One could say I was a late bloomer. When I think about #MyFirstSGIM, I am reminded of the period of my early career when I started to recognize the importance of finding a professional home. Before graduating residency, I had been gently encouraged to consider applying for a GIM fellowship, but at the time had not pursued it for personal reasons. I had been only one of two graduates from my program that year who began practicing primary care internal medicine immediately post-residency. At the time, I did not yet know what it meant to belong to a professional home: The extent of my engagement in professional societies as a student or resident involved poster presentations of research or clinical cases.
As soon as I started my first job as an academic general internist, I realized there were so many things I still needed to learn for independent practice and to find my “why” in academic and scholarly pursuits. (As a side note, this continues to be an evolving and dynamic process.) By the time I attended my first SGIM annual meeting, I had only eight months of practice as an early career primary care internist behind me—along with all the trials and triumphs that come during the first year of being a brand-new attending physician. Those months were a period of significant growth: I learned how to effectively and efficiently supervise resident continuity clinics, mentor rotating students during my own clinics, fully and independently drive care management plans for patients with complex conditions, take at-home calls for my partners, creatively and systematically problem solve to help patients address social determinants of health within that specific community, and so much more, all a part of becoming an independently practicing clinician-educator.
My first SGIM was the first professional society meeting I attended as a newly minted attending physician. I was a late bloomer as a SGIM member, attending the meeting simply because I had the educational funds and allotted continuing education time to do so. It was eye-opening. That year, the theme was “Promoting Generalist Values in Times of Change.” When I listened to the plenary speakers and attended various sessions about patient engagement, health systems change, team care, quality improvement, and so much more on how U.S. health systems and primary care can evolve to achieve an equitable, high-value, accessible, and compassionate system, I was sold. That was my lightbulb moment. I felt like I found the place where my philosophies of care and interests just fit. It’s the same moment I imagine other SGIM members can recall for themselves when they think about #MyFirstSGIM.
Over the years, I have grown roots in various professional homes—a natural occurrence given the complex systems of care, the synergistic and interdisciplinary aims of different healthcare disciplines and subspecialties, and the evolving nature and scopes of our general internal medicine workforce. Nevertheless, SGIM has a unique and cozy feel, a sense of belonging and connectedness, where so many members can say, “This is where I grew up.” This engenders a sense of family, where even if you might be away or distant for an extended time, much like what has occurred over the past one-and-a-half years during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is not only a craving to be together again to enjoy each other’s company; there is also a sense that when we are together again, it’s as if little time has passed, that we can flow right back into where we left off last.
Like a family, we can celebrate each other’s successes and achievements; this year, we celebrate several SGIM award recipients for their career-long work and contributions to the general internal medicine community, both at SGIM and beyond. Like a family, members engage also in debate and discourse, disagreeing on key issues—but then finding an agreeable pathway forward as a part of the same community. Like a family, members also look out for each other and help each other grow and advance in their careers, especially as SGIM creates a safe space for students, residents, and fellows to develop and find their places in the world as future general internists.
SGIM’s first ever virtual annual meeting this year offered the best possible platform for reunion within the SGIM professional home, our professional family. On reflection, when I think about #MyFirstSGIM, perhaps it is not only that moment when I thought, “Aha! I found the place I belong!” It also brings along the memories of the journey that followed and also of the shared views and values we carry with us. Every year we will continue to have debates, celebrations, and foster growth among our members. This is just what the SGIM professional family, and home, does.
Career Development, Clinical Practice, Leadership, Administration, & Career Planning, Medical Education, SGIM, Social Determinants of Health
For “Ask an Ethicist,” members of the SGIM Ethics Committee respond to…