The only thing for certain is change….This statement has never been truer than during the past year which has been filled with so much change for all of us. For several weeks, the anticipated change of entering into the SGIM president-elect position came with thoughts of traveling to Birmingham, greeting old friends, establishing new relationships, and planning an enriching year with Jean Kutner with whom I have served before on Council. We were looking forward to transformational meeting focused on Social Determinants developed with Karen DeSalvo’s guidance. Little did we know that the 2020 program committee’s focus on “Just Care: Addressing Social Determinants of Health for Better Care” would be the wind that we would need to get through three-quarters of 2020.
For internists, 2020 was filled with waves of uncertainty and disbelief and 2021 continues to be a surreal experience. As hospitalists, we continue to maintain compassion, become experts in just-in-time clinical application, and protect ourselves and our families from exposure to the SARS-CoV2 virus. As leaders in health services research and systems science, at times our work was paused and at other times we were asked to speak to the public, explain our findings, and translate our decades of expertise into more digestible sound bites that would improve the policies enacted to care for our patients.
As parents in medicine we have struggled daily with the needs of our families and our patients and we realize there is no single perfect solution.1 As women in medicine, we have banded together to understand the impact of the pandemic on our own lives, those of our families and academic medicine in general. More importantly, not just for those of us in academic internal medicine but for women in general. Members should continue look out for upcoming webinars, especially from the Women and Medicine Commission.2
As dedicated health policy advocates, we continue to put our values as the north star and vigorously promote policies that cultivate fair reimbursement and expand resources for health services research and health professions training.3 As leaders and members of ACLGIM, we must continue to guide our divisions, departments, teams and colleagues through this period of great uncertainty while maintaining the hope that keeps us all going. Consider joining ACLGIM, to participate in excellent monthly sessions.4
As educators, we confronted the reality of virtual learning to ensure our patients’ optimal care by the next generation of healthcare providers. This month, follow up with members of the Education Committee to hear about their work on anti-racism in medical education.5
As clinical managers, we have created new systems of care using technology when possible but emphasized to our healthcare systems that many of our patients are left without optimal healthcare options in that transformation. This month, check out the Health Policy and Clinical Practice Committees’ continued advocacy on payment reform.3
We all witnessed the ways in which the pandemic brought historical frameworks that ensured injustice to the forefront. In response, our members banded together to ensure justice in their local, regional, and national environments. Our Board of Regional Leaders partnered with virtual learning experts to deliver high-quality content across SGIM regions. Our members committed to health equity, taking the work they had been doing for decades—most of which was the brainchild of former SGIM President JudyAnn Bigby and the Disparities Taskforce (now the Health Equity Commission)—to the boardroom, Twitterverse, and newsroom to highlight the ravishes of COVID-19 on the communities this organization is committed to serve. Consider joining the Heath Equity Commissions seminar series, for which the next planned sessions are advertised online when available for registration.6
As members of this organization, we are identifying unique ways for community building which is typically done at our annual meeting. It is a time when we gather as a group, nourish ourselves for the year ahead, and create a clear collaborative vision, lasting connections, research agendas, and fellowship. When we missed out on that opportunity in May 2020, not only did we lose out on the human need to socialize and create but also our organization had its financial vulnerability exposed. Again, we had to uphold our values and principles and move forward.
It was only two years ago or so, when then President Giselle Corbie-Smith, CEO Eric Bass, and Deputy CEO Kay Ovington worked to provide structural stability to our organization and to the work of commissions and committees—little did they know that their systematic approach to stabilization would soon be tested. This community is committed to SGIM, as seen through the lens of the initial success of the new Philanthropy Committee. Again, as we were challenged with the winds of change and financial hardship, SGIM focused on our values, those of staff engagement, the needs of our membership, diversity, equity, and inclusion to lead the way for the upcoming year.
As a sign of the Society’s resilience, our main vehicles of dissemination remain robust. SGIM’s eNews continues to keep us all abreast of the latest happenings. The transition to a new Forum Editor was seamless despite the necessity of an all virtual handoff. The Journal of General Internal Medicine, undaunted by the influx of submissions, continues to provide our community and those beyond with state of the art trustworthy research. Rita Lee and Yael Schenker used this energy to ensure we had a robust learning and collaborative environment for the annual meeting, “Transforming Values into Action.” This meeting refreshed our commitment as leaders to effect positive change.
In looking ahead toward the upcoming year in this headwind of change, I have given much thought to what it takes to go outside. I hail from the “Windy City,” and in that part of the world, it takes preparation, fortitude, and support. For preparation, I will continue to reach out to the members, and use the most important skill a general internist has, active listening, as I approach my year as president. The answers to many questions will be in SGIM webinars, commission, committee, and council meetings. It is fortitude that keeps me focused and resolute on the SGIM vision, “A just system of care in which all people can achieve optimal health.” Every act for me as President will be focused on leading the organization in this direction. And finally support—the support is articulated in our mission, “cultivating innovative educators, researchers, and clinicians in academic general internal medicine, leading the way to better health for everyone.”
It is the members, in critical collaborations with the SGIM staff, that make SGIM go….so grab your hat, adjust your coat…the Winds of Change are ongoing.