SGIM’s vision is “A just system of care in which all people can achieve optimal health.” But what does our Society do when legislation passed in specific states is at odds with the views of many members about a “just system of care”? How can we support our members and their patients in these states? Should SGIM contribute to the economy of locations where physicians are restricted from providing what they consider to be evidence-based care? How do we decide where to host our annual meetings, given the serious concerns from members about recent legislation and travel bans? These are all questions that the Meeting Site Selection Workgroup sought to answer.
The SGIM Council convened this workgroup to assess the implications of whether to continue plans to meet in Hollywood, Florida, in 2025 or pull out of the contract and relocate the meeting to a less politically charged location. I recently talked with Council member Dr. Brita Roy (Chair of the Meeting Site Selection Workgroup and Chair of the 2019 Annual Meeting) about how the workgroup made the recommendation to maintain our current contract and host the SGIM25 annual meeting in Florida.
EB: What was the Council’s charge to the Meeting Site Selection Workgroup and who are its members?
BR: Council asked the workgroup to make recommendations on how to address concerns about the location of the SGIM25 annual meeting, review and consider revising and weighing selection criteria for future meeting sites, and prepare a rank-ordered list of recommended sites for annual meetings in 2027, 2028, and 2029. The workgroup includes SGIM’s immediate Past-President, Treasurer, Treasurer-Elect, Chair of the Board of Regional Leaders, another Past-Chair of the Annual Meeting Program Committee, and three at-large members representing constituent groups affected by recent legislation, including the Women and Medicine Commission and Minorities in Medicine Interest Group. The composition of the group was balanced across career stage, gender, and region. We met with SGIM staff to review the terms of the current contract for the SGIM25 meeting and recommend sites for future meetings based on newly revised and weighted selection criteria.
EB: What criteria are used to select sites for annual meetings?
BR: SGIM selects sites for annual meetings 4-5 years before the meeting itself. The best advice in the meeting industry is to describe the nature of the experience that we want attendees to have, establish criteria for selecting an appropriate site consistent with the desired experience and our core values, and ensure careful vetting by our site selection partners. Decisions are made with the best possible information available at the time, considering a number of criteria. Once a site has been selected, SGIM signs a contract with large penalties (several hundred thousand dollars) for breaking the agreement. The selection criteria approved by Council in October 20221 included:
- Geographic rotation to facilitate equitable access of members;
- Venue cost;
- Direct flight access;
- Available dates, avoiding conflicts with meetings of other organizations;
- Condition of meeting space;
- Attendee experience in the city (e.g., accessible restaurants and activities);
- Attendee safety and security;
- Prior experience with the location;
- Environmental sustainability; and
- Political considerations.
The guidance policy emphasizes the importance of transparency with members about the selection process.
EB: How did the workgroup reach a consensus on its recommendation to host SGIM25 in Florida?
BR: The workgroup met over several months and focused on safety concerns brought forward by members amid the political landscape in Florida, including legislation on reproductive rights, access to care for immigrants, and health care for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning community. The workgroup surveyed a sample of members, conducted focus groups with members living and caring for patients in Florida, and met with members from other states who expressed concern about attending a meeting in Florida. The group also considered financial, relocation, and staffing issues that would affect the Society if we were to cancel the existing SGIM25 contract.
EB: What did the workgroup learn from talking with members?
BR: Members in Florida felt that cancelling the meeting would be akin to abandoning members in the state when a presence was needed most. Keeping the meeting in Florida shows our support for physicians living and working in the state and in other states with similar legislative environments. By supporting physicians working under restrictive circumstances, we intentionally support them and the patients they serve. As stated by one member, “taking SGIM out of states that have restrictions removes the conversation from the places where we need to have it the most.” Other members had serious reservations about attending a meeting in Florida, but recognized the challenges faced by members and their patients in Florida. Ultimately, the workgroup concluded that SGIM should maintain a commitment to all members, including those in states where legislation does not align with the core values of members.
EB: What did the workgroup recommend?
BR: The workgroup voted unanimously to recommend keeping the SGIM25 annual meeting in Florida while simultaneously taking actions that include giving attention to meeting safety, engaging legal counsel to help interpret state policies, engaging in meaningful sustained advocacy, exploring a hybrid meeting option, and clearly communicating to members about the decision-making process. Council approved the recommendations and has committed to having speakers, educational sessions, and advocacy initiatives at the SGIM25 meeting that address the issues of concern with thoughtful consideration of relevant scientific evidence and divergent points of view. The SGIM25 Program Committee has already begun forming to start planning sessions and developing local partnerships for advocacy for our meeting in 2025. We look forward to seeing you in Hollywood, Florida, in May 2025.
Advocacy, Annual Meeting, SGIM
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