March 4, 2021
The following commentary is an experiment aimed at the corpus of the American College of Surgeons (ACS). The authors are members of the Engagement Subcommittee, the Advocacy Pillar, and the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma (ACS COT).
We believe each and every member of the ACS, regardless of practice location—big city or rural, academic medical center or private practice—has experienced the pernicious and compounding forces relentlessly chipping away at our autonomy to care for patients and practice surgery to the fullest of our abilities and desires—to answer our calling.
Most of these headwinds are tied to the interface of health care finance and the comingled politics that affect American medicine. For professionals who have spent their lives studying human physiology and the limitless nuances of effective surgical care, the ever-encroaching prevailing winds from finance and politics seem to be from another planet.
A precautionary tale, however: the Luddites actively railed against the encroachment of the Industrial Revolution upon the British agrarian way of life. Their failure to recognize the irrevocable change coming on like a freight train doomed them and their way of life to the merest footnote in the annals of history.
As a community of surgeons, our failure to aggressively participate in the political underpinnings of health care finance is akin to the misguided and eventually ruinous disengagement of the Luddites. Failure to engage is an existential mistake, but it is so difficult to get all of us to see this reality.
The “experiment” being proffered is to ask each of us, now, to see through the eyes, hear the youthful voice, and be motivated by the imagination of our next generation of surgeons and surgical leaders—the “young Turks” of the ACS. They have the most to lose from our lackluster political advocacy, and they truly have more skin in the game than surgeons farther along in our careers.
Julia R. Coleman, MD, MPH, author of the following column, ACS Resident and Associate Society Secretary, and a physician who is particularly engaged with ACS advocacy, is a standout among this highly passionate next wave of the ACS—all of them with bellies-full-of-fire. Let’s all lend our ears now, and truly look through their eyes, hear their voices, and be captured by their imagination. ACS advocacy—it’s for our profession’s posterity.