Last month we converged virtually for our annual conference, SHM Converge – the second time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. We are thankful for innovations and advancements in technology that have allowed the world, including SHM, to continue connecting us all together. And yet, 18 months in, having forged new roads, experienced unique and life-changing events, we long for the in-person human connection that allows us to share a common experience. At a time of imperatives in our world – a global pandemic, systemic racism, and deep geopolitical divides – more than ever, we need to converge. Isolation only festers, deepening our divisions and conflicts.
In high school, I read Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken” and clung to the notion of diverging roads and choosing the road less traveled. Like most young people, my years since reading the poem were filled with attempts at forging new paths and experiencing great things – and yet, always feeling unaccomplished. Was Oscar Wilde right when he wrote: “Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life?” After all, these past 18 months, we have shared in the traumas of our times, and still, we remain isolated and alone. Our diverse experiences have been real, both tragic and heroic, from east to west, city to country, black to white, and red to blue.
At SHM, it’s time to converge and face the great challenges of our lifetime. A deadly pandemic continues to rage around the world, bringing unprecedented human suffering and loss of lives. In its wake, this pandemic also laid bare the ugly face of systemic racism, brought our deepest divisions to the surface – all threatening the very fabric of our society. This pandemic has been a stress test for health care systems, revealing our vulnerabilities and expanding the chasm of care between urban and rural communities, all in turn worsening our growing health disparities. This moment needs convergence to rekindle connection and solidarity.
Scholars do not interpret “The Road Not Taken” as a recommendation to take the road less traveled. Instead, it is a suggestion that the diverging roads lead to a common place having been “worn about the same” as they “equally lay.” It is true that our roads are unique and shape our lives, but so, too, does the destination and common place our roads lead us to. At that common place, during these taxing times, SHM enables hospitalists to tackle these great challenges.
For over 2 decades of dynamic changes in health care, SHM has been the workshop where hospitalists converged to sharpen clinical skills, improve quality and safety, develop acute care models inside and outside of hospitals, advocate for better health policy and blaze new trails. Though the issues evolved, and new ones emerge, today is no different.
Indeed, this is an historic time. This weighted moment meets us at the crossroads. A moment that demands synergy, cooperation, and creativity. A dynamic change to health care policy, advances in care innovation, renewed prioritization of public health, and rich national discourse on our social fabric; hospitalists are essential to every one of those conversations. SHM has evolved to meet our growing needs, equipping hospitalists with tools to engage at every level, and most importantly, enabled us to find our common place.
Where do we go now? I suggest we continue to take the roads not taken and at the destination, build the map of tomorrow, together.
Dr. Siy is division medical director, hospital specialties, in the departments of hospital medicine and community senior and palliative care at HealthPartners in Bloomington, Minn. He is the new president of SHM.