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

Irish International Scholar Benefits from Exchange Experience at ACS Clinical Congress 2017

I was fortunate enough to attend the annual Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) in San Diego, October 22–26, 2017. This experience was made possible through the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) and the Resident and Associate Society of the American College of Surgeons (RAS-ACS) International Scholars Exchange Program.

The RAS-ACS is an organization to familiarize residents and young surgeons in all surgical specialties with the ACS and its programs. It provides an environment for networking and is the platform where opinions and concerns of the young resident can be heard by the leadership of the ACS.

At the conference I met with Dr. Heidi Hon, chair of the RAS-ACS Membership Committee, who introduced me to the other international scholars. Upon hearing that I was the Irish exchange scholar, Dr. Nicholas J. Mouawad, outgoing RAS-ACS leadership Chair, introduced himself to me and informed me that he is a graduate of RCSI and did his SHO years in Ireland!

I attended many interesting sessions including a talk by Dr. Courtney Townsend, ACS immediate past-president, who shared memorable experiences from his training that influenced the development of his leadership skills. I also watched—in amusement—the “Top Gun” surgical skills competition.

For me, the highlight of the conference was the 2017 RAS-ACS symposium, which attempted to answer the question: What should surgical leadership look like in the 21st century? The resident debaters were winners of a national essay writing competition. I was particularly struck by Dr. Ciara Huntington of Carolina’s Medical Center who presented the importance of surgeon advocacy. Dr. Huntington was a resident in the emergency department when she noted a high number of moped drivers who were presenting with trauma. She observed that, unlike many states in the U.S., North Carolina and South Carolina do not require you to have a driver’s license to drive a moped. After further exploring the topic, she discovered that people who had their driver’s license suspended for DUI (driving under the influence) were now using mopeds as their mode of transport and, unfortunately, continuing to drink and drive. Dr. Huntington noted that there were a significant number of serious accidents due to mopeds, far more than in other states that have restrictions on mopeds. Writing to her local representative and sharing her observations lead to the issue being highlighted at a bureaucratic level, which culminated in a bill being passed in the state house of representatives requiring mopeds to hold a valid licence. Dr. Huntington’s talk impressed upon me the moral obligation that we have to use our unique positions to highlight observed concerns and to engage the appropriate resources to affect change.

I would like to thank the Resident and Associate Society and the American College of Surgeons for the great opportunity and I hope to visit the Clinical Congress again in 2018.

Tara Ní Dhonnchú, MB, BCh, BAO, FRCS (CTh), MD, is an Irish-trained cardiothoracic surgeon currently doing a fellowship in mitral valve and robotic cardiac surgery at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.