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

From the Director's Desk

Digital Transformation, the Pandemic, and Continuous Learning

Heidi Nelson, MD, FACS

Heidi Nelson, MD, FACS
Medical Director, ACS Cancer Programs

There are two sayings that come to mind when I think about digital transformation, the pandemic, and our future. The first, an English proverb: Necessity is the mother of invention. And the second is by Sir Winston Churchill: "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty." Indeed, the sudden onset of the pandemic was the "necessity" that catapulted us into the digital age of virtual meetings, remote work, online education, virtual sites visits, and continuous learning.

It probably would have taken us a number of years to have considered, embraced, developed, and implemented accreditation sites visits that were virtual rather than in person. Truth is, virtual site visits are going so well that by the end of June 2021 we expect to be on target to have completed 482 such visits. Perhaps there have been a few difficulties along the way, but on the whole, the adaptation of the American College of Surgeons staff, site reviewers, and Cancer Programs staff to virtual visits has made it an acceptable new reality. Indeed, some have expressed a preference for this new manner of conducting accreditation reviews.

Now that we are a full year into the pandemic, eager to return to the lives we once took for granted, the optimist sees beyond the difficulties we faced, and sees all the ways that we learned new things out of necessity. They see how we reached larger and broader audiences with virtual meetings and learned how to be with each other remotely. Importantly, we now know that people consume information using diverse media platforms, including webinars, podcasts, and social media, all of which can push information to our many audiences in a timely fashion. It could be said that without our consent we have been forced to embrace the digital age and, with it, continuous learning. It will be for us to decide in the coming year how we use these learnings and, safety allowing, resume some of our past ways of being and working together.