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.

Find Your Passion and Become Engaged

What does it mean to be engaged? Since I’ve been involved in grassroots organizing and health advocacy for most of my adult life, I believe its means to find your passion and become a proactive participant and not just a spectator – for me that has always meant educating those in minority and immigrant communities and those who affect these communities on health equity issues as well as fighting for the rights of those who are marginalized within these communities. I spent much of my time in medical school working as the head of our mobile migrant farm worker clinic, as a Schweitzer Fellow helping to promote free hepatitis B screenings and free vaccinations at two free health clinics, and co-organizing multiple health fairs that served the Philadelphia Asian community. I also worked as the national grassroots leadership coordinator and subsequently, national chair of AMSA’s Race, Ethnicity, Culture in Health (REACH) action committee.

Even though I’m back in Chicago where much of my grassroots experiences began, I’ve had to put these types of efforts on hold. Unfortunately, residency doesn’t always afford enough time for a consistent commitment in terms of my health advocacy. I do have at least enough time to still remain engaged to drive systems change within our profession. If this is something you’re passionate about, what do you need to do first?

Educate yourself on the opportunities out there. Organizations that focus on AP/CP issues like ASCP (the CP here means clinical medicine as opposed to research, not just clinical pathology) and CAP are good places to start. Check out their webpages (www.ascp.org and www.cap.org) to see how residents can become involved. Both organizations have junior positions for residents on their committees and councils and both also have resident councils that you might be able to become a part of. Often, there are also reserved resident positions on committees within specialty organizations (eg – Association of Molecular Pathology aka AMP) as well. Google is your friend. So check their websites often and get on their email lists as most of these position applications or elections (for CAP resident forum aka RF) have deadlines in the early spring. ASCP and CAP also have resident representative and delegate to the RF positions available and each residency program handles the appointment or election of residents to these positions differently so ask your PD.

Many of these committee positions are fairly competitive so you might not succeed at first; simply try again. Build your CV and network at conferences as there are often opportunities built-in for physician leaders of these organizations and residents to meet. You’d be surprised how an innocent encounter with one of these organizational leaders results in an unexpected opportunity. Last weekend, I was in Tampa as the only resident representing our interests with the educational planning committee for the 2014 ASCP Annual Meeting. I had no idea that sitting at lunch with an ASCP leader last spring when I was chosen to be the resident representative at their Future of the Pathology Workforce Roundtable and Leadership Forum would result in her recommending me for this position. I had a great time (and away from the snow and cold in Chicago although I did get stranded in Birmingham for a day on my way back), my opinions were appreciated, and I think the conference is going to be awesome (btw, there is a resident boards mini-course built into this conference every year). But don’t be Machiavellian when you network – just be yourself and you may be surprised at the doors that open for you. If you’re sincerely passionate about something, trust that it will show and that good things will happen.

So, I gave an example of chance encounters that granted me unexpected opportunities and it happened because I was at a conference where I was presenting a poster. So, I highly encourage submitting abstracts and presenting posters at conferences. You never know whom you may meet or how they may touch your life. Plus presenting a poster or platform is a good experience to develop skills you need and to build your CV for subsequent fellowship and job applications. As I mentioned before, residency is not the same as medical school but more like the training ground for your first job. We all must be more pro-active at taking ownership of our education and we must no longer expect that our education will be spoon-fed or organized around our needs specifically. Be aware of and engaged in obtaining what you need because there isn’t necessarily a syllabus for how you should learn during residency.

Becoming engaged and involved with these organizations as a resident gives you a glimpse as to issues that affect our profession, now and in the future. It also gives you an outlet to be a part of that change because our opinions are truly valued – most of the ASCP and CAP committee and council positions support your travel and expenses to these meetings, so they really are making an investment in you and the resident opinion you represent.

And lastly, give your 110%. If you are chosen for a leadership role, take it seriously, work hard, and be humble – being entitled and saying that you were “too busy” if you miss a deadline won’t reflect well on you…after all, we all are busy and that’s where time management skills come into play. So find what you are passionate about and go after it!

 

Chung

Betty Chung, DO, MPH, MA is a second year resident physician at the University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System in Chicago, IL.

Engage Yourself to Transform Our Profession

It’s never too early to be an engaged pathologist-in-training. This means that we must understand our past and have a strong vision of the future we hope to shape. We must evaluate the forces that have influenced the role and perception of our profession within society, what we did or didn’t do in the past that has led us to our current status, and not only what things we would like to change but also to what do we want to change them.

Since I have an advocacy and organizing background, I may look at our profession a little differently than other residents. First, we are a small profession. The majority of medical students do not choose to become pathologists. But I believe that may be due to at least in part, to a lack of commitment to nurture our pipeline. There is no national medical student organization for those who are interested in learning more about pathology as a profession, and often the little exposure that medical students do get is not an accurate representation of what they would do during residency and ultimately, in the working world.

It’s never too early to be an engaged pathologist-in-training. This means that we must understand our past and have a strong vision of the future we hope to shape.

Secondly, we are still more discohesive (and I’m not talking about a lymphoma here) than we should be as a profession. This may partly be due to the diverse nature of our profession where AP and CP are all considered pathology. In many Asian or European countries, pathology residents must choose one track or the other; they, more times than not, do not have the option for combined AP/CP. So does this confuse or hurt us to educate our future pathologists in this manner where allegiances are often diluted? I say no, not directly. But since we do have so many subspecialties, and consequently, subspecialty organizations, many residents and pathologists who are limited in terms of time and energy have to choose and prioritize which organization to devote their efforts. Even though we have ASCP and CAP as more all-encompassing organizations, we could still have stronger solidarity and more frequent interactions between these groups.

Thirdly, from my n=1 (level 3 evidence which isn’t always worth much), most residents and attendings I see have very little interest or experience in political advocacy even though this may be the greatest avenue we have for palpable change. I have seen some committed to curricular reform. I have also seen some who promote the profession by serving on hospital and program committees as well as leadership in state and national societies. But what I don’t see much of are those who keep track of what is going on in DC and within society that affects our profession and who attempt to do something to change what they perceive as negative. We need to change our culture and encourage and train our residents to get involved early in such activities.

And last, but not least, we need to own our value as physicians. We must not allow anyone to treat as us less than a physician from another specialty. And practice makes perfect–we as residents should start early by serving on organizational committees, etc. I will be doing my part this weekend serving on the CAP Council on Education (COE). I’ll let you know how that goes.

As an aside, creating an organization to educate medical students about pathology is a pet project of mine. If you’re interested in helping to start such an organization where we can also serve as mentors to pathology residents-to-be, please feel free to email me at bchung73@uic.edu.

Chung

Betty Chung, DO, MPH, MA is a second year resident physician at the University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System in Chicago, IL.