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

Reports from the Leadership & Advocacy Summit

Reports from the Leadership & Advocacy Summit 

Read firsthand accounts from recent attendees of the RAS-ACS Leadership & Advocacy Summit.

Christopher McNicoll

The Leadership & Advocacy Summit 2017 was comprised of three activity-filled days: the first day focused on leadership education, the second focused on legislative advocacy preparation, and the third focused on holding meetings with members of Congress. Thanks to financial assistance from the ACS, I was one of 100 fortunate residents and Associate Fellows that participated in the 2017 summit, joining more than 350 additional attendees in Washington, DC. 

To kick off the Leadership Summit, Melina Kibbe, MD, FACS, FAHA, chair of the department of surgery at the University of North Carolina, gave a captivating lecture on handling difficult conversations and managing difficult people. She taught the audience that 9 percent of physicians cause 50 percent of complaints, and that complications correlated with complaints. Patrick Hudson, MD, FACS, BCC, delivered an insightful and thought-provoking talk on leading by building collaborative relationships, leaving us to ponder what we want to achieve in life. Scott Leckman, MD, FACS, delved in a different direction, speaking about the importance of surgeon-leaders rendering aid to the less fortunate by volunteering. We then heard various success stories from chapter presidents from Connecticut, Texas, and Georgia. Dennis Ashley, MD, FACS, related his chapter’s experience in bringing the Stop the Bleed campaign to the Georgia State Capitol, inspiring other chapters, including my own, to attempt the same. 

After a lunch break with our respective local chapters, Krista Kaups, MD, MSc, FACS, discussed predisposing factors for surgeon burnout, and encouraged surgeons to take the Physician Well-Being Index. RAS-ACS sponsored the next lecture, given by Bhagwan Satiani, MD, MBA, FACS, FACHE. An accomplished surgeon with additional training and experience in business management, Dr. Satiani stressed the importance of surgeons taking leadership roles within health care organizations, as physician-led organizations perform better. Finally, Steven Yule, PhD, director of education and research at the STRATUS Center for Medical Simulation in Boston, MA, demonstrated the importance of non-technical skills for surgical teams while finding parallels between simulating surgical training, preventing deep sea drilling disasters in the North Sea, and preparing for surgical care on a mission to Mars. The evening was topped off with a well-attended and lively RAS-sponsored social event at the City Tap House.

The Leadership Summit delivered quality pearls of wisdom for both new and veteran attendees, and this trend continued with the engaging speakers at the Advocacy Summit. Chuck Todd, the moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press, opened the summit by sharing his keen opinions on the current health care legislation over dinner. The following morning, Patrick V. Bailey, MD, MLS, FACS, moderated a panel discussion on proposed legislation for healthcare reform, and Frank Opelka, MD, FACS, moderated a panel discussing Medicare physician payments. Laurie Richards taught us how to craft our “ask,” and the importance of charisma, trust, and credibility when communicating with members of Congress. The ACSPA-SurgeonsPAC sponsored lunch, with a featured talk by renowned NPR political correspondent Mara Liasson. In the afternoon, we heard about proposed legislation from the staff of members of Congress and were briefed on how to effectively lobby. Dedicated staff from the Division of Advocacy and Health Policy shared detailed information about legislation affecting surgeons, including the Independent Payment Advisory Board, MACRA, the MISSION ZERO Act, and more. The day culminated with visits from Sen. Bill Cassidy, Sen. Roy Blunt, Rep. Anthony Brown, Rep. John Delaney, and Rep. Jamie Raskin, who gave their prepared remarks and answered questions from the attendees.

Invigorated with the knowledge gained at the summit, I joined motivated residents and surgeons from around the country on April 9 to lobby for improved surgical care on Capitol Hill. I repeatedly crossed paths with other surgeons headed to their senators’ and representatives’ offices, sharing a sense of purpose to effect change for the greater good of surgical patients.

For those RAS members interested in attending next year, I fully recommend adjusting your schedule to make it to Washington, D.C. At what other event can you receive travel support from the ACS to learn about leadership and advocacy, and immediately put those skills to use in meetings with sitting members of Congress? And don’t forget the awesome social events, like the SurgeonsPAC event held at the National Portrait Gallery, where you can rub elbows with surgeon-leaders and fellow residents. I plan to go again, and I hope to see you there!

Christopher McNicoll is a second-year general surgery research resident (PGY-4) at the University of Nevada School of Medicine in Las Vegas, NV. He is also the Secretary of the Advocacy and Issues Committee for the American College of Surgeons Resident and Associate Society (RAS), and the RAS Representative for the Nevada Chapter, American College of Surgeons.

Jeffrey A. Blattnik

I would again like to thank you for the opportunity to attend the 2017 ACS Surgeons as Leaders course, which was held recently in Raleigh, NC. As a young academic surgeon with leadership aspirations, this was one of the most informative and motivating courses I have ever participated in. This course was an outstanding mix of 60 surgeons from all over the country in academic and private practice with a broad range of experience. This course was a great primer for what the potential opportunities are for surgeons to take on leadership roles and how to manage the additional responsibility. Being able to closely interact with some of the true leaders in academic surgery as well as some of my peers who are moving through the leadership ranks is going to be difficult to duplicate.

Personally, I left the course with a new focus for my future, a concrete set of objectives for the next six and 12 months, as well as some lasting relationships. The critical importance of balancing your work and professional life was also greatly reinforced, which is something I personally struggle with in my career. Finally, learning how to work together with other individuals (both supportive and potentially obstructive) is something I will carry with me for many years to come.

Moving forward I plan to use the skills I picked up not only in my day-to-day work, but also in some of my larger career goals, including the development of a comprehensive hernia center at Washington University in St. Louis. I would wholeheartedly recommend this course to any surgeon with leadership aspirations. Even if your career aspirations are not to be a division chief or a chair, this course can be beneficial. As surgeons we have a leadership role on a daily basis in the operating room and managing our practice. We work with nurses, residents, medical students, and other providers and are expected to lead this team in the care of our patients.

Thank you again for this wonderful opportunity, and I hope it can continue to be provided for future RAS members moving forward.

Jeffrey A. Blatnik, MD, is an assistant professor of surgery at Washington University School of Medicine.