Generations of surgeons: Honoring and modernizing tradition

As trainees and young surgeon members of the Resident and Associate Society of the American College of Surgeons (RAS-ACS), we strive to balance newer forms of communication, technology, and learning with age-old traditions of surgical training and education. Perhaps more than most medical specialties, the House of Surgery takes great pride in our traditions. Historical surgeon leaders and mentors, including the sixth century BC physician Sushruta; Harvey Williams Cushing, MD, FACS; William Stewart Halsted, MD, FACS; and Ernest Amory Codman, MD, FACS, formulated the professional ideals that we strive to meet and serve as examples by which we measure ourselves today.

Factors affecting how we practice

We inhabit a rapidly evolving world. The way we communicate through e-mail and social media, has changed the timeliness with which information is transferred. Social media platforms allow us to share personal information about ourselves. This heightened transparency and exposure has made navigating our relationships with colleagues and patients increasingly challenging, as well as adding to questions about professionalism. As surgeons engage in these changing forms of communication, we must remain flexible and adaptable. Recognizing the efforts of the surgeons who came before us is key to upholding the ideals of professionalism and decorum, particularly in the modern era.

The rapid evolution of technology has also compelled us to rethink how we provide care to our patients. The development of newer forms of minimally invasive scopes and instruments, high-fidelity imaging capabilities, and smaller and finer tools and devices has allowed us to perform extensive operations through barely perceptible skin incisions.

We also bear witness to advances in telemedicine and the use of computers and cameras to visually transfer data. As a result, a rural emergency department can now communicate with trauma surgeons hundreds of miles away. The popularity of walk-in drugstore clinics reinforces societal demand for instant access to medical care and prescriptions. With increased pressure for immediate action by the public, we must remember that what made medicine such a distinguished profession is our reliance on evidence, deliberation, and thought before taking action.

Perspectives from the RAS-ACS committees

The features section of this issue of the Bulletin, written by members of the RAS-ACS, comprises articles that describe the challenges that arise when we try to both honor and modernize tradition. We selected topics by popular vote among our four standing committees: Membership, Issues and Advocacy, Communications, and Education. We hope that you find these articles informative and thought-provoking.

The RAS-ACS is always seeking new members, so if you are a trainee or young surgeon who would benefit from and enjoy involvement in this organization, contact me at or the RAS-ACS Administrator, Alison Casey, at

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