Stronger yet Virtual?
By the time you read this newsletter, you will have been informed that our annual meeting—in conjunction with the IARS’—for this coming March has been transitioned from in-person to virtual. This will mark the third consecutive year that we are not meeting in person and our second full virtual meeting. It’s a long time!
As we spend month after month, meeting after meeting, lockdown after lockdown, in this COVID pandemic that has upended our way of living, I keep thinking: can the distance and lack of presential contact be a good thing? Can we adapt to the point of only seeing each other in a square? Can the present be the future? Are we getting comfortable staying inside and disconnecting our cameras if we don’t find a topic interesting?
The answer, at least for me, is a complex one. I strongly believe there’s no substitute for human interaction, when a handshake communicates a thousand times more than any screen ever will. On the other hand, there’s no doubt that our need to stay relevant and communicate with each other has generated several excellent vehicles to disseminate the Society’s message. Ironically, a pandemic that has shut the gates to the airport has opened many electronic doors and given many of our younger members a bigger forum to disseminate their ideas. Today, the gospel of SOCCA is spread farther and wider than during any other time of its distinguished history.
The results of this strategy, a blitz of offerings and media channels, has brought very positive results, and at the time of this writing, I’m very proud to report that our membership is at record levels, both in the educational and active categories, and the enthusiasm to participate in committees and task forces is also unparalleled.
The Society is growing in an unprecedented fashion, and this growth is even more extraordinary when you consider where we were not so long ago. Many of you reading this will remember that less than 10 years ago, we were seriously considering how a minuscule SOCCA would subsist: there were a myriad of challenges, including the alignment with the IARS, moving the annual meeting from October to the spring, and a significant drop in our membership. Our financials were negatively affected and the question of whether we were able to survive came up frequently in our meetings.
In subsequent years we have thrived: our partnership with IARS has been solid and symbiotic, and SOCCA has found a great partner to lean and grow alongside. Our annual meeting continued to be the best single day educational and networking event in the calendar, and the engagement we kept with the fellowship programs through our Program Directors’ Council kept SOCCA strong during turbulent times.
In times of strength, it’s important to look at leaner times and remind ourselves that what we’ve crafted with much dedication and tenacity over many years is a fragile and precious agreement of like-minded individuals who want to make sure we have a place to gather, debate, meet each other and find ways to propel forward the specialty we love. It’s on all of us to maintain this society through continuous engagement, participation, and recruitment. SOCCA’s current success should not be taken for granted.
I once read that in any professional relationship, there’s never a need for a contract: if the parties trust each other, a handshake will suffice; If they don’t, no amount of paper will. Please accept my strongest virtual handshake, as SOCCA reiterates its commitment to being the premier organization dedicated exclusively to representing and enhancing the profile of anesthesiologists-intensivists.
And this is how I reach the end of my last President’s message. Serving as President over the last two years has been the most gratifying and fulfilling experience of my professional career. Never in my wildest dreams, when I immigrated to the United States almost 30 years ago, would I have imagined that one day I’d be in this position. I would like to thank the many colleagues and friends that helped me along the way as well as every single member of the Board of Directors, fellow colleagues and administrative staff that makes our outstanding Society work as smoothly as it does. SOCCA is a conglomerate of amazing anesthesiologists connected by their passion for Critical Care. Thanks for allowing me the honor to serve.
Miguel Cobas, MD, FCCM
President, Society of Critical Care Anesthesiologists
University of Miami