Looking forward – October 2020

David B. Hoyt, MD, FACS

As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) swept the nation in March, few of us imagined that it ultimately would affect how we present the American College of Surgeons’ (ACS) largest, key conferences—the Quality and Safety Conference in late July, the Clinical Congress in early October, and the Trauma Quality and Improvement Program meeting in December. As it became more evident that the pandemic would wear on, affecting attendees’ ability to travel by air and to congregate in large groups at convention centers and hotels, the leadership of the organization determined it would no longer be able to host these meetings in the traditional format—that is, as live events—and made the difficult but potentially historic decision to present these conferences in a virtual format.

The staff and leadership of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) have been working diligently and collaboratively to develop what I believe will be an outstanding virtual Clinical Congress 2020. We used the 2020 Quality and Safety Conference VIRTUAL as a template for developing the program, even using the same vendor for both meetings—CTI Technology.

The Quality and Safety Conference VIRTUAL was well received. Approximately 10,000 health care professionals from all corners of the world registered for the program—five times as many people as registered for the 2019 meeting, which took place live in Washington, DC.

We realize that many people miss the networking opportunities that a live conference offers; however, a virtual conference has advantages of its own. For example, surgeons and other health care professionals are spared the expense of traveling out of town—including hotel accommodations, meals at restaurants and hotels, airfare and taxis, and so on—as well as worries about family responsibilities, time away from the office, the operating room, and patient care. If you can’t view a session in real-time, it is still possible to watch the session on-demand for a few months later.

And, like the Quality and Safety Conference VIRTUAL, Clinical Congress is available to registrants free of charge this year. The ACS leadership felt it important to provide this year’s Clinical Congress at no cost given the financial impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on surgical practices. Likewise, attendees will be eligible to earn more than 200 free Continuing Medical Education credits.

Originally planned as a three-day program with additional programming in December, the ACS Program Committee determined that all sessions should occur in the regular program and will now take place October 3−7. The first two days, Saturday, October 3, and Sunday, October 4, will focus on the achievements of our youngest members and their contributions to the future of our profession.

Program highlights

The staff and leadership of the ACS have been working diligently and collaboratively to develop what I believe will be an outstanding virtual Clinical Congress 2020.

The outstanding program developed by Henri Ford, MD, FACS; Ajit K. Sachdeva, MD, FACS, FRCSC; and the Program Committee kicks off with the Scientific Forum at 9:00 am Central Daylight Time (CDT) Saturday, October 3. We also will offer the Medical Student Program 9:00 am to 11:55 am CDT, as well as the following programs for medical students and residents:

  • Navigating the Difficult Work Environment
  • The Skin and Its Contents: Training the Rural Surgeon
  • The Medical Student Handoff: Best Practices for Feed-Forward of Information from Medical School to Residency Training
  • Sunday’s program includes a continuation of the Scientific Forum program as well as the following Panel Sessions:
  • Surgery Resident Program
  • Academic Global Surgery: Barriers and Solutions
  • Fertility Challenges for Surgeons
  • Cultivating the Next Generation of Surgeon-Scientists
  • Resident and Associate Society Symposium: Resident Unionization: Future of Resident Advocacy or Deterioration of Our Profession? (see page 106 of this issue for details)

Sunday will conclude with the Convocation, 6:00−8:00 pm, when we will welcome more than 2,200 new Fellows into the College. At this event, our incoming President, J. Wayne Meredith, MD, FACS, will present his Presidential Address with the following theme: On Being Resilient. The First and Second Vice-Presidents also will be installed, and we will present awards of meritorious contributions to the organization and the profession, including the Distinguished Service Award, the Military Lifetime Achievement Award, the Resident Mentor Award, the Owen Wangensteen Scientific Award Dedication, and so on. We also will honor Fellows who passed away this year and Fellows who are celebrating 25 and 50 years of ACS Fellowship.

Named Lectures

We realize that many people miss the networking opportunities that a live conference offers; however, a virtual conference has advantages of its own.

Monday, October 5, we begin educational programming for surgeons at all stages of their career, starting with the Opening Ceremony, which Dr. Meredith will lead. This event is followed by the first of 10 Named Lectures—the Martin Memorial Lecture: Assuring Progress in Cancer Research during Challenging Times. Dr. Meredith will serve as Presiding Officer and will introduce Anthony Atala, MD, FACS, who is the Introducer for the lecture, 8:30−9:00 am, which will be given by Norman E. Sharpless, MD, who has led the National Cancer Institute for nearly a year and previously headed the Food and Drug Administration.

Other Named Lectures are as follows:


  • John H. Gibbon. Jr., Lecture: Lung Cancer Screening: Saving Lives with Science and Policy, which will be delivered by Seattle, WA, thoracic surgeon and ACS Regent Douglas E. Wood, MD, FACS
  • Charles G. Drake History of Surgery Lecture: Transplantation Surgery in the 21st Century, which will be delivered by San Francisco, CA, transplant surgeon Nancy L. Ascher, MD, PhD, FACS
  • I.S. Ravdin Lecture in the Basic and Surgical Sciences: Using Yesterday’s Data Today to Improve Care and Outcomes Tomorrow, delivered by Nancy N. Baxter, MD, FACS, FRCSC, Melbourne, Australia


  • Herand Abcarian Lecture: Quality, Leadership, and Zero Harm, by James W. Fleshman, Jr., MD, FACS, FASCRS, Dallas, TX
  • Excelsior Surgical Society/Edward D. Churchill Lecture: American Surgery: The Imperative to Lead and Evolve at the Speed of Relevance, by Jonathan Woodson, MD, FACS, USAR, Boston, MA
  • Scudder Oration on Trauma: I’m Not Comfortable with This, by Gregory J. Jurkovich, MD, FACS, Davis, CA
  • Olga M. Jonasson Lecture: Seen and Unseen: Digital Divides in Health Care and the Workplace, by Kimberly Bryant, San Francisco, CA


  • John J. Conley Ethics and Philosophy Lecture: Microethics: The Ethics of Everyday Practice, by Robert D. Truog, MD, Boston, MA
  • Commission on Cancer Oncology Lecture: Cancer Care: Medicine Meet Math: Murray S. Brennan, GNZM, MD, FACS, New York, NY
  • Other Special Interest Sessions

We have a Special Interest Session scheduled each day, Monday through Wednesday, during the 12:00 noon CDT break. All are focused on some aspect of COVID-19 and include the following:

  • Academy of Master Surgeon Educators Symposium: Transformation of Residency Training in Surgery: COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond
  • Leadership, Workforce, Communication during COVID-19 Pandemic: Lessons Learned
  • Well-Being Challenges during COVID-19 Pandemic: Preparing for the Next Crisis

An amazing job

I believe this year’s virtual Clinical Congress 2020 will satisfy the needs of surgeons at all stages of their career and the all-digital format will make attendance easier for everyone, regardless of geography, travel bans, COVID-19 concerns, and traditional impediments. Our staff and leaders have risen to this occasion with great enthusiasm and have been working “surgeon hours” for many weeks. I can’t thank them enough for their dedication.







If you have comments or suggestions about this or other issues, please send them to Dr. Hoyt at lookingforward@facs.org.

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