COLLEGE Watch: President's Column
How chapter meetings provide chances for internists to connect
By Whitney W. Addington, FACP
As we rapidly approach internal medicine's premier event, ACP–ASIM's Annual Session, I would like to look back and share my experiences with another type of College educational activity: College chapter meetings.
In these difficult and tumultuous times for internal medicine, the College's chapter meetings fulfill a number of vital purposes. For one, they give us an opportunity to update our clinical knowledge and earn CME credit. But they also allow members to connect with other professionals facing the same challenges.
The College has been holding chapter meetings since 1930, when the North Carolina Chapter held the first-ever meeting. I recently came across an old College manual of rules, policies and procedures that made me realize how far these meetings have come since that time. One section of the manual offered the following advice:
"The amount to be charged per person for luncheon and dinner tickets should be based upon the cost of the meals, the coverage of complimentary meals, cocktails, and cigarettes ... If cigars and cigarettes are furnished, the ticket charge must be increased commensurately."
While today's chapter meetings don't supply cigars and cigarettes, they continue to offer internists a collegial environment to meet and learn, which has helped the meetings grow over the years. Last year, slightly more than 7,600 physicians attended chapter meetings, an increase of more than 5% from the previous year.
In recent years, the College's chapter meetings have become more interactive, featuring hands-on demonstrations of clinical skills. The meetings have also become more diverse and offer sessions on medical marriages and child rearing. Chapter meetings have also changed their educational focus over the years. Many meetings now present attendees with information that focuses on particular themes such as women's health or the College's new clinical theme, antibiotic resistance.
One thing that hasn't changed, however, is the quality of information offered at these meetings. Many of the lectures I have attended have been as fine a review on a given subject as any I have heard.
Some of the most interesting presentations at these meetings have been made by our Associate members, who have taken their "vignettes" to new levels of creativity, some by dressing up in costumes. I remember one Associate who gave his entire presentation in iambic pentameter.
One of the most recent—and most successful—additions to chapter meetings has been Multiple Small Feedings of the Mind. This feature gives internists evidence-based answers to the questions that frequently come up in daily practice. I strongly suggest that you take advantage of this innovative approach to learning at this year's Annual Session.
For me, however, the best part of attending chapter meetings is the opportunity to talk to other internists one-on-one. In these meetings, I have heard again and again that the College needs to do more to address the turmoil raging around their practices. As one member told me, "Behind the doors of my examining room, the joy of being a physician is as great as ever. But once I am outside those doors, it becomes a nightmare for the patient and for me."
To help College members in these areas, the Washington Office has expanded its presence at chapter meetings. Staff members from the Center for A Competitive Advantage regularly talk about billing and coding issues and other business issues that confront internists. Other Washington Office staff also regularly appear at chapter meetings to brief members on policy initiatives like the Decision 2000 campaign, which aims to return the issue of the medically uninsured to the national agenda.
Discussion is frank, spirited and does not always produce total agreement. No matter what the outcome of the debate, everyone agrees that issues like coding and documentation and the health effects of a lack of insurance are areas in which the College must remain active.
Rest assured that these topics will remain on the College's agenda and will remain the subjects of lively discussion at chapter meetings as long as they remain important issues for internists. It is one more reason to put the next chapter meeting in your area on your schedule.
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