Who are you?
I am a 44-year-old Chinese-American male who works as a hospitalist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), an academic medical center in Boston. BIDMC is affiliated with Harvard Medical School, where I am an associate professor of medicine.
If you are about to join or renew your SHM membership, you can expect SHM to ask some questions it’s never asked before. What is your gender? What is your age? What is your ethnicity? I would not be surprised if you wondered why SHM is asking these questions. What does it have to do with my membership? Why are they asking now when they never asked before? I do not remember other professional medical societies asking these types of questions—should I be concerned? Is this an unnecessary invasion of privacy?
Call to Action
Nearly two years ago, when I had the good fortune of being elected SHM’s president-elect, I asked, What do we know about SHM members? As it turns out, it’s less than I thought we knew.
SHM has been in the survey business for years. The most visible survey is the annual productivity and compensation survey (see “Survey Insights,” p. TK). The data from this instrument have become very important, thanks to the many of you who have participated. In the early years of hospital medicine, everyone wanted to know how hard others were working and how much others were getting paid. If others had a better compensation package, it was the proof one needed to go marching into the C-suite asking for more support. If others were making less, it was the competitive advantage one needed to land the next hot-prospect hospitalist.
To be fair, I remember the surveys also asked about hospitalist age and employment model. But I don’t remember any questions about gender, race, or other personal information. The survey was the productivity and compensation survey, so maybe it had nothing to do with gender and race … but maybe it should.
Diverse, Yet Not So Much
Over the years, when I’ve walked the hallways at the SHM annual meeting, I got the sense that it was a reasonably diverse crowd. Take a look when you are at the San Diego Convention Center in April, and I expect you will agree. I grant you that it is generally a younger crowd than what one would find at most medical meetings, but I see people of many ethnic backgrounds, and there are equal parts women and men.
What was striking to me, however, was when I walked into some of the smaller conference rooms where the SHM committee meetings were being held and where the leaders sat. That crowd didn’t seem nearly as diverse as the crowd in the bigger rooms. I remember asking one of my colleagues whether he had the same perception. He told me he didn’t see it that way. Then again, it dawned on me that he is white and works at an academic medical center. What if he walked into leadership committee meetings filled with women from under-represented minority groups who work in community hospitals? My guess is that he would notice right away.
But my perception is biased, so when I became SHM president last spring, I asked that we assemble some facts about our members. SHM pulled together a task force, which developed a survey and took a snapshot of SHM membership. Some of you may have received this survey; it was sent out to thousands of SHM members.