The last session of each SHM Annual Conference is traditionally a short presentation titled “What Have We Learned?” that is delivered by next year’s course director (and this year, that is me!).
We’ve learned that by making the heartbreaking decision to cancel the HM20 in-person conference and convert to a virtual platform, SHM leadership is not afraid to do the right thing to protect the health of its members and staff, even when such a decision comes at significant cost to the organization. We’ve learned that the SHM staff are flexible and innovative and are masters of logistics – their ability to pivot so quickly into a virtual format on such short notice is nothing short of amazing. On the Annual Conference Committee (ACC), we already knew that Benji Mathews, the HM20 course director, was an outstanding leader. True to form, despite facing unprecedented uncertainty and tremendous disappointment, Benji continued to lead with the steady, eloquent presence and poise he’s known for, delivering an outstanding HM20 Virtual.
We’ve learned that SHM members can enjoy and engage meaningfully in a virtual format, as evidenced by well-attended sessions, including robust Q&A exchanges that took place during HM20 Virtual’s simulive offerings. Not seeing each other in person this year has reminded us how much the sense of community we enjoy through SHM means to so many of us. I missed catching up with so many colleagues that have become true friends over the years, and I know you did as well.
We also saw how SHM does not hesitate to provide a platform to shine a spotlight on the critical issues of the day. The double pandemic of COVID-19 and structural racism that we face was addressed head-on by expert faculty in sessions such as “Structural Racism and Bias in Hospital Medicine During Two Pandemics,” “The Immigrant Hospitalist: Navigating the Uncertain Terrain During COVID-19,” and “When Grief and Crises Intersect: Perspectives of a Black Physician in the Time of Two Pandemics.” Sessions on different aspects of COVID-19 enabled our members to stay up to date on the continually evolving knowledge base of this new disease.
We are so excited as we look ahead to HM21. There will be content on COVID-19 at HM21 … but not too much COVID. The ACC is mindful that our members come to the Annual Conference to hear experts speak on a broad range of clinical topics, and HM21 will be sure to deliver. An innovative new track on Diagnostic Safety will address this critical aspect of high-quality care. We will also debut a new leadership track. At HM21, the ACC is also proud to introduce a dedicated track that will include sessions that address diversity, disparities, and equity. And if what happens in Vegas cannot stay in Vegas (does that make some of you nervous …?), and a virtual element needs to be part of HM21, we will utilize a sophisticated and highly functional platform that will provide some things that our HM20 Virtual platform didn’t.
Couldn’t make HM20 Virtual? Don’t worry! You can still experience the in-depth, immersive education courtesy of some of the most knowledgeable faculty in the field through.
It has indeed been a year in which we have learned a lot. Most importantly, we have learned that we are resilient and that we are stronger together. That SHM and the Annual Conference – be it virtual or in person – is a place where we value, respect, and support each other. Have a great year. I look forward to welcoming you to HM21 in May 2021!
Dr. Steinberg is associate chair for education and residency program director in the department of medicine at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, New York, and course director of HM21.