The survey results, which were shared recently with SHM’s board of directors, confirmed my suspicions: SHM membership is a reasonably diverse crowd when it comes to gender and race. When it came to the SHM committee membership, I was right and wrong. The percentage of women and under-represented minorities on SHM committees reflected overall SHM membership reasonably well, but it was clear that fewer women and under-represented minorities held senior leadership positions, such as committee chairs and positions on the board. I suspect this is no different at other professional medical societies and more of a commentary on medicine than on SHM.
The most striking difference, however, did not have to do with race or gender, but instead had to do with employment model. Hospitalists who work at places other than academic medical centers are clearly under-represented in SHM leadership positions.
Action Item: New Knowledge, Better Understanding
So what do we do with this information? Am I suggesting that we set aside special seats at the board table for specific types of people or special-interest groups, some seats just for women, and some just for hospitalists who work in community hospitals? I am not advocating any such action.
I did ask SHM leadership to initiate action to help us continually understand the makeup of SHM membership and compare it to representation at the leadership level. SHM leadership overwhelmingly agreed. This is the reason you are being asked to volunteer personal information when you renew your membership.
It is my hope and belief that SHM will use this information appropriately when they organize committees and build leadership teams. This information, if used appropriately, will help SHM leadership understand its potential bias and guard against unintended consequences of their actions.
I recognize that some people will argue that the questions being asked are not sufficiently comprehensive. We should also be asking about other individual characteristics. You may or may not be right, but at this time, I think we are taking a step in the right direction. Further steps may be forthcoming in the future, but let’s not let perfection be the enemy of good.
If you have any comments about this article, please contact me at [email protected]. I’m also available on LinkedIn (JosephLi) and Twitter (@_JosephLi).
Dr. Li is president of SHM.