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News from the American College of Surgeons

Clinical Congress 2019
October 27–31, 2019

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Sally Garneski
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New York City surgeon Valerie W. Rusch, MD, FACS, is installed as the 100th President of the American College of Surgeons

SAN FRANCISCO (October 27, 2019; 9:00 pm PDT): Valerie W. Rusch, MD, FACS, an esteemed thoracic surgeon from New York City, was installed for a one-year term as the 100th President of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) this evening at the Convocation ceremony that preceded the opening of the annual ACS Clinical Congress, which is one of the largest international meetings of surgeons in the world.

Dr. Rusch is vice-chair, clinical research, department of surgery; Miner Family Chair in Intrathoracic Cancers; and attending surgeon, thoracic service, department of surgery, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; and professor of surgery, Weill Cornell Medical College.

Dr. Rusch specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of patients with cancers of the lung, airways (trachea, bronchi), esophagus, mediastinum, chest wall, and pleura (malignant pleural mesothelioma). She was among the first women in the U.S. to be board certified in thoracic surgery. During her more than 30 years in clinical practice, Dr. Rusch has emphasized a multidisciplinary approach to treating patients with thoracic malignancy. Her research has focused on the molecular behaviors of asbestos cancers and the genetic tendencies of lung cancer as a means to identify certain cancers in the earlier stages. "The opportunity to do research and to bring new treatments to the bedside, that's what really makes me excited every day," Dr. Rusch explained in her ACS presidential video.

Dr. Rusch has been a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons (FACS) since 1986 and is the 2018 recipient of the ACS Distinguished Service Award, the College's highest honor. She has led several prominent ACS bodies, including serving as Chair of the Board of Governors (2006–2008) and Board of Regents (2015–2016). As an ACS Regent from 2008 to 2017, she chaired the Central Judiciary Committee (2009-2013), the Program Committee (2011-2017), the Board of Regents Nominating Committee (2011-2012), and the Committee on Global Engagement (2016–2017). She served on the Board of Regents Honors Committee (2012–2016), Executive Committee (2013–2016), and Finance Committee (2014–2016).

As a young faculty member at the University of Washington, Seattle, she served as Field Liaison Fellow to the ACS Commission on Cancer for the Seattle Veterans Affairs and University Hospitals and as a Councilor of the ACS Washington State Chapter. For more than 15 years, Dr. Rusch has been closely involved in the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) and has served as Chair of the Lung and Esophagus Task Force for the 6th and 7th editions of the AJCC Cancer Staging Manual, and as Chair of the Thoracic Expert Panel for the recently published 8th edition of the AJCC Cancer Staging Manual, personally authoring several of the thoracic chapters for those editions. In addition, Dr. Rusch delivered the distinguished John H. Gibbon, Jr., Lecture at the 2014 Clinical Congress.

Dr. Rusch has been a leader in national and international clinical trials for the treatment of thoracic malignancies and played a pivotal role in establishing the ACS Oncology Group—now known as the ACS Clinical Research Program. Among her many honors, Dr. Rusch received the Thoracic Surgery Foundation for Research and Education Socrates Award (2007) and the Association of Women Surgeons awarded her the Nina Starr Braunwald Award (2012) for lifetime contributions to the advancement of women in surgery. She also received the Henry Harkins Award from the ACS Washington State Chapter, as well as the Outstanding Teacher Award (department of surgery), and the Willet F. Whitmore Award for Clinical Excellence from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Further, the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation has honored Dr. Rusch with the Pioneer Award for clinical research in malignant mesothelioma.

She has held 25 visiting professorships and lectureships and given more than 300 major lectures on thoracic cancers at medical conferences around the world. Her contributions to the medical literature have appeared in more than 400 peer-reviewed publications.

In addition to the ACS, Dr. Rusch has been a leader of other surgical organizations. She served as chair of the American Board of Thoracic Surgery, chair of the Lung and Esophagus Task Force of the AJCC, and chair of the Mesothelioma Subcommittee of the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer Staging Committee. She is a member of the American Association for Cancer Research, Association for Thoracic Surgery, American College of Chest Physicians, American Radium Society, American Surgical Association, American Thoracic Society, Association for Academic Surgery, Society of Surgical Oncology, and Society of Thoracic Surgeons. She is an honorary member of the European Society of Thoracic Surgeons and the Society for Cardiothoracic Surgery in Great Britain and Ireland.

In addition to English, Dr. Rusch is fluent in French, having graduated from the Lycée Français de New York. She graduated with honors from Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY, with a degree in biochemistry and Alpha Omega Alpha with her medical degree from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, and completed surgical residency training in general surgery and thoracic surgery at the University of Washington, followed by a fellowship at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston.

During her presidential address, "The Joys of Learning, Collaborating, and Giving Back," Dr. Rusch encouraged newly installed Fellows of the American College of Surgeons to become involved in the College because of the opportunities it presents for continuing education and career development. "And because particularly it involves opportunities for cross-disciplinary collaboration."

She said being ACS President "is a tremendous honor and privilege and I want to do my very best to represent the College both nationally and internationally, and to foster all of the various programs of the College. Once I finish my year as president, I want to remain involved."

Dr. Rusch installed as ACS President

Other new ACS Officers installed during the ACS Convocation were First Vice-President, John A. Weigelt, MD, DVM, FACS, and Second Vice President F. Dean Griffen, MD, FACS.

Dr. Weigelt recently retired as the Milt & Lidy Lunda/Charles Aprahamian Professor of Trauma Surgery; professor and chief, division of trauma and critical care; and associate dean for quality, Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW), Milwaukee. He is a general surgeon with an emphasis on trauma, critical care, and acute care surgery. Dr. Weigelt is now on the faculty of Sanford Health System and the University of South Dakota, Sioux Falls.

Dr. Griffen is clinical professor of surgery at Ochsner Louisiana State University (LSU) Health Shreveport. Having served in several different capacities over the last 12 years (including acting chair of the department of surgery), he is now an active member of the Ochsner LSU, department of surgery, division of general surgery. Dr. Griffen is Albert Sklar Professor of Surgery at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center (LSUHSC) Shreveport. Having served LSUHSC-S in several different capacities over the last 11 years (including acting chair of the department of surgery), he now practices general surgery at University Hospital as clinical professor. For 35 years, Dr. Griffen was in private practice at Shreveport's Highland Clinic.

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About the American College of Surgeons
The American College of Surgeons is a scientific and educational organization of surgeons that was founded in 1913 to raise the standards of surgical practice and improve the quality of care for all surgical patients. The College is dedicated to the ethical and competent practice of surgery. Its achievements have significantly influenced the course of scientific surgery in America and have established it as an important advocate for all surgical patients. The College has more than 82,000 members and is the largest organization of surgeons in the world. For more information, visit www.facs.org.