Transparency in the SCCM Committee Appointment Process

Jerry J. Zimmerman, MD, PhD, FCCM

In my tenure on the Council of the Society of Critical Care Medicine (SCCM), I have often been asked about the Society’s committee appointment process. Specifically, members will ask why, when they applied for one committee, they were appointed to a completely different committee.

This past summer, in my role as president-elect, I traveled to SCCM headquarters to participate in the key process of annual SCCM committee appointments. Before arriving at headquarters, I had been very aware of the membership-wide request for committee applications and had received a number of specific nominee support conversations, telephone calls, and e-mails. When I arrived, I was handed a very large packet of detailed information related to committee appointments. Immediately it was evident that an enormous amount of work had been done, leveraging a number of SCCM resources, to facilitate an efficient and thoughtful committee appointment process. As a result of this experience, I learned the answer to the question posed above and decided to share it so that everyone would benefit from an explanation of how committee appointments actually happen.

SCCM is fortunate to have an engaged and participatory membership. A volunteer workforce of over 1,500 members makes it possible to offer the Society’s successful programming and initiatives. We refer to this volunteer workforce as the “Creative Community.”

Each spring, SCCM members are offered the opportunity to volunteer. The number of members who can serve is not fixed because our philosophy is to engage as many members in SCCM activities as possible. When I participated in the SCCM committee appointments, I was astounded by the complexity of the process. We had over 300 applicants, many of whom had applied for multiple committees. Frequently there were many more applicants for a particular work group than there were slots to fill but, given our philosophy of appointing everyone to something, we utilize standard work criteria regarding whom to appoint to which committee.

For example, not everyone who applies can serve on the Congress Program Committee. Accordingly, a paramount criterion for serving on SCCM’s most popular committees is a documented high level of engagement in SCCM affairs. A dynamic engagement score is part of each SCCM member’s profile. In a real sense, a volunteer needs to work her/his way up to the Congress Program Committee. Often a starting point for first-time appointees is to serve on one of the item writing committees. This is a very important activity within the Society since Goal 1 of SCCM’s Strategic Plan is Education (Learn It), and SCCM’s numerous educational programs require a great number of up-to-date review and self-assessment
questions. These questions are written for the item bank that supports many of our educational activities, which are preceded and/or followed by a test to determine whether the activity was effective. Composing questions is vitally important and often serves as a first step in what we hope is a long career of volunteer service with SCCM.

Another important variable is term limits on each committee. Society bylaws state that a member may serve no more than two three-year terms on any one committee unless he/she is moved up to vice-chair. These bylaws are in place to allow many members the opportunity to serve and to expose members to different work groups within the Society. This exposure helps build our future leaders and ultimately can lead to chair appointments and even election to the Council, our SCCM board of directors. Diversity is a core SCCM principle. As such, our committee appointment process ensures that all work groups reflect the multidisciplinary nature of our Society, that minorities are represented, and that we encompass geographic subspecialty diversity as well.

Sincere thanks to everyone who has applied to be part of SCCM’s Creative Community this year. I hope that every volunteer will accept her/his appointment, whether it is to a work group actively sought or not. SCCM can succeed only with volunteer involvement at every level. All engagement is recognized and appreciated. ​