Silence. Silence can be powerful. Silence can be reflective
As I exited the Council session after the conclusion of the 2023 SGIM annual meeting, I immediately sensed something had changed. It took a moment for me to process what was different. The Gaylord hotel and convention center was pin-drop quiet. For the past four days, the hotel and meeting space had been buzzing with the energy and excitement of the SGIM annual meeting attendees. Hallways filled with passionate SGIM members (2,585 members to be exact) engaged in presenting, learning, mentoring, and networking. Now, silence dominated this empty space.
Dichotomies often challenge us to better understand the ends of the spectrum we are confronted with. In this experience, I was faced with understanding this “silence versus energy” conundrum. In the past few hours, Denver had not changed. The Gaylord remained the same. But what had changed was that SGIM and its members no longer occupied these spaces. At that moment, I realized, people make the difference. Specifically, SGIM members make the difference.
In my professional sphere, there are two activities that I participate in annually without fail. One activity is serving children with special healthcare needs at a weeklong summer camp over the past 39 years. My other self-imposed “requirement” is attending the SGIM annual meeting for the past 23 years. The summer camp helps re-energize me with regards to the holistic side of medicine while the SGIM annual meeting invigorates the academic and personal side of medicine for me. Both experiences help me power through many of the challenges that we all face in academic medicine and at the VA. Reflecting on my annual meeting attendance over the prior years, I noted that early on I was motivated by attending the workshops, poster sessions and oral presentations. Meeting content was important to me at that stage of my career. I started to engage in the mentoring options available. In doing these things, I met SGIM members who were willing to share their time, talents, and thoughts. Many of these interactions led to follow-up discussions, collaborations, and friendships. These individuals helped me become a better person and a better professional. My reflection helped me understand that these relationships are what matter most to me now. Meeting locales and meeting content will change, but my SGIM colleagues keep me coming back year after year.
I was at a personal crossroads as this annual meeting approached—I had been active in regional and national SGIM activities, serving in many roles; however, over several years, my involvement dropped off due to other commitments. External time conflicts arose, not different from what other SGIM members face on a consistent basis. Some conflicts were known and could be planned around (e.g., opening the new VA hospital in New Orleans) and some were unplanned but still significant (e.g. COVID’s multi-year reign of terror). I was looking to re-engage in SGIM but had not determined that route. At the urging of an SGIM colleague who thought I would do a good job, I decided to apply for the Editor in Chief position of the SGIM Forum. Time will tell if they were right in their encouragement of my application. But it was a perfect opportunity to get re-involved in my professional society by giving back to SGIM members.
Why should any of this matter? The SGIM annual meeting is “only” a four-day event. How much can really happen in four days? I think about what an early SGIM mentor told me about why involvement in SGIM was so important: “The more engaged you are with SGIM, the more SGIM and its members will give back to you.” SGIM is a volunteer, member driven organization. A January 2023 article noted that rates of formal volunteer efforts fell by seven percentage points between 2019-21.1 Without membership involvement, programs disappear, collaborations dissolve, and the organization just limps along. In discussions with SGIM leaders, I understood that SGIM is still highly successful in what we do. SGIM members recognize this. But a professional society is dependent upon its members to bring energy, ideas, engagement, and new members through their volunteer efforts.
Just as I was encouraged by a SGIM colleague, my personal request to SGIM members is to get involved. Here is a list of suggestions:
- Volunteer as a new member or in a new role for a committee or commission.
- Join the Forum editorial team as an Associate Editor.
- Submit articles to the Forum for possible publication.
- Recruit a new member so they can recognize the value of SGIM membership.
- Advocate for a cause that is important to you and your patients.
- Donate to ensure the financial stability of SGIM and those funds that will support new member driven efforts.
Highlight SGIM as a professional home for students, residents, and fellows under your tutelage.
There are so many ways that SGIM members can be involved to make a difference.
As you read this August issue of the Forum, the 2023 SGIM annual meeting is nearly three months in the past. I hope this issue ignites the embers of your personal fire and involvement in SGIM. In this issue, we highlight the many awards that recognize the hard work and dedication of SGIM members for their contribution to the organization and to medicine. Dr. Eric Bass, CEO of SGIM, reflects with SGIM Meeting Co-chairs Drs. Shelly-Ann Fluker and Milda Saunders on their year-long journey to create the 2023 annual meeting experience. A special thanks to them for their leadership of the volunteer team of SGIM members who comprise the annual meeting program committee. Dr. Martha Gerrity shares her presidential insight into her memories of the 2023 annual meeting and her thoughts on the upcoming 2024 meeting. Dr. Jennifer Michener offers her perspective on meeting SGIM collaborators face to face at the annual meeting and its effect on future collaborations, while Dr. Richard Silbert reminds us of the environmental costs of in person meetings and how SGIM should at minimum understand future options. Finally, we share pictures of SGIM members experiencing all that Denver, Colorado, and the 2023 annual meeting had to offer. After reading this issue, I encourage you to take a moment to “save the dates” of May 15-18, 2024, on your calendar to ensure that you are in that number as an attendee at the 2024 SGIM Annual Meeting. I know I will be there.
Remember, SGIM members really do make all the difference!
Melillo G. Survey details drop in US volunteering rates. The Hill. https://thehill.com/changing-america/enrichment/arts-culture/3829623-survey-details-drop-in-us-volunteering-rates/. Published January 25, 2023. Accessed July 15, 2023.
Career Development, SGIM
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