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Become a member and receive career-enhancing benefits

Our top priority is providing value to members. Your Member Services team is here to ensure you maximize your ACS member benefits, participate in College activities, and engage with your ACS colleagues. It's all here.

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Executive Director Update

Embracing Innovation

Patricia L. Turner, MD, MBA, FACS

June 1, 2022

Embracing Innovation

Surgeons have historically been on the frontlines of innovation.

We are natural problem-solvers, and we thrive on developing solutions—always doing what’s best for the patient. Those solutions may include minimally invasive approaches, individualized operations, or advances that make surgery itself obsolete.

Over the years we’ve developed catheter-based interventions, laparoscopic procedures, and robot-assisted therapies. We are committed to providing our patients with excellent outcomes and helping them heal with less pain, less scarring, shorter hospital length of stays, and earlier return to function.

As a minimally invasive surgeon, I thrive on innovation, collaboration, and creativity. As surgeons, we are all motivated by time spent with colleagues who constantly refine techniques and push the envelope to perform more complex operations with precision, flexibility, and control.

In this issue, the Bulletin highlights three innovative surgeons who presented at last year’s Clinical Congress and their groundbreaking work. It also features an interview with a pioneer in xenotransplantation. These trailblazers describe the processes which underpin their innovations and offer advice on how we can all transform amorphous concepts into tangible products, techniques, or solutions.

Jacobson Innovation Award

This month, the ACS will present its Jacobson Innovation Award to Anthony Atala, MD, FACS, from the Wake Forest Institute of Regenerative Medicine in Winston-Salem, NC. Dr. Atala is the ACS Regent for Urology and is world renowned for creating the first functional lab-engineered organs to be successfully implanted in patients. He also developed breakthrough techniques to produce complex tissues and isolate cells for regeneration.

If Dr. Atala hadn’t asked the question, “Can we grow organs instead of transplanting them?,” we wouldn’t have these lifesaving advances.

Dr. Atala will be the 28th recipient of this prestigious international award that honors living surgeons who have been innovators of a transformative development or technique in any field of surgery. The award is made possible through a gift from Mrs. and Dr. Julius H. Jacobson II, a general vascular surgeon known for his pioneering work in the development of microsurgery.

Previous recipients have included Professor Francois Dubois, from Paris, France, for his landmark work with laparoscopic cholecystectomy; Judah Folkman, MD, FACS, from Boston, MA, for his seminal developments in the field of angiogenesis; and Susan E. Mackinnon, MD, FACS, FRCSC, from St. Louis, MO, for her innovative use of nerve transfer procedures for the treatment of patients with devastating peripheral nerve injuries.

In addition to the Jacobson Innovation Award, the ACS also presents the Jacobson Promising Investigator Award, which recognizes outstanding residents, fellows, and young surgeons demonstrating early promise of significant contributions to the practice of surgery and the safety of surgical patients.

The first Jacobson Promising Investigator Award was presented in 2005 to Michael T. Longaker, MD, MBA, FACS, who currently is the co-director of the Stanford Institute for Stem Cell Biology & Regenerative Medicine and holds academic appointments that include vice chair of surgery at Stanford University, CA.

The College’s early recognition and support of Dr. Longaker was critical as he investigated scar formation during wound repair and developed techniques to engineer tissue de novo. He remains on the frontlines of scar treatment and research today, and because of Dr. Longaker and other investigators in this field, scarless surgery is a real possibility.

Transformative Science

Innovation in medicine often begins with a thorny problem that requires a creative solution. Research and development play an essential role in that process.

The ACS provides more than $500,000 annually for more than a dozen research awards, including six resident research scholarships, four faculty research fellowships, NIH Research Career Development Awards, and several joint awards with other organizations and the NIH. These awards support the fundamental research that will accelerate innovations in surgery and advance patient care.

Surgeons in all specialties and in all career stages throughout the College—the House of Surgery—are performing extraordinary research every day and are improving surgical techniques in their everyday practice in our communities.

We also have a number of ACS awards that are specifically designated for the nonacademic community surgeon. These include health policy scholarships and traveling fellowships, among others.

Details about each of these awards, along with application requirements and deadlines, are posted on our website.

Cutting-Edge Skills

As research creates advances that continue to disrupt current practice, we all must hone our skills using these novel technologies and techniques to remain current on what the evidence shows us.

The ACS provides a wide range of skills-based courses and curricula so that we can remain up-to-date in our respective fields. From our Verification of Knowledge and Skills training program to the Advanced Skills courses during Clinical Congress, we offer essential programs to equip surgeons with the skills they need to achieve the best outcomes for our patients.

Visualizing the Future

It is widely understood that surgeons are resilient and have an incredible work ethic. We also are required to think creatively as we tackle the problems of everyday practice while improving the care of our patients. We are creative practitioners of our craft, always seeking iterative improvements which enhance care.

I encourage you to tap into your creativity and visualize the ideal solution to the thorny problems facing us and our patients. We, as a profession, will continue to advance and innovate, while retaining the highest quality of care that is our hallmark, and hewing closely to what the evidence shows us.

Our clinical data registries and quality verification programs provide excellent opportunities for quality improvement initiatives. Collaboratives have been established across the country and remind us that innovation and quality are inextricably linked.

Let’s continue to find ways to work collaboratively. Our specialty will reflect this growth, and our patients will benefit. 

Jacobson Innovation Award

Anthony Atala, MD, FACS, will be presented with the 2022 Jacobson Innovation Award on Friday, June 10. A recap and photos from the event will be included in the July issue of the Bulletin.


If you have comments or suggestions, please send them to Dr. Turner at executivedirector@facs.org.