As the COVID-19 pandemic came into full force in early 2020, ACEP began canceling events and moving meetings to a virtual format. As the ACEP Scientific Assembly (ACEP20) was moved from an in-person meeting to a virtual space, Council Speaker Dr. Gary Katz and Vice Speaker Dr. Kelly Gray-Eurom had to figure out how to move the annual Council meeting to a virtual format. They not only succeeded in running a successful virtual meeting, they also created several innovations that carried into 2021.
Explore This IssueACEP Now: Vol 40 – No 12 – December 2021
First, a mechanism was created to debate proposed resolutions before the meeting in the form of asynchronous reference committee testimony. This allowed councillors to weigh in on the issues facing the Council via a closed email list several weeks before the meeting. Second, the entire Council meeting itself was broadcast online, allowing remote viewing of all the proceedings.
As the 2021 meeting approached, the decision was made that, because of a combination of infection control measures, councillors could safely meet in person. However, some councillors had travel restrictions in place through their employers that prevented them from attending in person. So again, the Council leaders had to pivot, and again, they rose to the occasion. New rules were created allowing councillors to be seated (ie, counted toward quorum) remotely. They could provide asynchronous testimony before the meeting and ask others to speak on their behalf during the meeting. They could watch the entire proceedings and, most important, vote. Of the more than 440 councillors, roughly 80 participated remotely.
I’ve been a councillor for the past 12 years (this year representing the Illinois Chapter). Ten days before the meeting, a medical crisis struck my family, so I became a virtual councillor. The experience was different. I felt a little like a coach on NFL draft day, lining up colleagues to speak to my various resolutions and support my positions. I had long text threads going by the end of the day and wore a hole in the carpet pacing while talking on the phone. But it wasn’t the same as being at the meeting. I couldn’t directly participate in the debates, but I was able to listen and vote, both for resolutions and for the leadership of the College. While I’d much rather have been on the Council floor, learning, debating, and campaigning for those causes and candidates I support, I have to thank Dr. Katz and Dr. Gray-Eurom, our Council leaders, for making this hybrid option work well. Without it, I and many others, wouldn’t have been able to participate at all. Hopefully, the need for a hybrid meeting will have abated by 2022, and if not, a great precedent has been set.
Dr. Mell is an emergency physician at Hospital Sisters Health System St. Elizabeth‘s Hospital in O’Fallon, Illinois, and a councillor for the Illinois Chapter of ACEP.