Patricia L. Turner, MD, MBA, FACS
February 8, 2023
It is only the second month of 2023, and we are well into the throes of planning some of our signature educational events. These include the Cancer Conference (March 1–4 in Atlanta), Committee on Trauma Annual Meeting (March 8–10 in Chicago), and the Leadership & Advocacy Summit (April 15–18 in Washington, DC).
I look forward to seeing you at these meetings, and especially want to highlight the significance of this year’s Leadership & Advocacy Summit. Given the current landscape for surgeons, it is as timely as ever.
At the legislative level, 2022 was an eventful one for our profession. For this coming year, there is one challenge especially relevant to issues of leadership and advocacy—communicating the value of surgeons in the current employer model.
The fee for service model was historically straightforward and easy to understand. Added complexities and regulatory burdens changed that over the years. Today, when private practice surgeons negotiate with payers, or when surgeons and employers are engaged in contract negotiations, the model may expand to include other elements: a surgeon’s outcomes, contribution to quality improvement efforts, leadership of service lines, and other multidisciplinary efforts, against the backdrop of competition and the local environment.
ACS members are some of the best leaders anywhere, and they continue to show their necessity to the healthcare ecosystem. Surgeons are the engines that drive the revenue for many hospitals.
Similarly, surgeons work tirelessly to fulfill—and advocate on behalf of—their patients’ needs. Developing and enhancing our leadership and advocacy skills are essential as we move into a new Congress. Those on the Hill need to hear from us with stories of the impact we have on our patients, and we need to hear from you, at the ACS, as we frame new ways to discuss the valuation of the surgeon. WE need to change the narrative about physician reimbursement altogether.
Shortly before the new year began, lawmakers passed a $1.7 trillion omnibus spending package to fund the federal government through most of 2023.
Although cuts in Medicare payments to surgeons and other professionals were not as deep as originally proposed, the ACS fought hard, with many of you engaging in the process, for those cuts to be averted completely. As we continue the fight to fix the broken Medicare system, we are heartened that some funding from the bill will help address other issues important to the ACS, including cancer research and support for those affected by trauma.
More than $12 million has been appropriated to fund public health research on firearm injury and mortality prevention, and more than $47 billion has been targeted to the National Institutes of Health. Additionally, the bill has increased the amount of funding to be targeted for the MISSION ZERO program, which provides military-civilian trauma services.
These steps forward could not have been possible without the tireless advocacy of our members through our SurgonsVoice program and the ACSPA-SurgeonsPAC, as well as through the lobbying efforts of ACS staff and other healthcare organizations. There is, nonetheless, room for improvement in creating an optimal environment for our members and profession to excel in and provide care.
Surgeons deserve all the necessary resources to do the work we love. As passionate as we were in 2022, the ACS will be even more vocal in 2023 in advocating and lobbying for fair and equitable funding for our profession, and we will propose new ways to assess the value of a surgeon that reflect our contributions to the healthcare system.
Another ACS role is to help nurture the growth of current and future surgical leaders. This month, the ACS has released a new book to help guide members as they develop their leadership talents.
A joint publication of the ACS and the Society of Surgical Chairs, the Surgical Chairs Playbook features strategies, practices, personal experiences, and advice from more than 80 surgeon leaders to help our colleagues enhance their leadership skills. The Playbook is a must-have reference for those who are looking to advance into a chair’s role, move into a hospital C-suite, or assume other leadership roles in practices across the country. You can learn more about it here.
Along with the Playbook, I hope that you will take advantage of existing opportunities offered by the ACS to amplify your own leadership capabilities and potential. These opportunities include events like the yearly Leadership & Advocacy Summit and the Residents as Leaders course.
Leadership requires continuous learning. This idea parallels a quote by the late, pioneering psychologist Carl Rogers, who once said that the “only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change.” I am confident that current and future surgical leaders will persevere in their desire to learn, grow, and improve, and that ACS offerings will be an indispensable part of their—and your—professional journey.
The February edition of the Bulletin marks the second month of its new design. We are pleased with the new look, and are very proud of the work invested by the ACS staff to make our redesign vision a reality.
In my January column, I mentioned changes to the Bulletin. Judging by the early response we have received, more members want to read the Bulletin, and we hope that includes you!
The look may be new, but the Bulletin’s mission of delivering high-quality news and stories about our profession has not—and will not—change.
This month, we also will unveil an updated look for our peer-reviewed research publication, the Journal of the American College of Surgeons (JACS). The JACS logo will align with the new ACS brand architecture, and the cover will more prominently display the ACS seal that has been a foundational symbol for our organization for more than 100 years.
We are excited about what the future holds for the ACS and how we—as the House of Surgery—can help surgeons, the profession and, most importantly, our patients.