American College Of Surgeons - Inspiring Quality: Highest Standards, Better Outcomes

7 Remarkable Things You May Not Know About Surgeons

Did you know surgeons created the trauma system, and were the first to raise awareness about cancer? They’ve practiced everywhere from Antarctica to space. Fellows of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) have spearheaded many of the nation’s most significant health advances, from minimally invasive techniques to cancer care to hospital quality.

1. Surgeons created the nation’s trauma system.


Have a trauma center in your city? ACS and its members created the system that verifies trauma centers and ensures that centers meet the highest standards of care. That means the right specialists will be on call, with the right equipment and all the necessary resources. ACS has worked to improve trauma care since 1922.

2. People once thought cancer was contagious and incurable—until surgeons launched a public education campaign.


Cancer was once thought to be a contagious, incurable disease. In 1913, the College partnered with Ladies Home Journal to raise awareness of early detection and advances in cancer treatment. More than 11 million people read the article, “What Can We Do About Cancer? The Most Vital and Insistent Question in the Medical World,” as part of an awareness campaign that included a series of public meetings on the disease.

3. Surgeons have practiced everywhere. Literally.


Since 1973, there have been 23 American physicians in space, including orthopedic surgeon Robert Satcher Jr., MD, who spent 11 days on the International Space Station in 2009. Physicians play a vital role in conducting experiments on the impact of space on the human body.

Surgeons also practice in the coldest place on earth—Antarctica. There are several operating rooms there, including one at the U.S. Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. One such surgeon is Steven Untracht, MD, PhD, FACS, who moved to Antarctica following his work with the Inupiat people on Alaska’s Arctic Slope (he now works on a volcanic island in Papua New Guinea).

Surgeons even perform simulated underwater operations. At an underwater research lab in the Florida Keys, NASA trains surgeons in minimally invasive techniques. The environment simulates conditions in space and is designed to help prepare surgeons to one day provide advanced medical care in space.

4. Surgeons have operated on about 4,000 fetuses before they were even born.


Advances in fetal surgery allow surgeons to operate on fetuses as early as 18 weeks of gestation. Highly sophisticated surgical teams can repair disabling birth defects like spina bifida and other life-threatening congenital conditions while still in the uterus. About a quarter of all fetal operations performed to date have occurred at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment, led by N. Scott Adzick, MD, FACS.

5. Four members of Congress are Fellows of the American College of Surgeons.


Of the 19 physicians in Congress, four are ACS Fellows: Rep. Dan Benishek, MD, FACS (R-MI); Rep. Charles Boustany, MD, FACS (R-LA); Rep. Larry Bucshon, MD, FACS (R-IN); and Rep. Tom Price, MD, FACS (R-GA). Many laws impact the practice of surgery—from medical education and surgical training, to resident work hours and quality initiatives. ACS serves as the leading voice for the practice of surgery on Capitol Hill.

6. Surgeons save lives by creating new body parts in the laboratory.

Photo Credit: Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine

The idea of creating new body parts in a laboratory to help patients once was considered science fiction. Today, it’s a reality. Surgeons have created new organs, limbs, other body parts, and implants using advancements in regenerative medicine and 3D printing.

In 2006, a team of physicians and scientists from the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM), led by Anthony Atala, MD, FACS, were the first in the world to successfully implant laboratory-grown organs into humans.

3D imaging and printing are also revolutionizing the way surgeons prepare for complex operations and are used in many training and simulation programs across the country. Surgeons globally have developed 3D-printed skull implants, vertebra, custom joint replacements, splints, and more. And some companies now offer bioprinting—3D printing of human tissue—which is currently used in medical research.

7. The “FACS” after a surgeon’s name means rigorous training…more than a decade of it.


Becoming a surgeon takes four years of medical school, five years or more as a surgical resident, and often one to four years in research and clinical fellowships. The designation “FACS” after the surgeon’s name signifies the surgeon is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and has received rigorous education and evaluation. Beyond education, that includes passing the oral and written board exams, and a year-long process to review the surgeon’s practice patterns, multiple letters of reference, and an interview by a committee of his or her peers. Only then is a surgeon allowed to use the FACS designation. More than 65,000 surgeons are ACS Fellows.

Learn more about the American College of Surgeons

For more than 100 years, Fellows of the American College of Surgeons have been dedicated to improving the care of the surgical patient and to safeguarding standards of care in an optimal and ethical practice environment. Are you looking for a surgeon, or do you want to learn more about the field of surgery? To learn more, visit