The presidency . . . of the Society of Critical Medicine (SCCM).
The absolute best year of my life!
I heard previous presidents proclaim this and I usually giggled. After all these years in healthcare, marriage, kids, a second wedding ceremony for our 20th anniversary, professional advancement and growth, it seemed like a tall task for any of the years in front of me to be the best year of my life.
How wrong I was!
Serving as our president is such a huge honor and privilege. I have been involved in critical care since 1987, and I joined SCCM in 1988. I joined committees and task forcesand progressively grew within the Society, and that growth supported my personal development as well, which of course also benefitted me at my home institution. The fact that you voted me to the Council years ago demonstrated a faith in me that I did not and do not take lightly. The act of voting me to Council created a sense of responsibility and obligation to you and of course to our patients. I ultimately advanced to Executive Council and the presidency and that only served to increase the responsibility and obligation. Luckily, we govern as a team, and so I have had a lot of help getting to this point and then even more help while serving. This team spirit is but one reason this year has been the best year of my life.
You may not know it, but there are issues that arise almost daily that the president must address. Weekly, we hold a president’s call for a couple of hours to discuss, debate and plan action. Frequently we invite folks to join the calls to present their ideas or proposals. The calls afford the president a diversity of views from staff and the executive leadership team that fosters the collaborative spirit and helps ensure that we are making the best decisions possible. During the hours of preparation for these calls I often reflect on the enormity of the task at hand while realizing that we have a team of experts to advise me and that I always have the ability to reach out to every member for assistance. In fact, as president, I have been amazed at how flexible many of you have been with your time in support of the Society’s mission when I have reached out. It is humbling to work with so many people all focused on excellence, yet another reason this year is so great.
Life has its frailties, so I have also had to deal with the unfortunate loss of significant members of our critical care community. Even in these losses there is embedded the opportunity to learn and to grow. After one of our founders, Will Shoemaker, passed away, I was asked to represent the Society and attend a memorial service. I was able to meet his extended family, spend precious time with Norma, his wife and a key figure in our Society in her own right, and to learn even more about the man behind the legend. I say “legend” as he was not only a founder of SCCM, he was our third president, the founder and original editor of our journal and the lead editor on the original textbook in our field. Thus, through such a tragedy I was able to experience a different type of connection to our field and our mission. I was also able to participate in identifying archivable material from the Weil Institute. Touching the very documents that folks like Max Harry Weil, Peter Safar and Will Shoemaker used to establish SCCM was an absolute thrill. So, obviously the ability to connect to our past clearly contributed to this being such a great year.
As president, I have traveled extensively at the invitation of critical care societies around the world. I have been to India, Japan, Panama, China, Argentina, Peru, Italy, Korea, Paraguay, Brazil and Nepal. I have been fortunate in that, in almost every country, I have been able to visit local ICUs and round with some of the teams. Critical illness is the same no matter where you find it. Team care, at some level, exists everywhere. You may be surprised to know that more countries are making their society efforts multiprofessional. Clinicians struggle to provide high-quality and safe care secondary to limitations of culture, equipment, medicines and resources, or simply because of the limits of our knowledge and thus the difficulties in diagnosing or managing some patients. It is a testimony to the need for ongoing research as well as the power of many of our SCCM programs, especially the Fundamentals series. I have been greeted warmly in every country and in every ICU. These visits are so humbling and serve as an important way to give back. I just see myself as Todd and they see me as The SCCM President. My picture has been taken so many times that it would be impossible to count the pictures or measure the goodwill created. This connection to the world of critical care clearly contributes to the greatness of the year!
The SCCM has a team of staff that work very hard behind the scenes to make all of our aspirations come true. This year affords the president the opportunity to get to know each and every staff member and to get to know many of them very well. I worked hard with the directors and tried to contribute in some small way to advancing our social media presence, working with Communications. I got to work extensively with Publications and was able to proselytize our journal when traveling, and I was able to recommend submission when I saw quality work. I got to know our staff who support international travel and got to know folks like Rossy and Ken very well. I simply cannot name all of the staff here, but I must and can thank all of them. I just hope that the Hula video never surfaces from when I attended one of their staff appreciation days. The honor of working with and becoming friends with the staff is yet another component of what makes this year so great.
The president gets to help maintain and create collaborative relationships. For SCCM, this includes foundations like the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and recently Project HELP. The Critical Care Societies Collaborative has been stronger, and the organizations are working hard to coordinate and synergize activities. Our relationship with the European Society of Intensive Care Medicine is vitally important as we work together to advance the identification and care of patients with sepsis across the continuum of life. Our relationship with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has grown over sepsis-related activities, and we are now seeing the start of a relationship with the World Health Organization over the same topic. Given that sepsis may indeed be the world’s leading cause of death, all of these relationships added together make for a formidable team all focused on improving the care of the critically ill. Clearly, working with leaders across all of these organizations contributes to this year being so great.
So, the year has been about a team, focused on excellence, that includes volunteer members and staff, working through relationships with partner organizations all the while staying connected to our past. I have thoroughly enjoyed every minute of this year. I have grown personally from the experiences. I want to thank each and every one of you for all you do for critical care, the Society and our patients and families. It is also very important to me and my family to thank you for your trust and faith over the years and for helping make this the absolute best year of my life!