“The very enthusiasm those college students had for other specialty disciplines can be gained for academic GIM as they gain exposure to the same type of talented SGIM members that had such significant impact on our nation’s health policy, in medical education, and in public health.”

As I stood at the front of auditorium, I looked over the faces of the young adults in the front row and the eight-faculty sitting in the rows behind them, and I came to the realization that I have joined the demographic from which I was once so far removed. As the moderator, a talented faculty member from Emory, introduced me to the undergraduate students from Xavier University, she not only noted my SGIM role but also referred to me as “senior” and a “role model”, and I came to the realization that I’m getting old.

At this year’s SGIM southern regional meeting, I was invited by Dr. Ajala, the regional meeting officer for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), to speak to a group of pre-medical students as part of the meeting’s first HBCU day. Dr. Ajala was joined by a racially and ethnically diverse group of academic internists from Emory and the Morehouse School of Medicine and each took the time to provide inspiration to the Xavier students and to provide advice on steps to obtain their goals. I told the students that I first joined SGIM during my fellowship in 1999 (a few years before any of the students was born), and that over the years I regularly interacted with peers and more experienced faculty at SGIM meetings, all of whom provided me with networking opportunities that have helped me tremendously throughout my career. After telling my story, I suggested to the students that they should follow my example and take the time to speak individually with as many of the faculty as possible.

During introductions, each student provided a succinct and uplifting story about what lead them to consider a career as a doctor. I found that each student was enthusiastic about a future career in medicine. I was invigorated by the conversations, but despite the enthusiasm I felt hearing young Black students articulating their goals, I was disappointed to hear their thoughts on the disciplines each was interested in pursuing. As the students explained, with passion, why they were interested in addressing the healthcare needs of their community while practicing as an OB/GYN, infectious disease specialists, dermatologists, or pediatric surgeon, I recognized that none expressed an interest in a career in GIM or primary care. As I reflect on that meeting, I am appreciative of Dr. Ajala and our SGIM Southern meeting planning committee for inviting these students to the meeting because without exposure to the exciting work being presented by academic internists, there would be a good chance that none would have gained an idea of how wonderful a career in GIM can actually be nor an understanding of the scholarship produced by physicians in our discipline. The very enthusiasm those college students had for other specialty disciplines can be gained for academic GIM as they gain exposure to the same type of talented SGIM members that had such significant impact on our nation’s health policy, in medical education, and in public health.

This past year, I had the pleasure of interacting with SGIM council members and with trainees and faculty as I attended several SGIM regional meetings and benefited from the dedication and hard work of our SGIM staff members as we worked to meet the needs of our society’s members. I recognize that any successes we accomplished during my year as SGIM President is the result of work done by the many SGIM member-volunteers who contributed their time for our organization’s committees and commissions as well as the staff that support them. This is my last presidential column in the Forum. In the coming weeks, I will prepare to hand over the gavel at #SGIM23 to President-Elect Dr. Martha Gerrity and succeed Dr. Monica Lypson as the society’s Past-President. For my final column, I’d like to take the opportunity to thank Drs. Lypson and Gerrity for their partnership over the past two years and to highlight a few examples of their many contributions. In addition to acting as trusted advisors and council members, Dr. Gerrity played a critical part in our organizations successful in further developing our philanthropic efforts and Dr. Lypson worked diligently to maintain our organization’s commitment to accountability in creating an anti-racist culture and maintaining our focus on creating an inclusive environment for a diverse array of SGIM members and staff.1

I have enjoyed my time on SGIM council the past two years, but am equally as excited about the year to come. As I look forward to next year, it’s my ambition to follow up on the strong foundation my colleagues have developed in “Forging our Future” and our DEI efforts by supporting our many member volunteers, such as the faculty present in that auditorium at the SGIM Southern Regional HBCU day, and to continue to bring exposure to the contributions academic internists can make in improving human health to students and trainees from a diverse array of settings. As Dr. Garrity and SGIM leadership pursue ways to continue to bring value to our members, I look forward to continuing to support their efforts, and I ask each SGIM member to consider ways in which they can also expose others to the wonderful our wonderful discipline of Internal Medicine.

References

Lypson ML, Bass EB. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Statement from SGIM’s President and CEO. Society of General Internal Medicine. SGIM Forum. https://www.sgim.org/about-us/vision—values/dei. Published June 2020. Accessed March 15, 2023.

Issue

Topic

Health Equity, Health Policy & Advocacy, SGIM, Social Justice

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