Valerie W. Rusch, MD, FACS, an esteemed thoracic surgeon who practices in New York, NY, has been elected to serve as the 2018−2019 President-Elect of the American College of Surgeons (ACS). Dr. Rusch is vice-chair, clinical research, department of surgery; Miner Family Chair in Intrathoracic Cancers; attending surgeon, thoracic service, department of surgery, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; and professor of surgery, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, NY. Dr. Rusch and the First and Second Vice-Presidents-Elect were elected at the Annual Business Meeting of Members, at Clinical Congress 2018, October 24 in Boston, MA.
An ACS Fellow since 1986 and this year’s recipient of the ACS Distinguished Service Award, Dr. Rusch has led several prominent ACS bodies, including serving as Chair of the Board of Governors (B/G) (2006−2008) and Board of Regents (2015−2016). A Regent from 2008 to 2017, she chaired the Central Judiciary Committee (2009–2013), the Program Committee (2011–2017), the Board of Regents Nominating Committee (2011–2012), and the Committee on Global Engagement (2016−2017). She served on the Board of Regents Honors Committee (2012−2016), Executive Committee (2013−2016), and Finance Committee (2014−2016). In addition, she has been a member of the College’s Advisory Council for Cardiothoracic Surgery (2002−2017); International Relations Committee (2007−2013, Executive Committee, 2009−2012); Commission on Cancer (CoC) Executive Committee (2012−2017); Scholarships Committee (2008−2012); and Research and Optimal Patient Care Committee (2008−2015).
As a young faculty member at the University of Washington, Seattle, she served as Field Liaison Fellow to the CoC for the Seattle Veterans Affairs and University Hospitals and as a Councilor of the ACS Washington State Chapter. For more than 15 years, Dr. Rusch has been closely involved with the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) and has served as Chair of the Lung and Esophagus Task Force for the Sixth and Seventh editions of the AJCC Cancer Staging Manual, and as Chair of the Thoracic Expert Panel for the recently published Eighth Edition of the staging manual, personally authoring several of the thoracic chapters. In addition to speaking at various ACS Postgraduate Courses and Clinical Congress Scientific Sessions, Dr. Rusch delivered the John H. Gibbon, Jr., Lecture at Clinical Congress 2014.
Dr. Rusch specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of patients with cancers of the lung, airways (trachea, bronchi), esophagus, mediastinum, chest wall, and pleura (malignant pleural mesothelioma). She was among the first women in the U.S. to be board certified in thoracic surgery.
For more than 30 years, she has emphasized a multidisciplinary approach to treating patients with thoracic malignancy. Her research has focused on the molecular behaviors of asbestos cancers and the genetic tendencies of lung cancer as a means to identify certain cancers in the earlier stages.
Dr. Rusch has been a leader in national and international clinical trials for the treatment of thoracic malignancies and played a pivotal role in establishing the ACS Oncology Group—now the ACS Clinical Research Program. Among her many honors, in 2007, Dr. Rusch received the Thoracic Surgery Foundation for Research and Education Socrates Award, and in 2012, the Association of Women Surgeons awarded her The Nina Starr Braunwald Award for lifetime contributions to the advancement of women in surgery. She received the Henry Harkins Award from the Washington State Chapter, as well as the Outstanding Teacher Award, department of surgery, and the Willet F. Whitmore Award for Clinical Excellence, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation has honored Dr. Rusch with the Pioneer Award for clinical research in malignant mesothelioma.
She has held 25 visiting professorships and lectureships and given more than 300 major lectures on thoracic cancers at medical conferences around the world. Her curriculum vitae boasts more than 400 peer-reviewed publications.
In addition to the ACS, Dr. Rusch has been a leader of other surgical organizations. More specifically, she served as chair of the American Board of Thoracic Surgery and chair of the Mesothelioma Subcommittee of the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer Staging Committee. She is a member of the American Association for Cancer Research, Association for Thoracic Surgery, American College of Chest Physicians, American Radium Society, American Surgical Association, American Thoracic Society, Association for Academic Surgery, Society of Surgical Oncology, and Society of Thoracic Surgeons. She is an honorary member of the European Society of Thoracic Surgeons and the Society for Cardiothoracic Surgery in Great Britain and Ireland.
Dr. Rusch is fluent in both French and English, having graduated from the Lycée Français de New York in New York City. She graduated with honors from Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY, with a degree in biochemistry and Alpha Omega Alpha with her medical degree from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, and completed surgical residency training in general surgery and thoracic surgery at the University of Washington, followed by a fellowship at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston.
The First Vice-President-Elect is John A. Weigelt, MD, DVM, FACS, who recently retired as the Milt & Lidy Lunda/Charles Aprahamian Professor of Trauma Surgery; professor and chief, division of trauma and critical care; and associate dean for quality, Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW), Milwaukee. He also was a general surgeon and medical director of clinical quality at Froedtert Memorial Lutheran Hospital, Milwaukee. Dr. Weigelt is a general surgeon with an emphasis on trauma and critical care and more recently on acute care as this field has become more prominently recognized. Dr. Weigelt is now joining the faculty of Sanford Health System and the University of South Dakota, Sioux Falls, where he will be involved in the education programs for surgical residents and students.
A Fellow since 1982 and the recipient of the 2015 Distinguished Service Award, Dr. Weigelt has been a leader of ACS trauma programs. He has been a member of the ACS Committee on Trauma (COT) since 1992, serving as COT Chair (1994–1998) and COT Membership Committee Chair (1998–2004). He also was chief, COT Region 6 (1989–1992). He has been on the National Faculty of the Advanced Trauma Life Support® program since 1983.
Dr. Weigelt also has been involved in many of the College’s educational programs. He began serving as an author of the Surgical Education and Self-Assessment Program (SESAP®) during SESAP VII, joined the Advisory Committee during SESAP IX, and has served as Medical Director of SESAP since 2001. He helped start the General Surgery Review course at Clinical Congress 2007 and has functioned as Course Director of the Comprehensive General Surgery Review Course since its inception in 2010. He has been a member of the Committee on Education and the Committee on Video-Based Education since 2002, as well as a member of the Committee on Medical Motion Pictures (2002–2004).
Dr. Weigelt also has been active in state-level ACS activities, serving as Chair, North Texas Chapter COT, and Council Member, North Texas Chapter (both 1983–1989). He also has been a member of the Minnesota and Wisconsin Chapters.
He joined the faculty of the MCW in 1999 and served on MCW’s Residency Education and Evaluation Committee, Executive Committee, and Peer Review Committee; he is past-chair of the MCW’s Society of Teaching Scholars.
At Froedtert, he chaired the trauma committee (1999–2017) and the joint quality committee (2004–2015) and he served as the first medical director of quality (2005‒2015). Earlier faculty appointments include positions at University of Texas (UT), Dallas; Parkland Memorial Hospital, Dallas; Dallas Veterans Medical Center; Presbyterian Hospital, Dallas; St. Paul Medical Center, MN; Zale-Lipshy University Hospital, Dallas; University of Minnesota, St. Paul; Regions Hospital, St. Paul; Gillette Children’s Hospital, St. Paul; North Memorial Medical Center, Minneapolis, MN; Fairview University Medical Center, Minneapolis; Regina Medical Center, Hastings, MN; and Osceola Medical Center, WI. While at UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, his clinical activities were acknowledged by the Weigelt-Wallace Award in 1991, which recognizes clinical excellence and dedication to patient care. In 2012, he was awarded the Thomas L. Smallwood Award for Patient Care Excellence by the board of directors of Froedtert Hospital.
As a professor at the University of Minnesota (1992–1999), he was twice awarded the Wangensteen Award for Excellence in Teaching (1993, 1999). In 2002, he was awarded the Association for Surgical Education Outstanding Teacher Award. And at MCW, he was twice awarded the Teacher of the Year Award (2004, 2010). In 2013, he was honored by being elected one of the Giants of General Surgery by UT Southwestern and Parkland Foundation.
In addition to the ACS, Dr. Weigelt is or has been a member of many other honorary and professional societies, including the Society of Critical Care Medicine; Southwestern Surgical Congress; American Association for the Surgery of Trauma; Western Surgical Association (past-vice-president); American Trauma Society; Parkland Surgical Society (founding member and past-president); American Medical Association; Société Internationale de Chirurgie, U.S. Chapter; Central Surgical Association; American Surgical Association; Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons; Association of Program Directors in Surgery; and Association for Surgical Education.
Dr. Weigelt has presented more than 150 local, regional, and national lectures in his career, as well as 20 lectures on the international stage. He has served as faculty for more than 130 postgraduate courses and symposiums throughout the U.S.
Dr. Weigelt’s research interests include surgical infections, clinical outcomes, and educational approaches to training surgeons. Over the course of his career, Dr. Weigelt has been awarded 19 research grants. His most recent research interests focus on quality of care issues, working closely with the Wisconsin Collaborative for Healthcare Quality.
He transitioned Current Surgery to the Journal of Surgical Education as editor-in-chief of the journal and now serves as editor emeritus. He also served as editor of the audio Practical Reviews in General Surgery (1994‒2015). He was the editor of the Journal of Surgical Outcomes, 2002–2007. He was an associate editor of Selected Readings in General Surgery (SRGS) when it was published at UT Southwestern Medical Center (1989–1996) prior to the program’s transfer to the College. Additionally, he has served on the editorial boards of the Journal of Trauma, the Pan-American Journal of Trauma, the Journal of Critical Care Medicine, and Advances in Therapy. He is a reviewer for Critical Care Medicine, Surgery, and previously reviewed Archives of Surgery (now the Journal of the American Medical Association Surgery). As a contributor, he has published more than 150 medical journal articles, written more than 50 book chapters, and has been a contributing or associate editor of more than 60 entries in SRGS.
Dr. Weigelt is a graduate of Michigan State University, Lansing, and earned his doctor of veterinary medicine degree from the same institution. He completed his medical degree at MCW and his internship and residency at UT Southwestern. He earned his master’s in hospital administration at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The Second Vice-President-Elect is F. Dean Griffen, MD, FACS. Dr. Griffen is Albert Sklar Professor of Surgery at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center Shreveport (LSUHSC-S). Having served LSUHSC-S in several different capacities over the last 11 years (including acting chair of the department of surgery), he now practices general surgery at Ochsner LSU Health as clinical professor.
For 35 years, Dr. Griffen was in private practice at the Highland Clinic, Shreveport, where he and his partners developed and introduced the double-stapling technique for low rectal reconstruction.
A Fellow of the College since 1975 and the 2009 recipient of the Distinguished Service Award, Dr. Griffen has served the organization in the following capacities: member, Health Policy Steering Committee (2007−2010); Vice-Chair, Comprehensive Communications Committee (2006−2011); Liaison, Program Committee (2003−2006); and Chair, Committee on Patient Safety and Quality Improvement (2002−2006). He was member of the B/G (1993−1999), serving as Vice-Chair of the Nominating Committee of the B/G (1998−1999) and Chair of the Governors’ Committee on Physician Competency (1997−1999). He is Past-President of the Louisiana Chapter of the ACS (1992−1993) and a former member of the Louisiana Credentials Committee (2000−2005).
Dr. Griffen has been recognized for his ground-breaking work on the ACS Closed Claims Study, which offered insights into ways to improve surgical care and reduce liability through professional behavior. He has led numerous seminars, Postgraduate Courses, and mock trials at Clinical Congress on the issues of liability and professionalism.
In addition to Dr. Griffen’s involvement with the College, he has been a leader of numerous surgical and medical associations. He is a past-president of the Southern Society of Clinical Surgeons, Surgical Association of Louisiana, John C. McDonald Surgical Society, Louisiana State Medical Society (LSMS), and Shreveport Medical Society. Dr. Griffen also has chaired the Louisiana Patient’s Compensation Fund Oversight Board and served as vice-president of the Southern Surgical Association. He was elected to the LSMS Hall of Fame in 2016. Recently, Dr. Griffen was appointed to the Louisiana Medical Disclosure Panel and serves at the discretion of Louisiana’s governor.
Dr. Griffen is a graduate of LSU Medical School, New Orleans, and received his training in general surgery at LSUHSC-S. Following two years as a Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy, he practiced general, thoracic, and vascular surgery in Shreveport at the Highland Clinic before joining the core faculty at LSUHSC-S in 2007. Dr. Griffen is the recipient of the 2010 as well as the 2011 Clarence Webb Clinical Instructor of the Year Award at LSUHSC-S and received the Allen Copping Award for best clinical educator in 2011.