Annual RAS-ACS essay contest: Dealing with surgical complications

How surgeons deal with complications: Introductory remarks

Surgeons, both in training and in practice, face potential complications with nearly every decision made or action taken. We each cope with these events in slightly different ways but share common experiences: the feeling of guilt or shame when facing a patient or family member after an adverse event; analyzing our actions in an effort to improve; seeking the advice of a colleague or mentor; and ultimately coming to peace with ourselves so that we may provide quality care to the next patient who needs us to be at our best. In this issue of the Bulletin, members of the Resident and Associate Society of the American College of Surgeons (RAS-ACS) share their experiences with and perceptions on the subject of complications.

Each year, the Communications Committee of the RAS-ACS selects a topic of broad interest to young surgeons and solicits brief essays from interested members on the subject. Essays are judged by a panel of Communications Committee members, and in addition to publication in the Bulletin, the author of the winning essay receives a $500 prize.

This year’s topic, How Surgeons Deal with Complications, generated a robust response from the RAS-ACS membership, and we were pleased to select the essay written by Elisha Brownson, MD, from the Boston University Medical Center, MA, as our winner. Although Dr. Brownson’s essay stood out from the rest, all of the thought pieces that follow are excellent and worthy discourses and share universal themes on this emotional topic. I anticipate that most readers will empathize with the authors and will learn from these selections from the next generation of surgeons.

Accepting accountability and moving forward
Elisha G. Brownson, MD

Responding to, reflecting on, and moving forward from a surgical complication  
Tad Kim, MD

Talk it out, and slow it down 
Pablo Serrano, MD, MPH

Mea maxima culpa—Dealing with surgical complications
JaBaris D. Swain, MD, MPH

G. Paul Wright, MD

Complications are shared experiences
William Yi, MD

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