From the Society

Keep pushing the envelope

SHM ‘not burdened by the past or tradition’


By the time this column is published, we will have wrapped up Hospital Medicine 2018 in Orlando, it will be well into spring, and I will have completed my year as past president as well as my 6-year tenure on the Society of Hospital Medicine board of directors.

I can imagine that will feel like a relief and a milestone, and it also will feel like a loss to no longer be part of something that I have contributed my time, energy, passion, and emotion to for so long. I will retire at the ripe age of 48 – a pretty typical age for ending SHM board tenure, and it’s terribly important for SHM that I do so.

Dr. Brian Harte, SHM president

Dr. Brian Harte

One of the great attributes of the society is that despite turning 20 last year, it feels young. And by young, I don’t just mean that the age of most board members is well under 50 (although it is), and that the staff of the Society is largely millennials (although they are). I mean that we do not feel beholden or burdened by the past or by tradition, or what a “typical” professional society does or focuses on.

If you attended HM18, I hope you appreciated, as I do every year, the energy, enthusiasm, and youth – if not in years, then in spirit – of the event and of hospitalists. As a society and a profession, we take risks. We have set standards for excellence in hospital medicine programs. We have recognized a unique set of competencies and then not only attempted to expand them with education but also defined a specialty around them. We have welcomed practitioners and administrators as equals into our fold. These and many other accomplishments are the work of a board, committees, chapter leaders, and members who look for opportunity to expand our work into new and necessary domains, and not be limited by precedent.

On the SHM board and committees, we tackle issues of governance and strategy. For most of us, the SHM board is our first exposure to nonprofit oversight. And, to be sure, there is a steep learning curve as new members discover the issues and substance of the work of the society. I recall that I barely spoke the first year on the board, uncertain that I understood items fully, and I also was burned once or twice by making suggestions that reflected my lack of knowledge. While ignorance slowly gave way to experience, we also matured as a group as we found ways to debate and resolve tough, sometimes ambiguous, issues.

I came to appreciate that the strength of the board – and of SHM – is that we join the board naive to much of the past. After 6 years, while I may have come to understand issues with greater depth, I also see that the newer members bring fresher thinking, more creative energy, and even thoughts about how the group could function differently and perhaps better. Over the last few years, I realized that we veterans had developed a cadence and predictability to our work, and every year’s new members disrupt that rhythm. This disruption forces us to challenge each other and to be a better board – and hopefully – represent and advocate for you, our membership, better.

So, it’s time for me to move on. Even though I certainly feel like I still could contribute, it’s time to retire my own way of thinking from the leadership of SHM. The fact that we term-limit out at a (relatively) young age is, I believe, an extraordinary aspect of our organization, which is reflected in the work that our staff, our committees, and our members do.

SHM is an organization that, from the top down, embraces change in ways that few other organizations do. I believe we owe it to you to keep pushing the envelope of creativity – of what our goals are, of what a society can accomplish, of what an annual meeting can consist of. My ask of all of you is that you continue to challenge the leadership of SHM to be disruptive, to push the profession to better places, and to always strive to be more diverse, more inclusive, more communicative, more visible – and to stay young. In spirit and attitude if not in age. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to work on your behalf. It has been the greatest privilege of my career.

Dr. Harte is a past president of SHM and president of Cleveland Clinic Akron General and Southern Region.

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