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

U.S. Scholar Justin Barr Attends the Joint Congress of Italian Surgeons

Congresso Congiunto 2018

The meeting of the Joint Congress Italian Surgeons, including the Italian Chapter of the American College of Surgeons, graced Rome from 14 to 19 October, 2018. It was one of the first events hosted in the sparkling new “La Nuvola” or Cloud Conference Center. Located in the EUR neighborhood of Rome, a centrally planned section of the city from Mussolini’s reign, this 650,000 square foot architectural wonder appears to feature an enormous cloud floating in the glass sky, yet upon entering, that cloud is fully functional conference space.

La Nuvola Conference Center with Conjoint Congress Banner Hanging

The conference started in the 1,800 seat main auditorium with a series of addresses by Presidents of the various Italian surgical organizations. Dr. Barbara Bass, MD, FACS also spoke to the audience in one of her last official duties in office. Following the speeches, an Italian military band filled the auditorium with sonorous marches and brass renditions of classical pieces including the 4th movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.

Italian military band plays the national anthem before the presidential addresses. They returned after the speeches for an evening of aural delight.

The next day marked the start of main activities. As in the Clinical Congress in the United States, a bevy of vendors hawked their products on the upper floor while a combination of basic science and clinical presentations educated surgeons in multiple synchronous sessions. Dr. Giuseppe Nigri coordinated a multi-day program in English that discussed common problems in acute care surgery as well as a session on the use of electricity in surgery.

Program of the English Language Section

Featured speakers from the United States included Dr. Mark Talamini, chair at SUNY Stony Brook and Dr. Richard D. Schulick, chair at the University of Colorado, among others. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Italian surgeons face many of the same challenges as we do in America; it was interesting to see different ways of approaching and solving those problems, particularly regarding technology not yet FDA approved such as novel robotic systems.

Arriving a few days early provided the opportunity to sight-see around the amazing city of Rome. For those who have not been (I had not before this trip), Rome hosts an incredible collection of ancient, medieval, early modern, and modern architecture filled with one of the world’s greatest collections of art. One surgical highlight is the Basilica of St. Cosmas and St. Damien, who are the patron saints of surgery. As many of you know, Cosmas and Damien were Christian surgeons in what is today Syria in the 3ry century. Reportedly offering their services for free, they attracted a large clientele of mendicant sufferers before being tortured to death for their Christian faith. The pair became saints, and praying at their churches or with their relics promised miraculous cures. Their remains moved several times before arriving in Rome where Pope Felix IV rededicated the Library of Peace in the Roman Forum – a gathering spot for ancient physicians—as the basilica of St. Cosmas and Damien in the 6th century (figure 5-6). Their famous miracle leg transplant occurred in Rome.

Entrance to the Basilica of St. Cosmas and Damien (left); and Aspe of the Basilica, with a mosaic portraying Peter (white robes at Christ’s left hand) presenting Damien and Paul presenting Cosmas to heaven (right)

Justin Barr, MD, PhD, is a PGY-4 surgery resident at Duke University in Durham, NC.

Dr. Berazaluce pictured above Sydney Harbor
Photo of the Sydney convention center
Photo of the clouds from the airplane
Opening session of the RACS Annual Scientific Congress