The right to vote is a founding principle of our great nation, right? It is the reason why many of us and/or our ancestors came to the U.S. My maternal grandparents left China in the 1950s so they could live “free” in Hong Kong. My parents moved our family to the U.S. in the mid-1970s because of the anticipated “handover” of Hong Kong from Great Britain to China in 1997. Look back far enough in your family tree, and you likely will find similar stories.
Should we be concerned with the “as is” process and plod along with our annual SHM elections, even if voter turnout is low? Is there a problem with the status quo? Voter apathy is a bigger problem than we may realize. Low voter turnout creates the potential for any one group to insidiously wrest over the control of any organization’s agenda.
There are typically three or four board seats up for election annually. This means half the 12-person board could change every two years. One could easily imagine a scenario in which a special-interest group could elect directors with a like-minded agenda simply by generating increased voter turnout over two election cycles.
Sound crazy? Is this is Joe’s “Occupy SHM” conspiracy theory? I don’t think so. Take a look around and ask yourself why there are multiple professional societies that represent ED physicians or pulmonary/critical-care physicians. The list goes on and on when it comes to medical societies. With enough numbers, groups with their own interests can take over an organization and advance their own agenda. Overnight, we could see the hospitalist community splinter into multiple professional societies, each with its own agenda. This could happen to us. For example, we could have a society for academic hospitalists, another for community hospitalists, etc.
I think our patients and profession are better served long-term if there is one professional organization representing all hospitalists, whether you are a pediatrician, family physician, nurse practitioner, internist, etc., and whether you are self-employed, work for a management company, work for a hospital, etc.
The list of special-interest groups could go on and on. But it should be viewed as a strength, not a weakness, to preserve one professional society that represents all of hospital medicine’s interests. I am interested in your thoughts on how we can increase voter turnout for SHM’s board of director elections. Please email me at [email protected].
Dr. Li is president of SHM.