No one starts out as the president of an SHM chapter. In fact, it’s usually the opposite. Folks are recruited to join because someone sees potential in them, and they rise to the top as their work product shows they see the value and benefits that come from chapter engagement.
Meet Kelsey Cole, MMSc, PA-C, co-president of the Connecticut chapter of SHM. Brought into the fold roughly five years ago by former president, Dr. Rob Fogarty, she’s now building a succession plan. She’s kind of the chapter equivalent of “see one, do one, teach one.”
After a few years as a member, “I was working with hospitalist leadership at each of what we call delivery networks, our hospital locations, to help really break down our silos,” said Ms. Cole, a program manager at Yale New Haven Health System, New Haven, Conn. To “problem-solve together and learn from one another about multiple aspects of our best practices, and implementation of best practice recommendations for our patients.”
That collaborative work led to a phone call from a chapter executive, which led to a leadership role, which led to her current chapter title alongside co-president Dr. Agata Sajkiewicz.
Ms. Cole speaks highly of the value of the leadership lessons the chapter has taught her, and of the power of communal communication, not just in the walls of a hospital, but across the health care system of a state.
“Our own, individual wisdom is nothing compared to the collective wisdom of those who have been in the situation or have had other experiences similar to ours or different than ours,” she said. “Unless you get folks talking together, you may never have understood what they bring to the table or what that potential is.
“I don’t think enough emphasis can be placed on the power of collective wisdom, and how much unnecessary effort you can go through trying to solve a problem when someone already has the key to the solution, and you didn’t know it or didn’t have the opportunity to be connected to that person.”
One approach to getting folks to share more is in-person events, which Ms. Cole says she favors over remote gatherings. In fact, she sees that as a recruitment tool.
“I would like to focus on the visibility of the professional development opportunities that are available in SHM, especially for some of our newer hospitalists and residents, where we have a lot of opportunities for increasing our membership,” she said.
Ms. Cole says growing the membership base is a key goal for the future. And that starts with early-career hospitalists and would-be hospitalists.
“This year, we have a really great resident liaison on our team, and we’re hoping to have a fun resident-focused event,” Ms. Cole said. “Something that they are interested in participating in that also serves as an opportunity to highlight the different special interest groups, committees, additional training, and all the leadership academies, etc., that SHM has to offer for those who are considering a career in hospital medicine.”
Ms. Cole has seen the value of expanding the leadership team, too. Past chapter president Dr. Jacqueline Rheiner came up with the idea for an event coordinator. “Leadership succession is essential with the right people with the right skill set,” Ms. Cole said.
The tack has been working, if the 2022 Platinum Chapter Excellence Award it earned is any way to judge.
Ms. Cole attributes the honor to “a really strong and collaborative leadership team of folks who are really engaged and bring great collective ideas to the table. Each of us has our role. Each of us has our responsibilities. Each of us has our contributions. And together, that causes a great brainstorm about where we can focus next, and who is going to do what in order to get different activities and initiatives off the ground.”
Sometimes that is presentations from the Connecticut Hospital Association, and sometimes it’s as simple as folks at hospitals a few miles away meeting for the first time. Either way, a key to chapter success is making sure events are well planned, important to the members, and, frankly, worth the time.
The chapter brings “people together who maybe wouldn’t have normally known of each other’s existence or each other’s knowledge on a certain topic,” Ms. Cole said. “After a meeting, I can get an email from someone that says, ‘Hey, would you mind sharing so-and-so’s contact information with me so we can discuss this item that they brought up during the forum further.’ That allows for that natural connection between people, and you just never know what opportunities and new ideas can come from fostering those types of connections
“It’s a balance from having the agenda driven by our hospitalists…I always say, if you have a topic you’d like to explore, we can do that and figure out how to bring people in or make sure the right people are at the meeting to discuss the question that you have.”
Richard Quinn is a freelance writer in New Jersey