The YFA Essay Contest: Introduction

Earlier this year, the Young Fellows Association (YFA) of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) announced its first essay contest. The YFA was inspired to present the essay contest and to have as its theme “The Promise of a Profession” based on the comments that Carlos A. Pellegrini, MD, FACS, FRCSI(Hon), made during his Presidential Address at the 2013 Clinical Congress in Washington, DC, and to address the challenges we, as young surgeons, face.

Today’s challenges

It is often said that the only constant in life is change. Young Fellows must deal with shifting practice expectations, including the ongoing shift from private practice to hospital and health system employment, a large training debt burden combined with declining reimbursement, and the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of access to health care services, along with new standards of care. Many surgeons wonder how our profession will survive all of this change.

In addition to these challenges, the training model for surgery has changed, largely due to the 80-hour workweek. Overall, this shift offers residents a more balanced work and private life, but it has also raised questions about whether new graduates are adequately prepared to face the realities of practice. Has surgical expertise suffered because of the 80-hour workweek? Has reduced time in a hospital setting led to a “failure to launch,” as some new graduates struggle in their first job? And does the system in which they work similarly struggle with the best way to integrate the individual who has trained under this new paradigm, especially since most health care institutions and surgical practices have largely been passive in their support of new associates?

The contest

In his Presidential Address, Dr. Pellegrini gave an inspiring talk about what the College has stood for during its history, and he charged new Fellows to create their future amid so much change, using the College as a guiding compass. This year’s essay contest, sponsored by the YFA Communications Committee, is the response of the young surgeons to Dr. Pellegrini’s address. It is this group’s desire to answer back to his charge and give voice to the promise of a profession.

With this in mind, the YFA opened a competition for all Fellows “young at heart” to write a one-page essay about what inspires them and what they view as the promise of the profession. The committee evaluated the winning essay out of the six submitted using a numeric scale in several categories, including technical knowledge, language, and writing style. The essay with the highest score is the winner of this year’s contest, and we are excited to share this essay with the College membership at large. The message of this winning essay underscores the fact that although much of the profession is changing, our dedication to our patients and our commitment to our colleagues remains very much the same.

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