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The next generation: how to engage young physicians. Best practices

Succession planning is a crucial matter for Scientific Associations. Annual congresses are a major opportunity to involve the new generation of physicians in many different ways. As it happened at recent congresses organised by AIM Group International.

Increasing membership is one of the most common objectives of scientific and medical associations and congresses are a great time to achieve it. With Millennials entering the job market and Baby Boomers exiting, it is more and more crucial for Scientific Associations to involve young physicians to facilitate an easy handover. There are multiple ways of engaging the new generation, often depending on the medical speciality or the association’s history and culture.

At AIM Group International, we are helping an increasing number of associations achieve this goal. Here are some examples, taken from recent association congresses:

  • Board Initiated. One unique way to involve young physicians in the life of the association, is to  involve them at the highest level, where decisions are being made. For instance, the Italian Society of General Practitioners (SIMG), created a “parallel young board” beside the executive board. Each year, the young board  nominates a young representative to join the executive board.
  • Preferential terms – The 2018 SIMG Congress,  just held in Florence, also focused on the younger GP needs. Dedicated practical courses and discounted rates were offered. This strategy worked and for the first time, the under 35 delegates represented more than 50% of the 2.800 participants.
  • Social Ambassadors and communication multipliers. Young people are keen to communicate and in particular via social networks.
    • At the SIFO 2018 Congress (association of hospital pharmacists), held in Naples with 1,700 participants, the “Youth Area”, which gathered the ‘under 35’ association members, attracted this younger generation through very active social media engagement. Throughout the congress, young delegates supported the communication agency in charge of social media management and contributed to post and share on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
    • At the World Scleroderma Congress 2018, young physicians created  a series of video-interviews with the senior experts on different topics and posted them on the YouTube association channel.
  • Dedicated sessions and networking. Young physicians have their own specific needs and experiences to share, so it is also useful to organise dedicated sessions for this age group.
    • At the SIR 2018 Congress, held in Rimini with 1,500 rheumatologists, 60% of the speakers were under 40. A “SIR Young” evening was organised which involved the young members of the association of Rheumatic Sufferers. This engagement between physicians and patients was useful and attractive to the younger generation.
    • An original way to promote networking among young doctors was put in place by the AIJA Congress (International Association of Young Lawyers), where some of the young local lawyers invited a small group of young delegates for a private dinner at their homes.
    • It is also useful to explore opportunities that respond to this generations thirst for knowledge, by arranging side bar meetings dedicated to engaging with senior doctors. At EuroCMR (European Association of Cardiovascular Imaging) “speed mentoring” was organized in a dedicated lounge. Here young doctors had the opportunity to have 15-minute chats with senior experts on particular topics.
    • At EANS Congress (European Association of Neurosurgical Societies), the association organised a series of Masterclasses, where a senior expert was available to a small group of attendees. The participants were encouraged to openly interact with the expert and deepen their understanding of selected topics.
  • Award the best. Another effective way to give visibility to young doctors is to recognise their research. Special Award categories for the under 40s or under 35s can be developed that recognise outstanding presentations or abstracts. An increasingly common incentive is to reward exceptional young doctors by inviting them to the World or European congress. For instance, at SIR, the top ten ‘under 40’ abstracts received a grant to participate in the European Congress of Rheumatology -EULAR 2019.
  • Economic grants. A very popular solution to incentivise young doctors to participate in a congress is to provide some granted subscriptions for the under 35 generation.

“The generational turnover among congress participants is already under way and will be very evident in the next 4/5 years,” comments Rosangela Quieti, managing director Congress Division AIM Italy. “Each association must find the best initiatives to engage and attract young participants. If successful, associations will nurture the engagement of the new generations who will guarantee the success of the organisations in the future.”

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