A few days ago, I had the pleasure of attending my organization’s celebration of Diwali, which was being held in-person for the first time in three years. The best part of the day was being invited toward the stage and participating in the Bollywood dance line. Like many of us, so much of my time is spent focusing on tasks related to improving our clinical processes that I rarely have the opportunity to celebrate with colleagues the things for which we should feel fortunate. The Diwali celebration allowed me the opportunity to engage with a sizable community of our health system’s physicians. I also had the privilege of being able to speak during the celebration and do something infrequently done by health system leaders—I was able to directly express my appreciation. I have come to understand Diwali as a celebration of good overcoming evil and a recognition of light overcoming darkness.1 I fully appreciate the contributions my extraordinary colleagues have made toward overcoming many of the ills that have plagued the community we serve. Throughout the pandemic, our ambulatory and hospitalist physicians substantively stepped up, modified their usual scope of work, and jumped feet forward into doing what was necessary to promote patients’ well-being. I felt compelled to make sure that each doctor in that audience understood my belief that they were part of the light that helped us overcome dark times. By the time this issue Forum publishes, the celebration of Diwali will have passed. However, as I reflect on the purpose of the internationally celebrated holiday, I am compelled to continue to discuss those things that are good and to focus on the positive.1
I have several positive things to report about my experiences this year in SGIM. Since becoming SGIM president, I have been able to meet regularly with a diverse group of our members. I have had meetings with leaders in medical education and clinical research as part of our SGIM Council. I have also taken the opportunity to interact with trainees and SGIM members at regional meetings and have had a few meetings with past presidents of both SGIM and ACLGIM. With each conversation, I’ve been impressed by our mutual desire to strengthen the society’s effectiveness in advancing the careers of academic general internal medicine physicians and in advocating for equitable care and health outcomes for the patients we serve.
One of the good things I’ve experienced as president occurred as a result of a SGIM member traveling to meet individually with me during the New England regional meeting. During this one-on-one meeting, he clearly articulated the concerns I’ve heard from several of our members about future annual meetings being held in states where local policies are counter to our stated vision. During that discussion, we took the time to brainstorm ways in which SGIM members and leaders can work together to balance the need to avoid tacitly supporting health policy that restricts physician autonomy (e.g., restriction of gender affirming care and abortion rights) while supporting colleagues who live within these states who desire to have our continued presence and the academic and advocacy opportunities the SGIM annual meetings can bring. After reflecting on that conversation and the many individual emails I’ve received from faculty in many states, it is clear our members are seeking transparency as to how organizational decisions are made and feel that clarity about our processes is as important as the decisions themselves. As a result, SGIM council revised our process for selection of future meeting sites, developed a new statement on site selection, and is in the process of developing methods to disseminate our statement more easily to SGIM members.
Another wonderful thing I’ve experienced is the work of the #SGIM23 program committee. This year’s committee is comprised of a diverse array of our members working to provide meaningful advocacy opportunities for SGIM members to work with local agencies in Colorado with a focus on housing stability. Clearly, one recurrent theme from my discussions about meetings has been the desire to more proactively work at local levels to discover ways in which members can advocate to improve human health. The work of the #SGIM23 program committee may represent a great model for work to be done for future annual and regional meetings, regardless of where they are held. The consistent desire to take initiative and develop strategies to strengthen the ways in which SGIM can support our population-oriented mission is a great demonstration of how members can drive organizational change and help to lead SGIM initiatives.
My conversations have also provided encouragement through the support I’ve gained to enlist past SGIM leaders to engage. Long tenured SGIM members frequently ask for ways to contribute to our organization, provide ideas for growing membership, and bring attention to the changing landscape of academic medicine with the goal of assuring that SGIM is prepared to continue to be a valuable resource for internal medicine faculty across the country. In speaking with our past-presidents, many are volunteering their time to participate in sessions at our next annual meeting and are looking for ways to engage with mid-career faculty to provide mentoring. During #SGIM23, we plan to include past presidents in discussions on the ways our organization can support SGIM members who live in states with laws that our counter to our mission. Further, we are soliciting participation of past-presidents to participate in mid-career mentoring and coaching opportunities to address a desire expressed by our members to obtain guidance from senior colleagues throughout their academic careers.
Last, I’d like to take this opportunity to further encourage participation in our #SGIM23 meeting in Aurora, Colorado. I am excited about the program committee’s progress. In addition to the efforts described, the committee has secured internationally renowned experts in medical education, clinical research, and environmental and public health as keynote speakers. Beyond the exceptional content developing, there is another reason I’m excited about the meeting. As I think forward to #SGIM23, I’m excited about the opportunity to see 3,000 members in person again! Spending time with my professional colleagues at meetings has been one reason that SGIM has always felt like my professional home.