In appreciation for his exceptional and continuous service as a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons (ACS), as well as his foresight in recognizing the issues affecting training for surgical residents, the ACS Board of Regents will present its highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award (DSA), to R. Phillip Burns, MD, FACS, at Convocation, October 27 at the ACS Clinical Congress 2019, San Francisco, CA.
The award citation acknowledges “his innovative vision as an integral engineer of the College’s focused initiatives influencing general surgery training, ultimately creating better prepared general surgery residents entering practice with enhanced skills and confidence to further improve the quality of care for their patients.” According to the citation, Dr. Burns “is a role model to surgeons everywhere to always do the right thing for patients.”
Dedicated surgical educator
Dr. Burns is professor and chairman, department of surgery, University of Tennessee (UT) College of Medicine, Chattanooga, and practices at Erlanger Medical Center/Children’s Hospital in Chattanooga. He is a member of the UT College of Medicine’s system-wide advisory committee on hospital and university affairs and the UT health affairs subcommittee of the UT board of trustees. At UT College of Medicine, he chairs the surgical education advisory committee, serves on the graduate medical education committee, and is founder and medical director of the medical/surgical skills laboratory. He serves on multiple committees at both UT and Erlanger Medical Center.
Dr. Burns has twice won the UT College of Medicine’s Baroness Award for Teaching Excellence (1981, 1987), was named Clinician of the Year for the UT College of Medicine, department of surgery (1979), and was the recipient of the Augustus McCravey Teaching Award (1999)—UT College of Medicine’s faculty achievement award. In 2001, the UT College of Medicine established the R. Phillip Burns Award in recognition of his then 25 years of service as chairman of the department of surgery.
He also was honored in 2002 when he was named the UT Memphis College of Medicine’s Outstanding Alumnus. Dr. Burns received his medical degree from UT Memphis in 1966 and completed his surgical training at UT City of Memphis Hospitals in 1974, after serving as a Captain in the U.S. Air Force from 1968 to 1970.
Committed leadership in surgery
In addition to having served as First Vice-President of the ACS (2012−2013), Dr. Burns is a Past-Member of the Board of Governors (2004−2010) and Past-Chair of the Governors’ Committee on Surgical Practice in Hospitals and Outpatient Settings (2007−2010). He has served on the ACS Advisory Council for General Surgery as a representative of the Southeastern Surgical Congress since 1993, the Steering Committee on Transitions to Practice since 2012, the Coaching the Next Generation Committee since 2014 and the committee’s Simulation Subcommittee since 2015, and the Task Force on the Future of General Surgery Training since 2016.
The DSA citation recognizes “his industrious work as one of the original members of the Transition to Practice Committee that resulted in the Mastery of General Surgery Program by providing an additional year of experience for young surgeons entering general surgery.” It further notes “his exemplary leadership as Chair of the Committee on Coaching the Next Generation, along with the committee’s vision of continuous innovative projects to connect senior surgeons with continued opportunities to serve all of our colleagues in all surgical and medical settings.”
Dr. Burns also has served on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Advisory Committee for Image-Guided Breast Evaluation (1996−2000) and the ACS Stereotactic Breast Steering Committee (1997−2005). He is a Past-President of the Tennessee Chapter of the ACS (1998−1999) and continues to serve on the chapter’s Credentials and Program Committees.
Dr. Burns has been secretary/treasurer of the Chattanooga Surgical Foundation since 1976. He is past-president of the Harwell Wilson Surgical Society (1980); has served on the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) appeals panel (1982); has chaired the Johnson & Johnson Surgical Research Advisory Committee (1983−1988); and has been an examiner for the American Board of Surgery oral examinations. He is a past-president of the Southeastern Surgical Congress (2006−2007) and the Southern Surgical Association (2006−2007). Dr. Burns has held various other leadership positions in the Southeastern Surgical Congress, including chair, program planning committee (1986−1992); member, executive council (1990−present), and secretary-director (1995−2004).
In addition, he has served on the ACGME residency review committee (RRC) for surgery (1999−2005), was the RRC’s special envoy for the Katrina Disaster (2005−2006), and Surgeon Site Visitor for the RRC and ACS Pilot Project.
Dr. Burns is a prolific contributor to the surgical literature and a respected speaker on advances in trauma and general surgery.