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

Mentorship Program


The Society of Surgical Chairs held a meeting about their mentorship program on October 16 at Clinical Congress 2016 in Washington, DC.

2016 Mentorship Meeting Agenda

The following is a summary of key points discussed by the panelists at our 2016 SSC Mentorship Meeting. These suggestions and recommendations represent a continuation of the ideas and themes considered at our 2014 and 2015 meetings.

  1. Getting started: Remember that, especially if the departing chair was successful, the department may be going through a period of “mourning.” It is important to not discuss your time at a prior institution excessively, the new department will not want to hear it. Listen, and don’t overpromise.
  2. Culture and communication: Having a cabinet of trusted advisors to whom you should offer “active listening” is often helpful in navigating routine department planning as well as crisis management. Inviting external institutional leadership to cabinet and other department leadership meetings is very productive.
    Crisis can very much be part of the everyday life of a chair—“your day will likely rarely look like what you expected coming in to work.” Listen and react, crises are important and personal to those involved, but do not overreact or respond quicker than necessary. The issues are often different than initially presented, and it is important to gather facts to get a full and fair picture of the situation. Sticking with your and the department’s core values is extremely important in successfully navigating crises.
    In the context of the above issues, managing your day is critical. Leaving time between meetings and building in “down time” to get caught up is also helpful. Setting aside some time for “office hours” (5-minute ad hoc meetings with faculty and/or staff) is one approach. Likewise, meeting with faculty in their office (rather than the department offices) is an effective way to connect and learn about department affairs.
  3. Management: Delegating autonomy to trusted department leaders is very helpful, in a “Team of Teams” approach. Not every problem is fixable, and “influence,” rather than “command and control” are important realities that must be accepted. In all cases, mold the culture, rather than trying to change it overnight.
  4. Department role: In the modern era of complex medical economics and regulation, the most important role for the department and its chair is faculty recruitment and mentoring. In this context, coaching of faculty leaders by trained experts is a useful tool.


The Society of Surgical Chairs held a meeting about their mentorship program on October 4 at Clinical Congress 2015 in Chicago, IL.

2015 Mentorship Meeting Agenda

Rosengart TK, Kent KC, Bland KI, et al. Key tenets of effective surgery leadership: Perspectives from the Society of Surgical Chairs mentorship sessions. JAMA Surg. 2016;151(8):768-770. doi:10.1001/jamasurg.2016.0405


The Society of Surgical Chairs held a meeting about their mentorship program on October 26 at Clinical Congress 2014 in San Francisco, CA.

2014 Mentorship Meeting Agenda