Patricia J. Numann, MD, FACS, President of the American College of Surgeons (ACS), and professor emeritus at the State University of New York, Syracuse, delivered a keynote address and participated in a number of sessions at the 67th Annual Clinical Congress of the Philippine College of Surgeons (PCS). The conference, which coincided with the PCS’ 75th anniversary, took place December 4–7, 2011, in Mandaluyong City, the Philippines.
In 1936, a group of 35 pioneering surgeons, led by Gregorio T. Singian, MD, developed bylaws for the Philippine College, which has worked ever since to raise the standards of surgical practice in the country. “They observed the anniversary by carrying a symbolic flame from chapter to chapter,” Dr. Numann said. “They are rightly proud of their accomplishments. Their enthusiasm is incredible. Even during the very last session, the room was full.”
Dr. Numann said the response she received during her visit was gratifying. “The surgeons expressed their appreciation not only for my visit, the first of a sitting ACS President, but also for all of the ACS materials that help them perform their jobs better,” she said. More than 300 surgeons in the Philippines are Fellows of the ACS.
“One of the top priorities for the Philippine College is the implementation of the College’s Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS®) program,” Dr. Numann added, noting that ATLS was among key points stressed during the address of new president Maximo Simbulan, Jr., MD. “They want to do something about the high mortality associated with trauma, and I am confident they will.”
The meeting’s comprehensive scientific program reflected the sophistication of care available in the Philippines as well as their need for improvement and dissemination of some programs. “They are working diligently on quality improvement programs, following the guidelines of the World Health Organization. They were very interested in strategies that have worked in the U.S.,” Dr. Numann said.
Dr. Numann also noted similarities between the U.S. and the Philippine training models. “They proudly told me that medical education and residency training in the Philippines follows the American model,” she said.
However, Dr. Numann found discussions regarding the need for the patient to finance medical tests a bit unsettling. “They talked about waiting for the family of a patient to gather funds to pay for a CAT scan,” she said. “This is not the kind of discussion we have in the U.S. It shows the impact that poverty has on medical care and the challenge it presents to surgeons.”
An enthusiastic discussion followed Dr. Numann’s keynote address on “Gender Equity in Surgery.” As in the U.S., the Philippines has a number of women surgeons, mostly younger surgeons, and very few are in leadership positions. Josefina R. Almonte, MD, FPCS, who presided over the meeting, is the first woman to serve as president of the Philippine College of Surgeons. She began the Association of Women Surgeons of the Philippines a few years ago.
Also at the conference were representatives from other Asian nations, including China, India, Malaysia, Myanmar, Pakistan, and Singapore.
Other Fellows who served on the international faculty at the event were Neal Handel, MD, FACS, associate clinical professor, division of plastic surgery, at the University of California, Los Angeles; and Jatin P. Shah, MD, FACS, chief, head and neck service and Elliot W. Strong Chair in Head and Neck Oncology, at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Center, in New York, NY. Dr. Shah has participated in several Philippine Clinical Congresses and has trained a number of Fellows there.
During the Clinical Congress, surgeons relaxed with one another to discuss their interests outside the operating room, a diversion that Dr. Numann enjoyed. “On Fellowship Night, chapters entertained the crowd with skits. This was just a wonderful, spirited session. The winning chapter contained a group of older surgeons, all well over 70, who performed a soft shoe dance,” she said.
“My priority as ACS President is to visit the American chapters, but this trip made me realize how important it is to reach out to chapters, Fellows, and sister surgical organizations in other countries,” Dr. Numann noted. “This kind of outreach benefits us all.”