To many, engagement is a buzzword used to make employees feel as if they have a say.
To Farzana Hoque, MD, MRCP (UK), FACP, FRCP, it’s the path to value. So as president of the St. Louis chapter of SHM, she knows she has to keep hospitalists in her region engaged if she wants them to join and be active in the chapter.
“I know we have to deliver value if we want to keep and grow our membership,” said Dr. Hoque, assistant professor of medicine and acting internship co-director at Saint Louis University School of Medicine in St. Louis. “They need to feel that they are winning. That’s why we all focus to have important, relevant topics that our hospitalists will benefit from.”
Never was that sense of engagement tested like it was during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We faced challenges like every other chapter in America—but our chapter leadership did not stop,” Dr. Hoque said. “We focused on virtual meetings. We published newsletters, and those highlighted chapter leaders, their achievements, their contributions—and that was inspiring to the other members.”
Dr. Hoque is working on plans to institutionalize the newsletter idea, to keep members tethered to each other on a more formal basis.
“That newsletter will highlight some of the successful hospitalist journeys,” she said. Hospitalists “will share their challenges. I think that will not only inspire the early-career hospitalist but the mid-career hospitalists, as well.”
One of the other lessons learned from the pandemic adjustments is the value of virtual connectivity.
“I believe that the virtual world has opened doors for us,” said Dr. Hoque, who took over as president of the St. Louis chapter in April 2022. “For example, we had a great collaboration with our Kansas chapter. We did two programs. One program was an in-person point-of-care ultrasound workshop where we brought standardized patients so our participants could gain hands-on experiences, and the other was about advocacy in health care.”
Another lesson of the pandemic is the value of hearing from other colleagues in the specialty. To Dr. Hoque, that means casting “wider nets.”
“I believe SHM is an inclusive platform,” she said. “The hospitalists should be represented from all aspects of the specialty. For example, we focused on having membership from academic hospitals and community hospitals, and I’m very happy to share that right now we have almost 50% more engagement from providers than the last year. We have some very new hospitalists, as well as seasoned hospitalists who have been practicing for almost 40 years and are maybe department chairs. We have a wide variety of hospitalists in our chapter, which we are very proud of.”
Not that Dr. Hoque is satisfied.
“We are still facing challenges in bringing in more women hospitalists,” she said. “I understand they have a lot of family commitments that may be challenging for them to come regularly. I’m working on having a pipeline for our chapter to have more engagement from women hospitalists.”
Dr. Hoque is also working on creating an early-career hospitalist mentorship program, “where a seasoned hospitalist can have at least quarterly communication with our early-career hospitalists.” She’d additionally like to see more pediatric hospitalists involved as well as making sure that the chapter adheres to diversity, equity, and inclusion principles that help ensure its board reflects its membership.
“Those are some solutions we are working on to overcome the challenges of engagement,” she said.
Professional growth doesn’t just happen within hospitals, Dr. Hoque says, so the chapter is giving hospital medicine professionals a chance to fill more roles within the chapter. Dr. Hoque created a new role, director of membership development—again, think engagement and value—that would be a leadership role within the chapter. In addition, there is a new advisory board role and a plan to create another board-level seat for an advanced practice professional.
Another avenue of additional engagement was the chapter’s Hospitalist Day back in September 2022, which was co-branded with the Missouri chapter of the American College of Physicians (ACP) for the first time.
“I believe this was a huge success and shows the collaboration between ACP and SHM at this regional level. We are optimistic and planning further ACP/SHM celebrations to celebrate Hospitalist Day,” she said.
And—this being a chapter, of course—let’s not forget the poster competition.
“One of our huge successes is our poster competition,” she said. “And not just the medical students and residents. A couple of fellows also joined our poster competition. We were surprised to know that we received three times more submissions than we were expecting.”
Why the success?
“As a leader, I truly get the opportunity to engage with other physicians,” Dr. Hoque said. “Maybe they are seasoned hospitalists. Maybe they are residents. I get to know them and learn from their experiences. I can share what challenges I’m facing, and what challenges they’re facing. I think it’s a win-win situation for all the chapter leaders and participants: learning and networking opportunities.”
Richard Quinn is a freelance writer in New Jersey.