Throughout my 26 years as a member, one of the aspects of SGIM that I have valued most is the commitment and engagement of its members—this has struck me even more during this presidential year. Despite the even greater-than-usual demands we have all faced during the pandemic, or maybe because of it, SGIM members have risen to the occasion.  I am impressed by the engagement, responsiveness, thoughtfulness and commitment of SGIM’s member volunteers, particularly those in leadership positions. We all have multiple demands on our attention and could choose any number of ways to spend our most precious resource, our time and energy. So, why do so many busy people choose to volunteer to serve in leadership roles for SGIM? What drives their actions?  I know my own reasons. I was curious about the driving forces for my colleagues. As a result, I reached out to fellow SGIM Council members and the Chairs and Co-chairs of the SGIM Councils and Commissions with the following two questions:

  1. Among all the things that you could do with your time, why choose to dedicate time and energy to serving in a leadership role for SGIM?
  2. What advice do you have for SGIM members who may have interest in pursuing leadership roles within SGIM?

Responses were highly consistent, and they resonated with my own experience and perspective. These SGIM volunteer leaders talked about the rewards of contributing as an involved SGIM member. The respondents identified professional growth and development, connecting and collaborating with colleagues from across the country who share common goals, intellectual stimulation and camaraderie as the most common reasons that they found fulfillment in actively engaging with SGIM. In addition, respondents discussed the critical importance that SGIM played in their professional success and expressed a strong desire to “pay it forward.” One leader remarked “it’s hard to find a similar return on investment for my time elsewhere.”  Another stated, “because I have received so much, I wanted to give back and help build the future of SGIM so that it could continue to serve others.”  Finally, these leaders talked about identification with and a desire to further the SGIM mission—one leader remarked that “SGIM reflects my interests and values better than any other physician organizations” and another expressing appreciation for the “moral clarity of SGIM.”

SGIM is an organization for and of its members and is effective because of the passion and participation of its members; its ongoing achievements and contributions require active member engagement. SGIM members therefore drive its success and growth.

One of the many positive features of SGIM is that it is large enough for there to be a diversity of interests and activities, and not so large that it is overwhelming. There are opportunities for every SGIM member to become involved across a range of expertise and time commitment. In response to my second question, volunteer leaders offered the following advice for SGIM members who may be interested in pursuing leadership roles within SGIM:

  • Jump in!
  • Share your passion, both for a topic area and for the organization.
  • Start somewhere. Get involved at any level. Volunteering for one role will open avenues for other roles, including leadership positions. Suggestions for places to start included:
  • Interest groups—start as a member and become a leader
  • Regional meetings—regional leadership roles can lead to national roles
  • Abstract reviewing or mentoring—to demonstrate your interest and contribute to advancing SGIM’s mission
  • Committees or Commissions—participation as a member enhances understanding of SGIM and can lead to and inform future leadership roles
  • Make yourself and your interests known within SGIM:
  • Introduce yourself to the interest group, committee or commission chair
  • Participate actively in the GIM Connect conversations
  • Submit an article to SGIM Forum, in consultation with the Forum Editor
  • Develop and communicate a clear idea and message about what is unique about you and how it will further or enhance the work of the group that you are interested in leading
  • Be persistent
  • Find key allies to promote and sponsor you within SGIM
  • Talk to people who have served in roles in which you are interested. Learn about their experience and how it might be applicable to you. Seek advice from colleagues who can help you consider which roles may be the best fit for you.
  • When you accept an assignment, complete it well and on time.
  • The more experience you have with participating in SGIM at various levels, the more equipped you will be to lead. Through participation and investment in the organization, you start learning more about what the organization stands for and how it operates.
  • Don’t let imposter syndrome get in the way of serving. Every member adds a valuable perspective.

There was a consistent theme that the more people became involved with SGIM, the more they felt a part of the community and the more opportunities became available.

As I reflect on my own SGIM journey, I completely agree with my colleagues. Whether the professional growth and development or the personal connections and longstanding friendships made through SGIM, I have benefitted and received more from SGIM than I have given. As was stated by one of the respondents to my query, in SGIM “I have found my people.”  The passion, commitment, engagement, and enthusiasm of its members make SGIM the special organization that it is. Active involvement in SGIM has provided some of my most fulfilling professional experiences. Many people, including me, refer to SGIM as their professional “home.”  What makes it that are the people—the members and staff and their commitment and dedication to advancing our shared mission.

I encourage all SGIM members to become actively involved.  To quote another current SGIM volunteer leader, “our field, our patients, our learners and society need you, your energy and passion.” There are opportunities for SGIM members of all interests and seniority.  Wondering how to get involved? Talk with colleagues, mentors, or any current SGIM leader. The SGIM volunteer call for committees and commissions is open until February 26, 2020.1

So, do it today—volunteer! Start on your pathway to SGIM volunteer leadership now.




Advocacy, Career Development, Leadership, Administration, & Career Planning, Medical Education, SGIM, Social Justice

Author Descriptions

SGIM has been my professional home since I joined as a first-year general internal medicine research fellow, at the insistence of my fellowship director. Little did I know at that point the significant role that SGIM would play in my professional and personal development.