Mercy Medical Center in Springfield, Mass., has enjoyed a number of distinctions in its brief HM history. The 182-bed acute-care institution was one of the first to use the term hospitalist. Its C-suite was among the first to subsidize an HM group. And one of its physicians is a co-founder of SHM.
So it was only natural that Amanda Wilson, MD, FHM, wanted Mercy’s staff—including HM pioneer Winthrop F. Whitcomb, MD, FHM—to be among the first hospitalists in the country honored with SHM’s new Fellow of Hospital Medicine (FHM) designation. The first class of fellows was inducted at HM09 in Chicago.
“It’s inspiring to me,” says Dr. Wilson, chief of medicine and medical director of the hospitalist program at Mercy Medical Center. “It’s about how many people are lifelong, committed hospitalists. It’s a recognition [that] it’s a real specialty.”
A Select Few
The inaugural group of fellows numbers 514, roughly 5% of SHM total membership, but only about 2% of the estimated 28,000 hospitalists currently practicing. More than 600 hospitalists applied for the designation. To be eligible, candidates must have a minimum of five years as a practicing hospitalist, no serious disciplinary action in the past five years, and the endorsement of two active SHM members.
Hospitalists who have taken on added responsibilities at their institutions, including involvement in quality initiatives and a commitment to continuing education, are especially encouraged to apply. All of the FHM values are reflected in a pledge the group took before about 1,600 colleagues at HM09 in Chicago.
“I make the following pledge,” the testimony reads in part, “to consistently strive to provide the highest quality care for all my patients … to foster interdisciplinary teamwork that integrates hospital systems … and to conduct myself in a manner becoming of a Fellow in Hospital Medicine.”
—Kerry Moore, MD, FHM, Sound Inpatient Physicians, Denver
Recognition and Respect
The FHM is the first step in the society’s plan to incorporate several levels of designations to recognize hospitalist contributions. The next level will be a Senior Fellow in Hospital Medicine (SFHM); the final rung on the ladder will be a Master in Hospital Medicine (MHM). Criteria for those programs will be unveiled soon, and the first SFHM class will be inducted at HM10 in Washington, D.C.
Organizers say it’s likely that only a percentage of the first class of fellows will move to the second level right away. The American Board of Internal Med-icine anticipates that a focused-practice program could open for qualified candidates in 2010 or 2011.
Still, freshman fellows see the FHM designation as a step forward—for both individual hospitalists and SHM.
“It’s recognition you went above and beyond just punching the clock,” says Kerry Moore, MD, FHM, co-chief of the Sound Inpatient Physicians hospitalist group at St. Anthony Central Hospital in Denver. “We don’t just have a meeting; we’re a society and we offer levels of recognition.”
Dr. Wilson says the FHM designation will add a level of respect to the HM specialty and should be just as important to physicians in other specialties as it will be to HM stalwarts. “Up until now,” she says, “you’re a glorified resident, in their opinion.”
Andrea Darilek, MD, FAAP, FHM, agrees the FHM designation should confer an added level of admiration to the hospitalist profession, especially for those like her who have never worked in another specialty. Dr. Darilek, vice chair of the department of hospital medicine at the Billings Clinic in Montana, has been a hospitalist for eight years. “All other fields of medicine have this,” she says. “If you go to a surgery convention, everyone has membership in a society of surgery. It’s important for hospitalists to have national recognition.”
Bijo Chacko, MD, FHM, says it’s particularly meaningful to be part of the first corps of fellows because it includes some of the most recognizable names in HM. He also noted that future fellows could view this class as “trailblazers.” “It shows the penetration of the field,” says Dr. Chacko, hospital medicine director for Preferred Health Partners, which staffs four sites in Brooklyn, N.Y. “The expertise and the physician base is growing enough [that] it warrants a designation.”
The FHM designation doesn’t yet have the familiar ring of such titles as FACP, MPH, or MBA. The sheen is still so new that many in the healthcare industry are likely going to need a while to get used to it, jokes Jack Childress, MD, FHM, a hospitalist at Christus St. Michael Hospital in Texarkana, Texas. That could be seen as an advantage in spreading the word about how much the field of HM has grown, Dr. Childress notes.
“If they see the [letters], they probably have no idea what it means,” he says. “They’ll be asking a lot of questions.”
What better spokesperson for HM than a fellow? TH
Richard Quinn is a freelance writer based in New Jersey.