In this issue of ACS Surgery News, you will see articles highlighting the program of the ACS Clinical Congress that took place in Washington, D.C., in mid-October.
This year’s theme, “The Best Surgical Education, All in One Place,” could not be more apt to represent the ACS Clinical Congress. And yet, the Clinical Congress is much, much more than an educational exercise for those who are able to attend. No matter what your age, whether it was your first time attending or, like me, your 41st, there is something at this meeting for everyone. Although the focus is on education, and the meeting does have a dizzying array of educational options, it is also an opportunity to see old friends and make new ones, connect with people with whom you share problems, work with colleagues to devise strategies to solve challenges, put faces with names you’ve only read about, participate in service and governance of our profession, and be inspired by the thoughtful leaders of our profession.
As the years pass by
I remember vividly my earliest ACS Clinical Congress, as a surgical resident at University of California, San Francisco, in October, 1975. It was 3 months into my research year and therefore I was able to attend the congress, which was in San Francisco that year. As one of the few women physicians in attendance at that meeting, I was in strange territory. I watched the opening ceremony with surgical leaders standing on stage, and I thought how homogeneous the group appeared: undeniably brilliant and accomplished, but all white-haired, white, and male. Fast-forward 41 years, and the surgical leaders who appeared on that stage at this year’s meeting were every bit as brilliant and accomplished, but the leaders are now younger and more diverse than in years past. The diversity in the college was evident as I walked the halls of the convention center where Fellows, residents, and guest physicians paused in their rushed transit from Hall D to Ballroom C to converse with an old or new friend.
The program itself has also become far more varied over the years. There is a continued emphasis on basic and clinical research in the scientific forum and scientific sessions. Postgraduate courses still impart new knowledge and skills, and state-of-the-art clinical practice is still taught in panel sessions. But the program now includes numerous nonclinical topics that are of crucial importance to present and future surgeons, such as ethics, end-of-life care, practice management, burnout, deciphering CMS regulations, and global health and humanitarian surgical outreach, to mention only a few. The named lectures continue to feature outstanding speakers who are often inspiring, and even sometimes provocative, and they are well worth attending. I would not want to have missed Past-President Carlos Pellegrini’s profoundly thoughtful John J. Conley Ethics and Philosophy Lecture on “TRUST: The Keystone of the Patient Physician Relationship,” for example.
Even the topics at the scientific forum have expanded over the years. In addition to the traditional basic science and clinical topics, five separate sessions this year on surgical education and on quality, safety, and outcomes attest to the increasing significance of these areas, unheard of when I was a resident. The important topics of ethics, geriatric surgery and palliative care, and global surgery/humanitarian outreach have gained sufficient interest that they now warrant their own sessions. There is something on the program to satisfy everyone’s interests. The forum presentations also provide us aging surgeons a chance to see the impressive contributions that our surgical progeny are making to the future of our profession. That, in itself, is encouraging and comforting.
Serving the profession
Many surgeons attend the congress in part to participate in committees of the ACS or other surgical organizations that meet during the congress to conserve time away from their “real jobs” as surgeons. These meetings offer attendees a chance to “give back” as well as to develop leadership in their profession. Participation in these committees can lead eventually to service on the Board of Governors or Regents, which offer opportunities to help shape the future of our organization and profession.
Profound positive changes in our profession have occurred through the leadership of the college. And some of these initiatives are reflected in the standing committees such as the Women in Surgery Committee, the Committee on Diversity Issues, and the Committee on Health Care Disparities, to name only three. Long-standing groups such as the Committee on Trauma (COT) have evolved greatly through the years and have raised the quality of trauma care and education in trauma across the United States and also globally.