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

First-Time Attendee Focuses on Resident Training at Clinical Congress

Christine Goh, MD

As the recipient of John Buckingham Travelling Scholarship of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS), I traveled to Washington, DC, to attend the American College of Surgeons (ACS) Clinical Congress 2016. As a cardiothoracic trainee, the main purpose of the travel was to learn about the current cardiothoracic training scheme in the U.S.; promote international exchange of information concerning surgical science, practice, and education; and establish friendship with U.S. counterparts.

It was my first time attending the ACS Clinical Congress. There is no doubt it was a large caliber meeting, with more than 5,000 attendees. Despite that, it was very well organized, especially prior to my arrival. Alison Casey, the administrator of the Resident and Associate Society (RAS-ACS), had been of great help for my successful travelling experience. I attended the Focus on RAS-ACS meeting on Sunday, where all the residents (or trainees) came together to address current training and surgical practice issues. The committees of the RAS-ACS welcomed me, along with other international scholars. It was great seeing the residents came together to openly discuss current issues. One of the things discussed was the theatre attire, where they are banned from wearing shirts underneath the scrubs. The chair of RAS-ACS said “They can take away many things from us, but they cannot take away our socks.” Hence the RAS-ACS socks that were designed, with printed word RAS-ACS on them, and was distributed to the residents. We all gathered together and had a “socks up” photo.

On the first day of the meeting, I attended the presidential address as well as the John H. Gibbon, Jr., Lecture. John H. Gibbon, Jr., was a cardiothoracic surgeon who pioneered the cardiopulmonary bypass machine and established the first successful open heart surgery in an 18-year-old girl with a atrial septal defect in 1953. John Mayer, who was the past president of Society of Thoracic Surgery (STS), delivered the prestigious John H. Gibbon, Jr. Lecture. During the lecture, Dr. Mayer described optimal self-regulation and explained the importance of recognizing the dual roles surgeons play as healers of the sick and members of a profession. At the same time, he described important mindset in surgical training. He emphasized Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll’s pyramid—to have a belief system, always compete, and practice is everything. After such a grand first day, the rest of the meeting was packed with various interesting lectures.

Besides the academic side of things, I attended a medical student night where surgical residents meet with medical students to share firsthand information on surgical training and how to get on to training. I was impressed with the emphasis on promoting a surgical career among the students. I think this is something we could improve on and I would encourage such a program at our upcoming RACS meeting. We, the international scholars and residents, also got together afterwards to do a podcast, organized by John Hardaway, MD, RAS-ACS Communications Committee Chair, to share our experiences at the Clinical Congress in order to promote this great scholarship opportunity.

In summary, I want to thank the RACS for the opportunity to attend this meeting. It was not only academically enriching, but also an exceptional opportunity to meet my international counterparts—from both a social and educational point of view.

Christine Goh is a cardiothoracic trainee in Tasmania, Australia.