The physician leadership of the College has spent a great deal of time discussing how to best contribute to the dialogue on the future of American medicine and, in particular, the future of internal medicine. At the end of one weekend session, I asked the participating members of the Board of Regents and the Executive Committee of the Board of Governors, “Who in this room is a member of the College just because of the outstanding products, programs and services that we offer to our members?”
No one raised their hands.
I then asked, “Who in this room is a member of the College because they care about the profession of internal medicine and its future?”
All hands went up.
I was impressed that despite different subspecialties, different countries of origin, and differences in race, gender and generations, there was a common reason for College membership and participation.
I've been privileged to be part of the College since 1977. At that time, when I was a newly minted graduate of a residency program, the College meant a great deal because it allowed me to network with many outstanding physicians who guided my development as a young physician. I wanted to associate with the best physicians, and the ones with the FACP credential after their names were widely respected—often the “doctor's doctors.”
I grew professionally through active participation in the College and chapter activities, including presenting educational materials and primary research, planning chapter meetings, and fostering student and resident participation. I was proud to be part of an organization that was dedicated to improving the health care of our patients and the professional lives of our members. I am now incredibly privileged to serve as your president and will do my utmost to represent the College and internal medicine to various constituencies, the government, the media, and other professional associations.
I believe there are many reasons to join the College, including its outstanding educational offerings for internists and internal medicine subspecialists, its strong support of medical education, access to the best journal in internal medicine, coverage through medical liability and personal insurance, and effective advocacy programs. Many of these benefits have helped our members to survive and thrive in practice.
On many occasions, however, nonmembers I've spoken to have questioned the value of joining the College. They counter that their state societies or, increasingly, their group practices have many of the same benefits and are able to meet their needs.
For me, the strongest reason to be a member of the College is the same reason that all its leaders expressed that day in our strategic planning session. We care about the profession and its future, and we want to make a difference. We also want to do this work with like-minded, respected physicians.
The College is the only organization dedicated to the future of internal medicine. Since 1915, it has set the standards of our work and served as a repository of our history and our hopes, our ethics and our values. It has been the “keeper of the flame.”
When nonmembers question the value of joining the College, I review with them my personal journey and reasons for College membership. I then conclude, “If you care about the profession and its future, you must become a member.”
College members can participate in the debate about the future of our work and the structure of medical care in this country while being part of the most respected educational and advocacy organization in American medicine. The College is respected because it always places the needs of our patients above personal gain, while strongly advocating for internists so they can effectively deliver the excellent care that is a hallmark of our profession.
In my three decades in medicine, I can think of no time more important than today to be engaged in the debate about our future. I ask you as members of the College to challenge nonmember internists and subspecialists. Challenge them about why they are not members, and remind them that, by not being part of this great organization, they miss their own chance to have an impact on the future of internal medicine.
Throughout my life in medicine, active engagement with the College has provided the rewards of friendship and mentorship and has laid the foundation for my career. Nonmember physicians not only miss out on our outstanding programs, products and services, they also miss the opportunity to work closely with like-minded physicians who share a passion for the betterment of our profession and improved patient care. Let's work to bring all of internal medicine together and ensure that future internists and internal medicine subspecialists will have the same rewarding experiences in their careers.