Advantages of Resident Engagement: BE PROACTIVE AND GET INVOLVED!

So, I was recently in Boston at the start of the USCAP Annual Meeting in the midst of our American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) Resident Council meeting and we were talking about a topic close to my heart, that of resident engagement. As I’ve mentioned before, one of the greatest benefits of becoming a resident member (often for free as a resident) of organized pathology organizations are the opportunities for engagement. So, what do I mean by engagement?

Pathology is a small world. And in the past, we’ve been stereotyped as likely to be the more introverted out of our physician counterparts. And there may be some truth to that stereotype. But I’ve always been pretty involved and vocal since my high school days when I worked with grassroots organizing groups in the minority and immigrant communities in Chicago. Even now as a resident I’m involved as one of the five elected (and only non-primary care specialty) delegates for my hospital’s resident union, the Committee of Interns and Residents (CIR) which is affiliated with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

I had originally contacted our CIR/SEIU contract organizer because I was one of the many residents who paid my parking fee early and before they realized that the parking office was overcharging at the non-resident rate. Within this conversation, I had mentioned that I knew three key members of CIR/SEIU who are still active in the organization now from when I was the American Medical Student Association’s (AMSA) Race, Ethnicity, and Culture in Health (REACH) national chair in charge of AMSA’s immigrant and minority health equity campaigns and education during medical school. We even held one of our Health Equity Leadership Institute where participants came from as far as France to attend, at the CIR/SEIU office in NYC when we organized it during medical school.

Fast forward a few conversations later and I had agreed to have my name on the delegate election ballot since they were a delegate and two alternates short. We didn’t have speeches or bios, only our house staff pictures. I was stuck grossing during elections and didn’t even get to vote nor did I tell my co-residents to go vote. But despite four write-in candidates, I was surprised to learn that I had been elected. And when I asked the contract organizer how this happened she said that residents from other departments said they knew me because I had been helpful to them – either when they came to the pathology department because they needed help with an issue or when I took extra time to answer their questions after a tumor board or presentation. My point is, even when we’re not trying, the impressions we can leave on others can have an unexpected, indelible impact.

What’s even more powerful is the next step – that of joining your voice together with others to make a stronger collective voice for our profession. I cannot quantitate what I’ve received in return when I chose to become engaged, and not with a Machiavellian “ends justify the means” mentality where I do something or manipulate people to receive a gain. I don’t believe in that. But the wonderful surprises of seeing work (especially in health policy) that I’ve either participated in or supported becoming a reality, the totally unexpected relationships I’ve developed where pathology leaders saw something in me that they thought to invest in by thinking of and providing me with opportunities (eg – fellowships, work on publications, etc), and relationships with other residents that I met either through ASCP, CAP, or this very blog. I’ve kept in touch with those of you through email, social media, and texts and I appreciate that you privilege me by asking my opinions on CVs, fellowship applications, etc. Thank you and I hope that I was helpful.

These are the types of non-quantifiable benefits I’ve experienced by being more engaged. Of course, there is the satisfaction of contributing not to just a collective voice but also to a larger work to impact our profession (most of my focus has been in the realm of graduate medical education). Life seems fuller when I am involved. Our ASCP Resident Council, for instance, will have a number of members graduated and spots to fill in the next coming months so make sure that your program’s ASCP Resident Representative keeps you updated as to the application deadline. We also have a resident representative on many of ASCP’s commissions and committee where you can represent the resident voice (and your travel costs are all paid for if you can get the time off to attend meetings). So please feel free to email me at chungbm@rwjms.rutgers.edu if you want to get more involved and I’ll get your info to the correct people.

We’ve already planned the sessions for 2015 ASCP Annual Meeting in Long Beach – don’t forget to register early at http://ascp.org/2015-Annual-Meeting/index.html – and it’ll be around Halloween so I promise it will be fun! And it will be in conjunction with the Society of Hematopathology and European Association for Hematopathology (http://www.sh-eahp.org/meetings/details/19-SH-EAHP%202015%20Workshop) at the Long Beach Convention Center for those hemepath people like me =) …but if you want to help go through abstracts and chose session speakers for the 2016 Annual Meeting in Las Vegas (Sin City baby!), then email me and indicate if you have an area of interest and I’ll pass along your info. If you’d like to blog for the Lablogatory, also let me know. We are working to get more residents engaged in ASCP and I promise that we are in the planning stages now to provide more resident focused time (on top of the subspecialty sessions and mini-boards course sessions) during our Annual Meeting in Long Beach. We want to provide a physical space for those of you who are resident reps to come together to not only be recognized but also to talk together about issues important to us…so stay tuned! And let me know if you have any ideas for a resident rep session at the Annual Meeting or would like to become more involved with ASCP in any way!

Positive change takes time and persistence. Don’t just complain but get involved in a collective to bring about the change you want to see.

Chung

-Betty Chung, DO, MPH, MA is a third year resident physician at Rutgers – Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, NJ.

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