EB: What do you see as the main goal of SGIM’s Philanthropy Committee?
WT: The main goal of the committee is to instill a culture of giving among members who value what the organization has contributed to their careers and to the mission of cultivating innovative educators, researchers, and clinicians in academic general internal medicine, leading the way to better health for everyone.1 The committee pursues this goal through the “Forging Our Future” program that was launched in November 2020.
EB: Why did you agree to serve as the Chair of the Philanthropy Committee at this stage in your career?
WT: In 2000, right after becoming Chief of the Division of General Internal Medicine and Geriatrics at Indiana University, I was diagnosed with stage 3 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma with only a 50 percent chance of survival. I got pretty down in the dumps, and then my e-mail exploded with messages of support and comfort, mostly from my SGIM friends from all over the country. This went an enormous way to raising my spirits and getting me through the mental anguish of having a life-threatening disease. Not only did SGIM provide me with close friends I would never have known otherwise, it gave me opportunities for leadership and connections to successful people in my field that allowed me to grow as a leader. I’m convinced that without SGIM and its professional development programs and opportunities, I might not have become a department chair and an associate dean. Such programs allow us to meet and interact with new friends and colleagues and develop our professional and leadership roles. They are value-added but often can’t be supported by SGIM’s dues and meeting fees, which serve mainly to keep SGIM running with its many committees, commissions, and interest groups. Developing and scaling new initiatives takes philanthropic giving beyond dues and fees. Even amounts as small as $10-25 per person make an enormous difference if most of SGIM’s members contribute. I accepted the opportunity to succeed my dear friend Martha Gerrity as the Chair of the Philanthropy Committee because I saw it as a great way to give back to the organization that did so much for me.
EB: What are your specific objectives for the Philanthropy Committee in the coming year?
WT: My specific objectives for the “Forging Our Future” program in fiscal year 2022-23 are to raise a total of $250,000 in donations and pledges by the end of the year, to increase the rate of participation in the “Forging Our Future” program to at least 10 percent of members, and to recruit at least four more members to join SGIM’s Legacy Circle for those who have made a commitment to a bequest or planned giving.
EB: Why is it important to support the “Forging Our Future” program?
WT: Professional organizations like SGIM succeed only through the generous contributions of their members’ time, energy, talents, and resources. Donations help SGIM expand initiatives, doing for our more junior members what SGIM has done for you and me—promoting our careers in ways that have been challenging, rewarding, and impactful. Indeed, the funds raised by the “Forging Our Future” program last year enabled SGIM to invest in a new platform to facilitate mentoring activities beyond SGIM’s Annual Meeting, double the number of participants in the Unified Leadership Training for Diversity (UNLTD) Program, increase the number of complimentary memberships for first-year general internal medicine fellows, and increase the number of scholarships for medical students and residents to attend the Annual Meeting. I hope members will consider an annual donation of any amount to allow SGIM to continue helping its members, especially its more junior members, to advance their careers in general internal medicine. I look forward to having more members join me in thinking of SGIM as part of their legacy.