Patricia L. Turner, MD, MBA, FACS
August 9, 2023
There are many things we cannot fully predict about the future of surgery. An element of uncertainty is unavoidable in knowing when, which, and how new technologies will transform our work, how compensation for our care will be calculated, and what career achievements each of us might ultimately attain.
One thing is certain: each year, without fail, a new class will graduate from medical school and enter surgical residency, and a corresponding group will complete residencies and fellowships to become attending surgeons. We cannot predict the future—but we can meet the future personally, by knowing, engaging, and welcoming the next generation of our surgical colleagues.
At the ACS, we strive to know our trainees well. I am proud that the College maintains a strong focus on supporting residents and fellows as they progress through training and establish their careers.
For example, we have developed extensive resources that are meant to complement the education they receive in residency or fellowship itself. These offerings include educational webinars, scholarships and grants, virtual hangout sessions for informal discussions, and more (available at facs.org).
We do not stop at offering resources. Rather, we incorporate resident voices into the work of the ACS by inviting nearly 80 liaisons from our Resident and Associate Society (RAS) into scores of decision-making meetings each year—not merely as observers. For example, the current RAS chair, Julia R. Coleman, MD, MPH, attended our most recent Board of Regents meeting and later commented, “I couldn’t even count the number of times that, in this room full of those whom I consider the surgery leaders of the world, they would ask, ‘Dr. Coleman, what do you think of this from the RAS perspective?’”
That perspective is incredibly useful. Residents represent the future of our profession, and their participation helps the entire House of Surgery know not only what is relevant to them today, but also what viewpoints are likely to be pivotal in the future.
In fact, the current cohort of graduating residents may make a distinctive contribution to our collective future by virtue of their unique position. Those completing residency now have faced distinct challenges in the formative years of their careers, including spending part of their training near the frontlines of a global pandemic.
They are also beginning their careers amidst multiple transformations in the profession such as changes in how quality and performance are measured, shifting healthcare payment models, and burgeoning but potentially unsettling use of artificial intelligence and machine learning, all against the backdrop of ballooning student debt.
Training to become a surgeon during these seismic shifts provides this cohort unique perspectives relevant to them, to surgical residents who will come after them, and to more established colleagues—in short, to all of us.
It is possible for us to have a strong understanding of surgical residents because so many participate in the ACS. There are now 17,000 members of RAS, including 13,000 surgical residents and 4,000 Associate Fellows (who are in their early careers after residency, but before ACS Fellowship). These numbers have grown by nearly 3,000, in part, because we are 2 years into a pilot project offering free membership to all surgical residents of all specialties and disciplines. We anticipate that enhanced resident participation will lead to more Fellows in practice who recognize the inherent value of membership in the ACS.
Engagement also continues to increase. For example, the annual Leadership & Advocacy Summit in Washington, DC, this April had more participation from RAS members than in previous years, and RAS members collectively contributed more funds than ever before to SurgeonsPAC, the ACS political action committee that advocates for surgeons and surgical quality. We sincerely appreciate their support and participation in the political process—not least of all because we know that early career surgeons are most likely to see the impact of legislative changes over time. The residents seem to inherently recognize that no one is going to love everything about any candidate in any political race, but engaging in the process and exerting broad influence on behalf of surgeon colleagues and our patients benefits us all.
Of course, we all hope for a future full of wisely used technologies, fair and reasonable pay, and fulfilling career achievements. Alongside the work you do to secure that future, I urge you to engage yourself and any residents you know with the ACS. To do so will help cement the legacy of this organization for the next generation—and as Abraham Lincoln once said, “The best way to predict the future is to make it.”
We share the insights of residents through the August issue of the Bulletin. This year, please see articles by RAS members detailing the impact of online communication platforms, the transition from resident to attending surgeon, and more.
If you are interested in knowing about any aspect of the current state or the future of surgery, Clinical Congress is a great place to find out more. This year, we will meet in Boston, Massachusetts, from October 22 to 25.
If you are a resident, your free membership includes registration for Clinical Congress (if you register by early October). Offerings specifically for residents include the 2-day Surgery Resident Program (Sunday, October 22–Monday, October 23) and Surgical Jeopardy, a fun competition that is often among the conference’s most highly attended events (Wednesday, October 25, 8:00–11:45 am). In addition, the RAS Business Meeting (Tuesday, October 24, starting at 12:00 pm) is open to all interested in learning more about or becoming active in RAS.
For surgeons at every stage of their careers, Clinical Congress offers hands-on skills courses, Didactic Lectures, Panel Sessions, Named Lectures from iconic leaders, and scientific forum sessions on a tremendous range of topics, relevant to surgeons of every specialty and in every practice setting. Find out more and register at facs.org/clincon2023.