Medical society membership can afford physicians excellent educational and professional development opportunities, along with camaraderie and support in a field that often experiences high rates of burnout. Going for leadership roles in these societies can take member benefits to the next level and give you a seat at the table when it comes to shaping the future of healthcare policy.
Explore this issue:November 2018
“To provide great service to your community, you need your specialty to be great,” said Wendy Stern, MD, an otolaryngologist in private practice in North Dartmouth, Mass. “This means you need to be engaged in more than everyday matters.”
Interested in rising through the ranks from member to medical society leader? Here’s how to do it, and information on what makes the extra responsibilities so worthwhile.
Don’t Be Intimidated
Medical societies can be complex organizations, but don’t let that scare you off. Pediatric otolaryngologist Danny Chelius, MD, former chair of the AAO–HNS section for Residents and Fellows-in-Training and an assistant professor of Pediatric Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, said it’s crucial to step forward and volunteer because you won’t understand and learn about the society until you’re in the midst of doing the work. “That’s where you understand what the opportunities are to make the biggest impact,” he said, “so don’t be scared to take a leap and step forward into the society.”
Everyone’s time is limited, so choosing to be on committees that matter most to you is important because responsibilities can often snowball. And, if you do take on a role, give it your all; not only are your colleagues counting on you, but also, the more you put in, the more you’ll get out.
“If you believe something is important, then volunteering will actually wind up being an amazing educational opportunity,” Dr. Chelius said. “It was through volunteering for leadership roles in the Academy that I learned about the breadth and opportunities of the [organization], and that led me to be able to be more targeted and focused in the things that are most important to me and the ways that I can make an impact.”
On the other hand, if you’re asked to take on something that doesn’t appeal to you, make sure to be gracious about thanking those who chose you and explain your reason for declining. Explain that while the time isn’t right for you at the moment, you’re open to future opportunities. And if you do decline, don’t leave it at that. “Always suggest someone else,” said Samantha Anne, MD, a pediatric otologist at the Cleveland Clinic, secretary of the BOG for the AAO–HNS, and past chair of the AAO–HNS Young Physicians Section. “You’re making it easier for them this way.”
Give It Your All
When she decided she wanted to become more involved in the AAO–HNS, Dr. Anne pushed herself to speak with the chair of the Young Physicians Section and ask what she could do to help out. The chair asked her to write an article about young physician-related material. She gave it her all. The chair later said he had given her something difficult and was impressed with how she handled it, so he continued to involve her in the section. The following year, he asked her to chair that section. And, last year, she was asked to run for secretary of the BOG. “Initially, my reaction was, ‘ME?’” she said. Later, she realized she had proven herself with each task she was given, and members recognized and appreciated her follow-through.
When you volunteer for a committee and you’re brand new, you may be tempted to sit back and listen for the first few meetings, but don’t let it go much beyond that. “It’s easy to be quiet because you’re the young person or the inexperienced person or the quiet person,” said Dr. Anne, who said she understands the temptation to let everyone else do the talking. “But people take notice when you speak up and have something to say, so fight that urge to be quiet because you may feel you don’t belong in the room. It is important for people to hear your voice. You bring something new to the table.”