The Board of Regents of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) will present its highest honor accorded annually—the Distinguished Service Award (DSA)—to Hilary A. Sanfey, MB BCh, MHPE, FACS, FRCSI, FRCSEd(Hon), at the virtual ACS Clinical Congress 2020 Convocation. Dr. Sanfey is an esteemed general surgeon, professor of surgery, and vice-chair for educational affairs at Southern Illinois University (SIU), Springfield.
According to the award citation, Dr. Sanfey was selected in appreciation of “her exceptional and continuous service as a Fellow of the ACS.” The citation also acknowledges “her exemplary leadership of many professional organizations and as a mentor, teacher, and trainer of the next generation of surgeons in advocating for excellence in lifelong high-quality surgical education.”
Dr. Sanfey is being honored with the DSA “for high standards of professionalism in patient care and toward colleagues, for attention to surgeon well-being and resilience, and for development of equity, inclusion, and opportunity for all surgeons in the profession regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or other personal characteristic.”
Dr. Sanfey is being honored with the DSA “for high standards of professionalism in patient care and towards colleagues, for attention to surgeon well-being and resilience, and for development of equity, inclusion, and opportunity for all surgeons in the profession regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or other personal characteristic.”
Service with the ACS
A Fellow of the ACS since 2001, Dr. Sanfey has served in several leadership roles in the organization, including First Vice-President (2016−2017). She served as the ACS Liaison to the American Medical Association Women Physicians Congress (2006–2009) and as an ACS Governor (2006–2012). As a Governor, she chaired the Board of Governors (B/G) Committee on Chapters Subcommittee on Diversity (2009–2011) and Nominating Committee (2010–2012). As Chair of the B/G Nominating Committee, Dr. Sanfey successfully advocated for a change to the College’s Bylaws to allow open nominations for Officers and other leaders in the College, thereby fostering adoption of transparent leadership succession to enable equity and inclusion of all Fellows.
In addition, Dr. Sanfey served on the Executive Committee of the Committee on Medical Student Education (2005–2011), as a liaison to the Program Committee, and on the Executive Committee of the Scholarship Committee. She has been active on the Women in Surgery Committee since 2005 (Executive Committee, 2007–present, and Chair, 2009–2013). As Governor and in her present role on the ACS Foundation Annual Giving and Communications Committee, she effectively secured the funds required for full endowment of the Olga M. Jonasson, MD, FACS, Named Lecture Fund.
Since 2016, she has co-chaired the ACS Division of Education’s Certificate in Applied Surgical Education Leadership Program. In this role, Dr. Sanfey has “demonstrated creativity in developing tools to advance surgeons as educators, ensuring the future of a well-trained and ethical surgical workforce,” the DSA citation notes.
Leadership and recognition in other organizations
Dr. Sanfey has held high-ranking positions in other prestigious surgical organizations as well, including the Association of Women Surgeons (AWS) (president, 2005–2006). As President of the AWS, which meets annually in conjunction with the Clinical Congress, she provided “fearless and inspirational leadership to advocate for women to enjoy the full benefits of a career in surgery” and has had a “lasting impact on women surgeons around the globe including notably in Japan, African nations, and Ireland, who now benefit from ACS scholarships and programs,” according to the award citation. In 2010, the AWS renamed its Outstanding Woman Resident Award as the Hilary Sanfey Outstanding Resident Award, and in 2013 and 2014, respectively, Dr. Sanfey was honored with the AWS Olga Jonasson Distinguished Member Award and Nina Starr Braunwald Award.
In addition, she has served on key committees of the Association of Program Directors in Surgery, the Association for Surgical Education, the American Society of Transplant Surgeons, and the U.S. Chapter of the International Surgical Society (president, 2013–2015).
Dr. Sanfey hails from Ireland and graduated from Trinity College Dublin School of Medicine in 1976. She trained at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, spent three years as a research fellow at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, and worked as a consultant transplant surgeon at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh for four years before moving to the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, in 1996. She remained on the clinical faculty at the University of Virginia, starting as an assistant professor of hepatobiliary surgery in 1991 and leaving in 2008 for SIU, as a tenured professor of surgery. In 2009, she received a master’s degree in health professions education from the University of Illinois, Chicago.
Dr. Sanfey is on the editorial boards of the Association for Surgical Education, Journal of the Royal Colleges of Edinburgh and Ireland, and Journal of the American College of Surgeons. She is an accomplished surgical investigator and has contributed to more than 100 peer-reviewed papers, 29 book chapters, and 28 peer-reviewed educational materials and has been a frequent guest lecturer and visiting professor at international symposia and workshops. She is the recipient of many awards in surgical education.
“In admiration of her natural leadership, integrity, vision, and steadfast commitment to the College’s initiatives and principles serving as a role model to surgeons everywhere to always do the right thing for patients, the Board of Regents is pleased to recognize her outstanding contributions by awarding her its highest honor,” the citation states.