Recently I was having a discussion with one of my surgical faculty, mentor and prior AAS president Dr. Daniel Albo. During our conversation we covered topics such as defining my passion and purpose, how to integrate research into residency, and my future academic career. While attending the Association for Academic Surgery’s 13th Academic Surgical Congress (#ASC2018) January 30 – February 1, 2018, the meeting felt like “déjà vu” from my conversations with Dr. Albo.
The AAS motto of “Inspiring and Developing Young Academic Surgeons” was ever present throughout #ASC2018. Sessions held covered topics relevant to a current and future career in academic surgery. From the inspiring AAS Presidential address delivered by Dr. Rebecca Sippel (@rebecca_sippel), the #SoMe2 session moderated by Dr. Niraj Gusani (@NirajGusani) and the Association of Women Surgeons Luncheon on graceful self-promotion moderated by Dr. Heena Santry (@heenastat). Attending the ASC served as an opportunity to present my current research and learn some essential non-clinical skills needed for an academic surgical career. There were so many takeaways from this meeting and I highlight a few lessons learned below.
The culture of surgery is changing
Dr. Taylor Riall (@TaylorRiall) delivered a powerful message during the SUS (@UnivSurg) presidential address. She addressed self-worth, passion, burnout, and the importance of enjoying the academic surgery journey. How the culture of surgery is changing, and how this can improve overall performance, was further emphasized by Dr. Melina Kibbe (@kibbemr).
Social media as a tool to communicate with patients, advocate for patients and disperse surgical knowledge
The #SoMe2 session emphasized how social media has been adopted by surgeons and how it can be used as a powerful tool. Dr. Joseph Sakran (@JosephSakran) shared his personal story as a trauma patient and taught us how the power of our story can change our communities and Dr. Jamie Coleman (@JJcolemanMD) demonstrated how we can use those stories to advocate in public health and health policy. Dr. Amalia Cochran (@AmaliaCochranMD) shared how social media can serve as an educational tool, while Dr. Deanna Attai (@DrAttai) uses social media to reach patients and disseminate accurate clinical information. Dr. Tom Varghese (@TomVargheseJr) and Dr. Justin Dimick (@jdimick1) taught us how to ensure quality interactions and become responsible stewards of clinical information.
The value of graceful self-promotion and the importance of having both mentors and sponsors
Dr. Heather Yeo’s (@heatheryeomd) research on Racial and ethnic disparities in promotion and retention of academic surgeons received the AAS best overall abstract award. Her study demonstrates that full time female faculty are less likely to be promoted than their male counterparts.
Although work remains to be done to achieve gender and racial parity, the AWS Luncheon on graceful self-promotion provided its attendees with tools that can be employed and help promote a career in academic surgery. Drs. Heena Santry, Zara Cooper (@zaracMD), Amalia Cochran, Patricia Turner (@pturnermd), Sherry Wren (@sherrywren) and Steven Stein spoke on the importance of “showing up and doing the work” and finding mentors and sponsors who can help promote your career.
Quality over quantity
Dr. Rebecca Sippel delivered a powerful and moving presidential address titled “Re-defining Success in Academic Surgery.” Dr. Sippel shared her personal journey and the importance of not letting others define success for you. She encouraged all of us to not “do it all” because we can accomplish more when we focus on quality rather than quantity and by doing less you are actually able to do more meaningful work. Dr. Sippel’s presidential session “Finding Your Passion and Purpose in Life” gave us the opportunity to define what true fulfillment means to each one of us by learning how to identify our key values.
The ASC is a unique conference that truly follows the AAS motto of inspiring and developing young academic surgeons. This meeting blended together great science, outstanding health services research, and provided attendees with tools and examples of work-life integration, how to identify mentors, and drafting a map for an academic surgical career. Although I am still defining my passion and purpose in life, I can attest that by participating in the ASC, I am one step closer in my path to becoming an academic surgeon.
Patricia Martinez Quinones is a general surgery resident at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, currently completing translational research in trauma immunology. She hopes to continue her career path in academic trauma and critical care surgery. Patricia is an AWS Communications Committee member and you can find her on Twitter at @PMartinezMD.