It shouldn’t be a surprise. Although we don’t necessarily welcome change, change is a constant in our world. Nothing new here – it has always been so. Most of us dread change, because of our natural apprehension of the unknown. New ideas and ways of functioning that disrupt the status quo require effort, adjustment, and learning with no guarantee of success.
In my lifetime alone, ways of communicating with one another have undergone so many changes that it’s dizzying to contemplate. When I was a child in rural Oregon, our means of communicating with friends and family was the “party line” (by which was meant, not the political party, but the community’s telephone connection). We didn’t have a separate phone number, but rather a ring that was specific to our family. Most people on the line knew each other’s ring and could surreptitiously listen in if curiosity got the best of them. Privacy was not a big consideration.
Fast forward just over a half-century, and our system of communication is barely recognizable: 24/7 connectivity on hand-held electronic devices to any part of the world, SMS, Skype, Facebook, texting. Instantaneous worldwide communication is a given from anywhere, even the golf course.
Yes, there are hazards in this convenience. Recent events have demonstrated the lack of privacy and security of our communications, and what you see is not necessarily what it appears to be. It has become abundantly clear just how fragile the process of exchanging valid information can be. And yet, who would wish to erase all of this convenience to go back to the old days before the Internet? I doubt seriously that many surgeons would exchange the old world of limited access to information and communication for our era of immersive connectivity.
A comparable progression has occurred in our methods of professional learning and moving our corpus of knowledge forward. For the past half-century and more, new techniques, knowledge, and ideas have been presented in meetings of established societies and published in peer-reviewed journals. Unfortunately, not all who might benefit from these new ideas have access to them. If you belong to the society, can afford the time and money to attend the meeting, and work in an institution that subscribes to online access to all of the major journals, you can read them. Surgeons in independent practice in rural, remote communities likely do not have that luxury. ACS Surgery News has had many functions but one of the most important has been to serve surgeons in those remote communities as well as for others who simply wanted the convenience of ready access to new information all in one place.
Unfortunately, print publications are becoming more expensive to produce and mail, and advertising dollars to subsidize them are shrinking. Thus, Tyler Hughes and I, the coeditors of ACS Surgery News, were informed that our publication will cease production after the December 2018 issue. We and the ACS leadership huddled to find a way to continue what we all believe is a benefit to our ACS Fellows, particularly those who practice in small rural hospitals. The answer was right in front of us: The ACS Communities, to which all Fellows have online access. So that is our plan: Tyler and I will continue to write our “homespun” commentaries, and our editorial board will contribute concise articles that summarize the “latest and greatest” presentations at meetings they attend or from recently published articles in major journals across the spectrum of general surgery and surgical specialties. If readers have questions or comments, they will be able to communicate with the authors for clarification. We hope that this structure and content will benefit our surgical colleagues. Look for our new ACS Communities presence in January 2019.
Dr. Deveney is professor of surgery emerita in the department of surgery at Oregon Health & Science University, Portland. She is the coeditor of ACS Surgery News.