep these issues top of mind to make progress on these recommendations as they are our fiduciary and generative responsibility. Given the diverse nature of our attention, they felt SGIM needed to keep our progress on these issues top of mind as to not to fall into complacency, as outlined by Dr. Deborah Plummer, former vice chancellor and professor at University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) outline a similar path forward. In her article, ”Leading in the Post-Floyd Era, The Cost of Doing Nothing About Race in the Workplace,” she cautions about staying stagnate in our leadership in regards to race and notes that making real progress in the workplace means: 1) avoiding the overreliance on hard data, 2) focusing on strategy talk not advocacy talk, 3) leading with authority, rather than power, and 4) making quality decisions, in this work to enhance our DEI focus.4 For SGIM, this means paying attention to how our members feel and how we as an organization consider issues of “belonging,” not attempting to make everyone assimilate into our cultures, traditions, or mores. Although we are a small organization with national credibility, we must be quality exemplars, not just good enough, in our focus on DEI and anti-racist initiatives.
The workgroup also recommended Council oversight of these activities. To achieve this, the immediate SGIM Past-President, who is a member of the Council, will chair a workgroup to review and monitor progress on DEI goals and make recommendations for areas of focus and resources that are needed to ensure timely progression.2
The Council has also charged an additional workgroup, led by Council member, Rita Lee, to 1) review Committee and Commissions annual plans in relation to anti-racism, 2) ensure collaboration and advocacy for needed resources, and 3) provide recommendations on anti-racism strategies needed to guide SGIM’s research, education, clinical practice, and advocacy activities within the organization.
With these two workgroups, Council support, and feedback from our members, SGIM aims to make quality decisions in our next steps to ensuring our commitment to a “Just System of Care” by remaining an anti-racist organization focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion.
SGIM Executive Committee DEI Workgroup Recommendations
Data Tracking & Assessment
- Collect & share data on race/ethnicity and other characteristics of SGIM membership that we want to track to assess progress toward goals.
- Aim for transparency & standardization in existing processes for
nominating and selecting leaders and making awards.
- Use past external reviews of our organizational culture as a reference
for assessing progress toward achieving DEI goals.
- Conduct an annual assessment of progress achieved with diversity,
equity, and inclusion efforts using a validated instrument that could be integrated into a dashboard metric. (Long-term goal after at least one
calendar year of strategic DEI efforts). Think about how to measure so that we can determine what is needed to measure in the long-term.
- Identify a Council member responsible for ensuring overall progress
toward achieving DEI goals.
Setting Policy & Communicating to Members
- Share DEI policies created at the national level with all regional leaders, committees, and commissions.
- Share with entire membership the external partnerships SGIM has committed to developing and maintaining and summarize the results
of these collaborations.
- Formalize and disseminate a professional code of conduct for SGIM members clarifying shared expectations for a commitment to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in SGIM activities.
- Create an anti-racism strategy to guide SGIM’s research, education, clinical practice, and advocacy activities within the organization.
- Create mechanisms where members can donate funds to specific activities within the organization that support minorities underrepresented in medicine & members or health equity or social justice/advocacy focused initiatives.
- Enhance the involvement of minorities underrepresented in medicine in the JGIM and SGIM Forum editorial teams.
- Capitalize on opportunities created through our career development programs, leadership training, and leadership clusters to produce leaders underrepresented in medicine and identify leadership opportunities beneficial to those participants and/or our organization.
- Establish or strengthen partnerships with leaders, organizations, and institutions who have historically defended and supported anti-racism actions while sharing values core to the mission of SGIM at the national, regional, and local levels.3