Saem Faces Advocacy Role In Arizona

The most stimulating emergency medicine specialty meeting of the year, the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine, was greeted this year by many of us with less than the usual enthusiasm.  The same mind-expanding content, the same dear and deep people, but this year in Phoenix.  OK, it's hot.  OK, it's paved.  We can deal with that.  But the passage of the recent immigration law had many of us tied in knots.

At first some members proposed moving the event to support a nationally sanctioned boycott of Arizona.  But SAEM is a small organization with a narrow operating margin.  Forfeiting the fees could have bankrupted it.  Next, some offered that perhaps members exercising their conscience by staying away could be offered some concessions, such as deferring registration funds and contributions to the program to next year's meeting.  The board viewed these actions, too, as unworkable.

But yesterday, the SAEM board hosted an open Q&A, and much of the honest and open exchange occuring there dealt with the Society's role as advocate, and more specifically how should the Society face this hateful approach to immigrants.  I was impressed with the Board's thoughtfulness and candor, and with the passion of some of the members who spoke up.  Some argued that this was far from our core mission, but at bottom, everything we do is about alleviating human suffering.  So confronting inhumanity really is central to the concerns of doctors generally, emergency physicians -- who pride ourselves on providing care to all who seek it --  especially, and the Society specifically, which attempts to apply science and reason to patient care.

In addition, the Board unveiled its new 10-year strategic plan, which, for the first time, includes an advocacy mission for the Society.  How they plan to operationalize this mission remains somewhat vague, but therein may lie the opportunity.  It may be up to us to help the Society craft the details.

It turned out to be a good day for dialogue.