Looking forward – April 2016

David B. Hoyt

David B. Hoyt, MD, FACS

Communication is the key to maintaining a positive relationship of any type, including the one between the Fellows of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) and the organization’s leadership. Hence, the ACS continually strives to develop new, state-of-the-art communications vehicles that meet the needs of today’s time-pressed surgeon.

Like most organizations, the ACS faces several challenges in its efforts to share information with the membership. Three questions that are at the forefront of our efforts to develop improved communications vehicles are as follows:

  • How do we cut through the “noise” when members are inundated with e-mail, publications, and social media from a range of sources, all competing for their attention?
  • How do we effectively deliver our message to a multi-generational audience?
  • How do we keep our communications about an ever-growing range of products and services concise yet powerful?

This month’s column highlights some of the innovations, initiatives, and projects that the ACS Division of Integrated Communications, under the leadership of Lynn Kahn, has undertaken in recent years to address these challenges.

ACS Communities and social media

Launched in August 2014 under the stewardship of Tyler G. Hughes, MD, FACS, the ACS Communities have proven to be a valued member benefit. The ACS Communities provide a forum in which Fellows can discuss the issues that affect them professionally and personally and bend the ear of the College leadership.

Many Fellows turn to the communities for advice on solving clinical problems. Others relish the opportunities that the communities provide to interact with surgeons who share their nonsurgical interests. For example, one of our newest communities is composed of surgeon writers.

Perhaps most importantly, the communities provide a two-way exchange of information between ACS members and the College Officers, Regents, Governors, and Executive Staff. Many of these individuals participate in multiple communities and are eager to learn how to better serve your interests. Moreover, Dr. Hughes regularly monitors these online discussions and provides the leadership with feedback on the hot topics of the day.

At present, the College has 98 online communities, of which 66 are open to all members and 32 are closed. Closed communities largely serve as work forums for ACS leadership bodies, such as the Board of Governors and the Advisory Councils. As of January, more than 3,475 contributors had posted more than 28,675 messages in the communities, and these data do not fully reflect the number of members who read the posts.

Furthermore, the College is active on all major social media outlets. The College’s social media reach has grown rapidly in recent years, particularly on Twitter (see Table 1). We are continually exploring ways to use these vehicles more effectively to provide avenues of communication between the fellowship, the leadership, and the public. I would encourage you to start tweeting or posting about the issues that affect your practices.

Table 1. ACS social media engagement

Social media outlet October 2010 October 2011 August 2012 January 2014 January 2015 January 2016
Facebook No page yet 250 “Likes” 1,717 “Likes” 5,958 “Likes” 10,050 “Likes” 13,928 “Likes”
Twitter 907 followers 2,972 followers 6,063 followers 12,695 followers 19,030 followers 25,008 followers
YouTube 11 videos
7 subscribers
40 videos
90 subscribers
76 videos
217 subscribers
194 videos
616 subscribers
275 videos
924 subscribers
680 videos
1,319 subscribers




2,690 followers 5,018 followers 8,099 followers




214 followers 337 followers 426 followers

Longstanding ACS communications vehicles

Three longstanding modes of communication between the ACS leadership and the fellowship include the newsletters distributed by the ACS divisions and committees, the ACS website, and the Bulletin.

The newsletters distributed by the College’s divisions and committees have played a vital role in relaying information regarding ACS activities to the membership. All of these newsletters have been published electronically for many years now. Approximately one year ago, the ACS embarked on a performance improvement initiative to identify and standardize the College’s e-newsletter portfolio. We determined that the College was distributing nearly 30 newsletters to various audiences—some to all Fellows, but many to smaller target audiences. The Division of Integrated Communications team worked with the staff of the divisions and committees that produced these publications to determine which ones were still relevant to our membership.

We also worked with a vendor to develop a standard template for designing and developing content for the newsletters, ensuring that they all have a consistent look and feel. Furthermore, these publications have been formatted for easy viewing on a desktop, laptop, tablet, and smartphone, so you can read them anytime, anywhere. The redesigned newsletters launched in April with our most widely distributed newsletter, ACS NewsScope.

For more than two decades, Fellows have turned to the ACS website for up-to-the-minute information about the College’s efforts to meet their needs. Approximately two years ago, the ACS launched a fully redeveloped website. Since then, the College has sought to keep the site constantly updated, vibrant, and technologically sound. To that end, the Web team continually works to update the functionality, design, and content of the site in an effort to be responsive to your evolving needs. For example, based on feedback from users, we recently made improvements that allow for easier access to content using drop-down menus.

Lastly, the Bulletin began publication 100 years ago and has since served as an important means of communication between the Fellows and the leadership. In recent years, the Bulletin has become more accessible online, starting with the launch of the Bulletin website in spring 2013. Earlier this year, we launched an interactive version that reads and looks just like the print version, with the same images and content you have come to expect from the Bulletin each month. At the same time, a Bulletin app became available.

Stay tuned

We intend to continue to be innovative in our efforts to communicate with the ACS membership, and our experience with the Communities has sent a clear message that Fellows are interested in having more direct contact with the leadership. To this end, we are planning to start offering regularly scheduled online “fireside chats” with the ACS Officers, Regents, Governors, and Executive Staff. As many as 1,000 people will be able to participate in each of these programs, with up to six people visible by video.

It’s truly amazing to reflect on the degree to which new technology is enabling us to communicate more openly and freely with each other. I encourage you to take advantage of these growing opportunities to share your interests and perspectives with your colleagues and the ACS leadership. We always look forward to hearing from you.

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