I remember New Year’s Day 2020, full of hope and wonderment of what the year would bring. I was coming into the Society of Hospital Medicine as the incoming President, taking the 2020 reins in the organization’s 20th year. It would be a year of transitioning to a new CEO, reinvigorating our membership engagement efforts, and renewing a strategic plan for forward progress into the next decade. It would be a year chock full of travel, speaking engagements, and meetings with thousands of hospitalists around the globe.
What I didn’t know is that we would soon face the grim reality that the long-voiced concern of infectious disease experts and epidemiologists would come true. That our colleagues and friends and families would be infected, hospitalized, and die from this new disease, for which there were no good, effective treatments. That our ability to come together as a nation to implement basic infection control and epidemiologic practices would be fractured, uncoordinated, and ineffective. That within 6 months of the first case on U.S. soil, we would witness 5,270,000 people being infected from the disease, and 167,000 dying from it. And that the stunning toll of the disease would ripple into every nook and cranny of our society, from the economy to the fabric of our families and to the mental and physical health of all of our citizens.
However, what I couldn’t have known on this past New Year’s Day is how incredibly resilient and innovative our hospital medicine society and community would be to not only endure this new way of working and living, but also to find ways to improve upon how we care for all patients, despite COVID-19. What I couldn’t have known is how hospitalists would pivot to new arenas of care settings, including the EDs, ICUs, “COVID units,” and telehealth – flawlessly and seamlessly filling care gaps that would otherwise be catastrophically unfilled.
What I couldn’t have known is how we would be willing to come back into work, day after day, to care for our patients, despite the risks to ourselves and our families. What I couldn’t have known is how hospitalists would come together as a community to network and share knowledge in unprecedented ways, both humbly and proactively – knowing that we would not have all the answers but that we probably had better answers than most. What I couldn’t have known is that the SHM staff would pivot our entire SHM team away from previous “staple” offerings (e.g., live meetings) to virtual learning and network opportunities, which would be attended at rates higher than ever seen before, including live webinars, HMX exchanges, and e-learnings. What I couldn’t have known is that we would figure out, in a matter of weeks, what treatments were and were not effective for our patients and get those treatments to them despite the difficulties. And what I couldn’t have known is how much prouder I would be, more than ever before, to tell people: “I am a hospitalist.”
I took my son to the dentist recently, and when we were just about to leave, the dentist asked: “What do you do for a living?” and I stated: “I am a hospitalist.” He slowly breathed in and replied: “Oh … wow … you have really seen things …” Yes, we have.
So, is 2020 shaping up as expected? Absolutely not! But I am more inspired, humbled, and motivated than ever to proudly serve SHM with more energy and enthusiasm than I would have dreamed on New Year’s Day. And even if we can’t see each other in person (as we so naively planned), through virtual meetings (national, regional, and chapter), webinars, social media, and other listening modes, we will still be able to connect as a community and share ideas and issues as we muddle through the remainder of 2020 and beyond. We need each other more than ever before, and I am so proud to be a part of this SHM family.
Dr. Scheurer is chief quality officer and professor of medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston. She is president of SHM.