Editor’s note: In 2019, the American College of Surgeons (ACS) Division of Member Services announced a new travel award for Student Members transitioning into residency to attend Clinical Congress. Michael Visenio, MD, an intern at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, was the inaugural recipient of the award. In the following report, he describes how attending Clinical Congress 2019 provided him with an opportunity to access the many learning and networking opportunities available at the meeting.
Even before arriving in San Francisco, CA, for Clinical Congress 2019, Twitter had given me a glimpse of what was to come: fellow surgical residents discussing their upcoming research, several faculty members creating buzz about their podium presentations, leaders in the profession foreshadowing upcoming debates and panels. For myself, I was excited to be involved in the ACS Resident and Associate Society (RAS-ACS) Advocacy and Issues Committee meeting leading up to the conference and the thought-provoking programming that the RAS-ACS had planned for the Clinical Congress.
Attending Clinical Congress proved to be a five-day rush of meetings, networking, and, most importantly, learning. As an intern five months into surgical training, it was easy to feel torn over which sessions to attend. Plenary sessions in general surgery, surgical education, health services research, trauma, and critical care all appeared fascinating, but time was limited. Thus, I found it beneficial to have a Resident Track with focused programming. What can otherwise be an overwhelming experience was improved by having the resident sessions to facilitate meeting other attendees in similar stages of training and serving as a launch pad for further exploring surgical interests.
Past-Chair of the ACS Board of Regents and Surgery Resident Program Chair Leigh Neumayer, MD, FACS, encouraged residents to “bloom where you are planted” as our surgical careers begin. Craig J. Baker, MD, FACS, professor of clinical surgery and chief, division of cardiac surgery, University of California Los Angeles, gave a financial presentation that served as an eye-opening reminder that it is never too early to begin saving for retirement—especially given the long educational paths physicians take. A session on implicit bias by Dana A. Telem, MD, FACS, associate chair for clinical affairs and quality director, Michigan Women’s Surgical Collaborative, and associate professor, department of surgery, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, emphasized the many ways gender bias can affect faculty development and patient care alike. Quick-fire Town Hall topics ranged from effective mentorship to leveraging social media.
The Resident Symposium, sponsored by the RAS-ACS Advocacy and Issues Committee, tackles contemporary issues in medicine. This year’s topic was shift work surgery, with thoughtful pro and con arguments from residents and faculty. Lively debate ensued between Sharmila Dissanaike, MD, FACS, professor and Peter C. Canizaro Chair, department of surgery, and assistant medical director, Timothy J. Harnar Burn Center, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Lubbock; and Kenneth Mattox, MD, FACS, Distinguished Service Professor, Baylor College of Medicine, and chief of staff and surgeon-in-chief, Ben Taub Hospital, Houston, TX. Both speakers made crucial points regarding continuity of care, physician wellness, and accountability for patient care.
Business sessions revealed the behind-the-scenes work that makes Clinical Congress and the ACS run. The dedicated work of RAS members showed that young surgeons seek out every opportunity to be at the table when decisions are made regarding surgical training and the future of surgery. Individual committees continually pursue opportunities to elevate programming and ensure that ACS meetings remain relevant to residents, fellows, and early-career surgeons.
For example, the Education Committee hosted a skills competition, “So You Think You Can Operate,” that combined competitive spirit with exposure to cutting-edge surgical technology. Within the Advocacy and Issues Committee, I had the opportunity to assist in a podcast episode interviewing leaders in trauma surgery and firearm injury prevention on their diverse approaches to addressing this prevalent form of trauma. For residents looking to become more involved in the ACS, there seemed to be a committee or group to fit any interest.
At the end of the day, I find that national meetings such as Clinical Congress stimulate the field of surgery by melding together surgeons of diverse interests, practice settings, and geography. Through the sharing of ideas and dissemination of knowledge, the hope is to solve clinical problems and improve patient outcomes. Encouragingly, I found that we also use this opportunity to diligently seek out creative ways to improve surgical education, the training environment, and, ultimately, physician well-being.