At the Convocation Ceremony at Clinical Congress 2017 in San Diego, CA, the American College of Surgeons (ACS) presented the 2017 Dr. Mary Edwards Walker Inspiring Women in Surgery Award to SreyRam Kuy, MD, MHS, FACS. This award was established by the ACS Women in Surgery Committee (WiSC) and is presented annually at the Clinical Congress in recognition of an individual’s significant contributions to the advancement of women in the field of surgery.
The award is named in honor of Mary Edwards Walker, MD. Dr. Walker volunteered to serve with the Union Army at the outbreak of the American Civil War and was the first female surgeon ever employed by the U.S. Army. Dr. Walker is the only woman to have ever received the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest U.S. Armed Forces decoration for bravery. Through Dr. Walker’s example of perseverance, excellence, and pioneering behavior, she paved the way for today’s women surgeons.
Dr. Kuy’s career embodies the spirit of this award and demonstrates her personal determination, professional excellence, and commitment to public service.
Inspiration to practice
Dr. Kuy was born in a labor camp in Cambodia in 1978 during the Cambodian genocide known as the Killing Fields. Following the overthrow of the Khmer Rouge, her family fled to a refugee camp in Thailand where Dr. Kuy, her sister, and her mother were severely injured by a grenade. All three lives were saved by surgeons volunteering at the refugee camp. These volunteer surgeons helped inspire Dr. Kuy to pursue a career in medicine.
Her family moved to the U.S. in 1981 and settled in Oregon. Dr. Kuy attended Oregon State University, Corvallis, and went on to complete medical school at Oregon Health & Sciences University, Portland. She earned her master’s degree in health policy, public health, and outcomes research at Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, as a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar.
An accomplished early career
As associate chief of staff, Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center, Houston, TX, Dr. Kuy oversees 5,000 staff in a complex VA hospital with the busiest emergency department and operating rooms in the VA system. Dr. Kuy previously served as chief medical officer for Medicaid in the Louisiana Department of Health, Baton Rouge. Under her leadership, Louisiana was the first state to develop a Zika prevention strategy for pregnant Medicaid patients. Dr. Kuy also led initiatives that enabled women with breast cancer to have access to reconstructive surgery and testing, led efforts to coordinate medical disaster relief efforts during the historic Louisiana flooding of 2016, and led Louisiana Medicaid’s initiative to tackle the opioid epidemic.
Dr. Kuy developed statewide health performance metrics, pay-for-performance incentives, and novel Medicaid Expansion Early Wins measures, which enabled the state of Louisiana to assess how access to care directly affects lives. Before serving as Chief Medical Officer for Louisiana Medicaid, Dr. Kuy served in numerous leadership roles in the VA system, including the following: director, Center for Innovations in Quality, Outcomes and Patient Safety; assistant chief, general surgery; and chair, Systems Redesign Committee. She also was a member, Quality, Safety & Value Board, Overton Brooks VA Medical Center, Shreveport, LA.
Dr. Kuy’s successful efforts to reduce patient mortality and morbidity and decrease adverse events were profiled by the VA National Center for Patient Safety. Her work in increasing veterans’ access to care through clinic efficiency was profiled by the Association for VA Surgeons, and the templates she developed were disseminated for implementation at VA medical centers across the country. Dr. Kuy has served on the National Quality Forum, the National Board of Medical Examiners, and the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education.
In 2017, Dr. Kuy was selected to be a Presidential Leadership Scholar, a joint, bipartisan leadership program taught by Presidents George W. Bush, William J. Clinton, and George H. W. Bush. She subsequently delivered the keynote commencement address at the Bush Institute. Dr. Kuy received the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report’s 40 Under 40 Award for her work to improve health care quality in the Louisiana Medicaid population, the Ford Foundation’s Gerald E. Bruce Community Service Award for her work serving veterans, and Random Acts’ Caught in the Act national public service award. Dr. Kuy also was selected for the Early Career Achievement Award in 2017 by Oregon Health & Sciences University School of Medicine.
Dr. Kuy is grateful for the many incredible mentors and teachers who have inspired her on her journey, and she is proud to be a part of the surgical family. She has dedicated her career to improving the quality of medical care and increasing the public’s access to quality care. The College is proud to have Dr. Kuy as a member and looks forward to what challenges she will tackle next.