Not your father’s ACS: The view from the Chair of the RAS-ACS

The leadership of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) understands that our most junior members—namely, residents and young surgeons just entering practice—represent the future both of the profession and of this organization. To this end, the ACS has hired new staff to meet the needs of trainee surgeons and has developed programs and activities to meet the challenges of this group. As a neurosurgeon in training, I’m often asked whether the College has offerings for those of us in the surgical subspecialties outside of general surgery. The answer is, “Yes.” The College does offer specific benefits to surgical trainees in specialties outside of general surgery, but we could use your help to better define which products, services, or educational offerings would be useful to you in your training and practice.

Invitation to get involved

As incoming Chair of the Resident and Associate Society of the ACS (RAS-ACS), I encourage all trainees (residents and fellows) as well as junior faculty to become active members of the RAS-ACS. This year, the RAS-ACS has many exciting projects planned, and your involvement in these initiatives will make this organization work even better for our members.

The RAS-ACS has four standing committees: Education, Advocacy & Issues, Membership, and Communication. These committees meet by conference call on a rotating schedule every Wednesday at 8:00 pm. The phone number to dial in is 1-888-585-9008 and the passcode is 549-242-585. We encourage all interested residents, fellows, and junior faculty to participate in these calls. Listening in on one or two conference calls is one of the best ways to understand how to get involved in the RAS-ACS.

Each RAS-ACS standing committee has an ambitious agenda planned for the year. Serving on a standing committee is a tremendous leadership experience for any surgical resident, fellow, or junior faculty member—it helps participants understand the structure and functions of the College, and it provides networking opportunities with surgical peers across the country.

Communications Committee

Our Communications Committee, led by Erin Garvey, MD, will be working on several exciting programs in 2016. We are working to develop a journal club in partnership with the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, which will provide surgical trainees with the opportunity to publish scientific literature reviews, facilitating discussion and learning across institutions.

We are developing new channels for communicating key information to RAS-ACS members, particularly at the grassroots level. We are developing podcasts and using social media to promote educational resources for trainees. The Communications Committee also hosts an annual essay competition and coordinates the RAS-ACS-themed issue of the Bulletin each August.

Education Committee

Our Education Committee, under the leadership of Becky Hoffman, MD, has done a remarkable job of developing several engaging programs for RAS-ACS members. (If you are a young surgeon, particularly a junior faculty member, with an interest in resident, medical student, or lifelong education, you are urged to participate in this committee.)

Surgical Jeopardy is being piloted for use at several ACS chapter meetings and already is a big hit, receiving enthusiastic feedback. This question-and-answer competition tests trainees’ surgical knowledge, pitting two teams against each other for accolades and the thrill of victory. If you have an interest in crafting questions or you have suggestions on how to enhance this resource, the Education Committee would appreciate your input.

The committee also is developing a surgical skills competition for presentation at Clinical Congress. This program would be similar to the “Top Gun” competitions some specialty societies offer at their meetings.

Advocacy & Issues Committee

Our Advocacy & Issues Committee, led by Billy Ward, MD, is responsible for leading the RAS-ACS’ efforts to promote awareness about the legislative process, its effects on surgical training and practice, and information regarding state and federal advocacy issues. This committee will be working closely with ACS staff in the Division of Member Services to develop more resources for RAS-ACS members serving in the military, with the goal of helping surgical trainees maintain their skills during deployment.

This committee also is seeking to raise awareness regarding the issue of drug shortages. Many common medications and generics, including normal saline, basic antibiotics like amoxicillin and bactrim, and other medications including diltiazem, chemotherapeutics, and atropine are in short supply in hospitals across the nation. This situation is having a detrimental effect on patient care, as patients are treated with other, less-than-ideal medication regimens or physicians are forced to delay treatment altogether until suitable medication is discovered. The surgical specialties, particularly the trainees, witness the impact of these shortages and the challenges that come with treating patients in these situations. For example, surgical trainees are unable to gain firsthand experience using a proper medication regimen because they must make do with whatever medication is available. The RAS plans to raise awareness among surgical trainees of this growing problem and to continue working closely with staff in the ACS Division of Advocacy and Health Policy to support meaningful legislative reforms intended to address the medication shortage crisis.

Attendees at the Clinical Congress 2015 RAS Symposium

Attendees at the Clinical Congress 2015 RAS Symposium

We also plan to work closely with Operation Giving Back (OGB), which supports surgeons serving across the globe and on U.S. soil. We believe that highlighting surgical access needs domestically is important and plan to work closely with OGB to seek ways that RAS-ACS members can participate in serving underserved regions within the U.S. Given the success of the Clinical Congress 2015 RAS Symposium, which focused on the role of social media in communication among health professionals, this committee intends to work closely with ACS leaders to develop guiding principles for how social media can be effectively and appropriately employed by surgeons and surgical trainees.

Membership Committee

Our Membership Committee, led by Priya Jadeja, MD, is an enthusiastic panel of physicians dedicated to improving the membership experience for RAS-ACS members. The committee has set ambitious goals to understand member attrition and to gain feedback from former ACS members regarding how the organization can improve its products and services, which include developing incentives for long-term members in an effort to recruit and retrain members of the ACS and RAS-ACS, as well as focusing more resources and attention on our subspecialty members in an effort to comprehend their needs and develop resources to improve their training experience. The Membership Committee also coordinates the annual International Exchange Program, which provides an all-expense paid trip to recipients with the opportunity to participate in another country’s primary surgical meeting; host nations include Australia/New Zealand, Italy, and Ireland.

Liaison with ACS standing committees

RAS-ACS members serve as liaisons to the 13 ACS Advisory Councils representing all surgical subspecialties. The RAS-ACS also appoints liaisons to serve on the College’s 26 standing committees, ranging from the Committee on Trauma to the Commission on Cancer. If a member is interested in getting involved in RAS-ACS activities, contact me at

The Executive Committee of the RAS-ACS, including Nick Mouawad, MD, Vice-Chair, and Afif Kulaylat, MD, Secretary, are excited about the events and initiatives planned for 2016, and we look forward to meeting the leadership development needs of this generation and those to come.

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