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SGIM History

The Society of General Internal Medicine is a national medical society of 3,300 physicians who are the primary care internal medical faculty of every medical school and major teaching hospital in the United States. 


SGIM members teach medical students, residents, and fellows how to care for adult patients.  They also conduct research that improves primary care, preventative measures, and treatment services for patients.  The Society of General Internal Medicine (SGIM) has undergone tremendous and rapid growth during its 40 years of existence.  SGIM was founded as the Society for Research and Education in Primary Care Internal Medicine (SREPCIM) in 1978 with the help of a $130,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and an affiliation with the American College of Physicians (ACP).  The original founders wanted to provide a forum for practitioners, teachers, and researchers representing organized programs in primary training and research, predominantly those in adult medicine.  ACP provided initial staff support, dissemination of materials, assistance in membership recruitment, and planning of a national meeting.

The first national meeting of SREPCIM was convened on April 28, 1978.  All 178 attendees were granted membership and voting rights and an initial constitution was drafted that provided for annual meetings that would serve as a forum for research and education.  Officers were elected by ballot in July 1978 and a newsletter for the Society was established.

By the fifth national meeting in 1983, the Society had created a health policy committee, had begun work on establishing a medical journal and expanding its newsletter, had expanded the annual meeting to two days, and had instituted a dues system for its members.  But SREPCIM members found themselves at cross-purposes with some of the more well-established societies when the Federated Council for Internal Medicine made statements concerning ambulatory medicine, which many SREPCIM members felt denigrated the value of primary care and the ambulatory experience.  At this time, SREPCIM also began advocating on Capitol Hill, and the young organization began resisting many long-held traditions of departments of medicine at a time when new departments were being created across the U.S.

Through its leaders and the activities of many of its members, the Society persisted in developing a new educational and research agenda because its members believed that the care system needed serous change.  To this end, the Society began publishing the Journal of General Internal Medicine in 1986 under the editorship of Drs. Suzanne and Robert Fletcher.  Published in Jan/Feb 1986, the first issue featured an editorial emphasizing the importance of original research reports, clinical reviews, and a broad range of other topics that would make the journal interesting and useful to readers.

During the 1980s SREPCIM also established regions of the Society and endorsed the concept of regional meetings to promote academic research and scholarship.  Today there are seven active regions within SGIM, representing all 50 states: Mountain West, California, New England, Southern, Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, and Northwest.

SREPCIM entered a difficult transitional year in 1985-1986.  Membership and attendance at the annual meetings were climbing, but the partnership SREPCIM had enjoyed with ACP was waning.  The energy of the 1986 annual meeting started a tide toward SREPCIM independence from ACP.  During the 1987-1988 year, SREPCIM officially changed its name to The Society for General Internal Medicine (SGIM) and sought an incorporated status separate from ACP.  Elnora Rhodes was named SGIM's first national administrator and soon additional office staff enabled membership and financial data to become computerized.  New bylaws and Articles of Incorporation were approved by Council during this watershed year.

The late 1980s and early 1990s saw a broadening of SGIM's network to include committees, task forces, and interest groups on a wide range of topics.  Awards were added to the annual meetings and SGIM has reached out to establish liaisons with over 40 like-minded organizations today.  The research agenda became increasingly diverse, sophisticated, and successful, which enabled to Society to branch out to new projects and new affiliations.  As members' involvement grew, so did the SGIM national staff and in 1996 David Karlson became SGIM's Executive Director.

During the next decade, SGIM grew by leaps and bounds.  By 2005 it was necessary to revise the internal governance structure to better accommodate the competing needs of the member groups and their projects.  Council moved to create a mission-based governance structure, by which the committees, task forces, and interest groups would be better organized and would have a mechanism for reporting to Council and requesting funds to further their projects.  SGIM has over 25 committees and task forces that address a broad array of topics of interest to our members, including three core committees (education, research, and clinical practice) and health policy.  After 18 years of overseeing the steady growth of the organization, David Karlson retired in 2015.

Today, a staff of seventeen works with and responds to the needs of these member groups.  The annual meeting is now a three and a half day meeting and is SGIM's signature event.  The meeting provides a forum for over 2000 general internists from leading academic centers and medical practices throughout the U.S., Canada, and other countries to learn about the latest issues and innovations in general internal medicine.  Over 25 awards are presented annually to members at the national meeting.  Membership has reached more than 3,300 people, with international and associate categories.  The Journal of General Internal Medicine is now ranked as one of the premier scientific journals for general internists and medical educators, and the SGIM newsletter, Forum, has grown to 16 pages with paid advertising.

Many new intiatives have come into the Society in the past several years.  Council has approved a series of strategic initiatives into which all committees and task forces tailor their work.  Many committees focus on specific products for members of the Society, including career development certificate programs, MOC offerings, and research papers and policies.  In 2017, Dr. Eric Bass was appointed as the first Chief Executive Officer for the Society.  SGIM continues to innovate and prove itself to be a leader in the field of general internal medicine.


SGIM Bylaws:

The Society of General Internal Medicine is governed by a set of bylaws.  

Read the SGIM Bylaws