Independent vascular surgery board called key to self-determination



NEW YORK – Numerous experts, including a past president of the Society for Clinical Vascular Surgery, lined up at a symposium on vascular and endovascular issues sponsored by the Cleveland Clinic Foundation to explain why there is a critical need for a separate vascular surgery board with membership on the American Board of Medical Specialties.

Dr. Alan M. Dietzek SCVS president in 2018 and an active vascular surgeon in Danbury, Connecticut. Ted Bosworth/MDedge News

Dr. Alan M. Dietzek

Not least of the reasons is, “We need to control our destiny by training more residents and fellows in vascular surgery,” said Alan M. Dietzek, MD, who served as SCVS president in 2018 and is an active vascular surgeon in Danbury, Conn.

According to Dr. Dietzek, the American Board of Surgeons recently rejected an application for a vascular resident review committee (RRC), which develops and controls training within a specialty.

“A vascular surgery RRC would facilitate more applications [for training] as well as innovations in specialized programs, which we could certainly use in aortic and venous fellowships,” Dr. Dietzek said. “All ABMS-recognized boards have their own RRC.”

Other speakers, including Timothy M. Sullivan, MD, a professor of surgery at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, made the same point. He also believes that a vascular surgery RRC is pivotal in establishing recognition for the specialty and what it offers.

From his perspective, O. William Brown, MD, a vascular surgeon from Bingham Falls, Minn., believes that creating a vascular surgery board will increase recognition in general. Like the others, he maintained that an independent board could draw attention to the specific skills of vascular surgeons, creating a basis for attracting patients, advocating for their needs, and lobbying for resources.

Many experts, including Dr. Brown, believe that the specialty of vascular surgery already meets the qualifications for creating an independent board. However, Dr. Dietzek said that membership in ABMS is dependent on support from the Society of Vascular Surgeons, “and we don’t have that yet.”

In the title of his talk on creating a vascular surgery board, Dr. Brown called for the SVS Executive Committee to “recognize this need and go after it with full force.”

Dr. Dietzek believes the SVS should survey the membership. If there is support for an independent board, it should move ahead with the appropriate support.

“Can we afford it? Other small boards have done just fine,” said Dr. Dietzek, citing the American Board of Colorectal Surgery and the American Board of Thoracic Surgery. He said both are doing well financially, and he provided estimates suggesting that a vascular surgery board would also achieve firm financial footing.

The value of an independent board in exercising control over training programs is part of a larger issue of self-determination, according to Dr. Dietzek. For example, vascular surgeons have “little or no control over the priorities or the budget” at most institutions where they work. An established and recognized vascular surgery board could help these specialists define their identity and separate from other surgical specialties to create their own divisions or departments.

Others who spoke on this topic agreed. Many expressed concern about marginalization by hospital administrators who are often unclear on what vascular surgeons do. A vascular surgery board has the potential to provide a degree of stature that is now lacking.

“We need to build relationships with hospital administrators, politicians, and the insurance industry. This is critical,” Dr. Dietzek said. He believes a vascular surgery board offers an opportunity to achieve these goals and “help us control our own destiny.”

Dr. Dietzek and the other participants report no financial conflicts of interest relevant to this topic.

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