At Clinical Congress 2018, the American College of Surgeons (ACS) inducted 12 Honorary Fellows. One of those individuals, Selman Uranues, MD, Dr(hc), FACS, FACS(Hon), spoke on behalf of the group at the 2018–2019 ACS President’s Dinner for Ronald V. Maier, MD, FACS, FRCSEd(Hon), FCSHK(Hon). I have chosen to devote this month’s column to reprinting his comments because they so eloquently speak to the meaning of membership in surgical societies, especially in the ACS.
Dr. Uranues’ remarks also serve as an excellent reminder of the importance of never resting on our laurels—that we should keep looking for innovative ways to address such issues as global access to care for underserved populations and the need to train an increasingly diverse surgical workforce that can meet the needs of all patients. Rest assured, the College’s leadership took his message to heart and is working to achieve his vision. As we begin the new year, I anticipate that you will find Dr. Uranues’ speech every bit as inspiring as we did.
Comments at the 2018 investiture of the Honorary Fellows of the ACS
Mr. President, ladies, and gentlemen, I am honored to say a few words of thanks on behalf of the entire group of new Honorary Fellows.
Perhaps as early as medical school, and surely by the time we were surgical residents, we had become aware of the primacy of the U.S. in clinical and academic medicine, as well as medical research. We dreamed of postgraduate training in the U.S. and the establishment of personal affiliations, such as membership in prestigious professional societies, none of which could be as desirable for those of us in our specialty as the American College of Surgeons.
When in the course of time we were variously inducted as Fellows of the College, we were proud to be able to add the letters FACS to our names after the MD. Throughout the medical world and well beyond it, those letters stand for a high degree of professional competence. We had worked hard for this distinction, and it means a lot to us.
In spite of the sense of accomplishment that came with Fellowship in the College, we continued to exert ourselves in pursuit of clinical, scientific, and academic excellence. We reached a place where we could finally pass on to others what had been given to us in the course of our professional formation by our teachers and mentors, and we did so gladly and unstintingly—as we still do today and will continue to do as long as we are able. Our efforts have been rewarded today with Honorary Fellowship in the College, the highest award that the surgical world can confer.
Our group of 12 is international, extending from Europe to the Far East and South America. We represent many facets within the broad field of surgery: vascular, orthopaedic, urological, otorhinolaryngologic, pediatric, oncological, and, of course, general surgery. Many of us have further subspecialties or additional qualifications, such as visceral, thoracic, and trauma surgery, bioengineering, and surgical education and public health.
It would be beyond the scope of these brief remarks to present the achievements of all the new Honorary Fellows individually in detail, but I want to turn our attention for a moment to a member of our group who is special in several ways: Tania Maria Sih, MD, PhD,* who is the only woman in this group of Honorary Fellows, a Latina, and just the second woman from Brazil to be granted Honorary Fellowship in the College in its 105-year history. It is gratifying to see how the College is inclusive from the point of view of gender, nationality, and ethnicity.
We Honorary Fellows did not get where we are today thanks only to our own efforts. We had our guides and helpers all the way, and many of them also were affiliated with the College. All of us in today’s group of exclusively international Fellows have benefited in the course of our careers from the global outreach efforts of the College. Without that support and assistance, in whatever form, many of our respective scientific projects and undertakings could not have been realized or realized in so timely a manner and so well.
Finally, we must in all humility recognize that there are many people in the world whose innate abilities match or exceed our own, but whose circumstances were less advantageous than ours. May we be aware that an honor brings not only recognition, privilege, and status, but also responsibility. Our profession is healing. We heal patients directly by operating on them and indirectly by teaching and training new generations of surgeons and conducting innovative research. Beyond that, based on our position and influence, we have a social responsibility to those individuals who are disadvantaged and marginalized in ways that extend beyond the entrance to the hospital. Above all, we must do all we can to ensure that gifted young people who feel a calling to medicine have the chance to live their dream on the basis of their merits, regardless of their backgrounds and financial resources.
As international Honorary Fellows, we can best express our gratitude to the College by supporting and furthering its work on the international level in our home countries.
When the party here is over, let’s go home and get with it!
*Dr. Sih is professor, pediatric otolaryngology, Medical School University of Sao Paulo.