The American College of Surgeons (ACS) recently hosted an International Surgical Leaders forum. Representatives from Australia, Canada, France, Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, Latin America, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mexico, the Philippines, the U.K., and the U.S. gathered at the ACS Washington Office to discuss possible ways to improve surgical care throughout the world and to share novel ideas, approaches, and resources on best practices in global surgery.
Following an evening of networking and connecting with colleagues over dinner, Program Moderator A. Brent Eastman, MD, FACS, then-ACS President, began the day-long meeting by providing an overview and expectations of the forum. The objective of the meeting was to begin a dialogue on how each organization is affected by the critical challenges surrounding issues such as access to health care, rural surgery, education and training, and internationalism. The idea, said Dr. Eastman, is to collaboratively establish best practices that will directly increase quality of care—a goal that he said has been at the top of his agenda throughout his career and tenure as ACS President.
Quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Dr. Eastman said, “Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.” He said the forum was an opportunity for the international surgical community to work toward fulfilling that vision by developing a set of actionable items that will serve the best interests of patients around the world.
David B. Hoyt, MD, FACS, ACS Executive Director and Co-Moderator of the program, said the College welcomes opportunities to work with international organizations. “We are all [nationally and internationally] feeling the evolution of health care today. There are financial pressures, quality, and accountability pressures,” said Dr. Hoyt.
He noted that in 2011, the College launched the ACS Inspiring Quality Tour to help inform policymakers and the public about the benefits of various ACS quality improvement programs, such as the ACS National Surgical Quality Improvement Program (ACS NSQIP®), the Commission on Cancer, the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers, the ACS Committee on Trauma (COT), and the ACS Bariatric Surgery Center Network.
Dr. Hoyt said that because quality is of concern to surgeons throughout the world and health care systems share many of the same challenges, this forum may serve as a defining moment in improving the patient experience, quality of care across all populations, and ultimately reduce costs worldwide.
ACS efforts internationally
Patricia L. Turner, MD, FACS, Director of the ACS Division of Member Services, described the College’s organizational structure and said the divisions, committees, and governance bodies work together to advance the practice of surgery nationally and internationally.
One ACS program that has had a profound impact internationally is the Advanced Trauma Life Support® (ATLS®) course, Dr. Turner said. ATLS courses have been presented in approximately 50 countries to more than 1 million health care professionals. Other examples of the College’s international activities include the educational programs developed in collaboration with numerous international institutions and the several scholarships that allow for an exchange between U.S. and international surgical scholars.
To help bolster the College’s global reach, the International Relations Committee (IRC) met several times with ACS leaders who examined how the many ACS programs are interwoven to form an international blanket.
Stephen A. Deane, MD, MB, BS, FACS, FRACS, FRCSC, Chair of the IRC, offered an international perspective on the process of growing the surgical profession from the viewpoint of someone who trained both in Australia and in North America. He noted that it is important to understand the differences in training, certification, and practice that exist in different countries to move forward with a renewed vision for the IRC and international interactions.
As part of the effort to revitalize the IRC, the committee has developed a revised mission statement, which the Board of Regents has approved: “To develop relationships and partnerships between the College, international surgeons, and international surgical and other health care organizations to address issues of surgical practice, education, research, advocacy, and leadership with the aim of achieving and safeguarding appropriately high standards of clinical care, access, safety, and quality improvement for surgery worldwide.”
The IRC now comprises approximately 30 members—one-third domestic, one-third international, and one-third naturalized members—as well as members of the ACS Young Fellows Association and Residents and Associates Society. The IRC construct is designed to break down silos and bridge the gap between it and other ACS programs.
“We have redefined our plan, and we can work toward meeting our promises. The difference between the way we do things now and the way we did them in the past is that we have realistic, deliverable goals,” said Carlos A. Pellegrini, MD, FACS, then President-Elect of the ACS.
The international attendees and the ACS leaders at the meeting agreed to compare interests and concerns through a survey, which the Division of Member Services has completed. A broader group of international surgeons met during the 2013 Clinical Congress. Another survey will be undertaken with the goal of creating a matrix or database of activities and opportunities in which the surgical societies might become involved.