Approximately 3 years ago I was given the honor by the AAS to serve as the liaison to the ACS Board of Governors. Like many of you I am a fellow of the ACS, but really didn’t understand it’s hierarchy or what the Board of Governors was, prior to this appointment. Over the past two years I have been able to get involved in the ACS and the Board of Governors and have come to understand the structure and hierarchy of the organization. Since many young academic surgeons are interested in getting more involved in the ACS, I thought I would try to give you some insights into the structure and leadership of the college as well as let you know how you can get more involved.
The ACS was established in Chicago in 1913 at the initiative of Franklin Martin, MD, FACS. The college was founded to improve the quality of care for the surgical patient by setting high standards for surgical education and practice. Members of the ACS are considered fellows and are indicated by the letters FACS (Fellow of the American College of Surgeons) after their name. Currently the ACS has 79,000 members around the world.
The main leadership of the ACS is a 22 member Board of Regents, which is run by the ACS President. The regents are elected by the Board of Governors. The Board of Governors includes 270 surgeons who are geographically and specialty balanced. Governors are assigned to geographic regions based on the number of ACS fellows from that area. There are currently 1 or more governors from each state and Canadian province based on the population of that state (149 governors total). There are 81 specialty governors that each represent their surgical association or specialty society and 40 international governors. The governors are supposed to represent the voice of their constituents. As a fellow of the college, your voice is represented in the leadership of the college through your local or state ACS chapter and the governor assigned to it as well as the specialty society governors that are representing the organizations for which you are a member. In order to become a governor, you need to be nominated by either your state or local ACS chapter or by a specialty society that you represent. Governor terms are 3 years and are often renewed for a second term. The Board of Governors has recently undergone a major restructuring and has assigned each governor to one of its 5 pillars: Member services, Education, Advocacy and Leadership, Quality-Research/Optimal Patient Care, and Communication. In order to better engage the governors, everyone is either assigned to be a member of a working group or as a liaison to one of the standing committees of the ACS.
The college also has a committee structure which is run by the Board of Regents. Currently there are over 30 different standing committees of the ACS. Committee members can be nominated by any committee member or selected by the Regents. If you are interested in getting involved in an ACS committee, you can contact the committee chair or any active committee member to express your interest. Committees strive to have a diversity of membership, including geographic, specialty, gender, and age.
The greatest opportunity for early leadership opportunities in the ACS is through the Younger Fellows Association (YFA). The YFA is designed to support and engage surgeons under the age of 45. Their meeting is held annually at the ACS meeting and there are ample opportunities to get involved within the Assoication, or to be the YFA representative on the standing committees of the ACS.
Another great opportunity to learn more about the leadership opportunities in the ACS as well as to develop your advocacy skills is to attend the Spring Leadership and Advocacy Conference. For the last two years this has been held in late March in Washington D.C. and involves a day of leadership training and a day of advocacy. This is a required event for all of the Regents and Board of Governors and a great opportunity to network with the leadership of the ACS.
The ACS is a large organization and sometimes that makes finding ways to get involved more challenging. But there are multiple opportunities to get involved, and if you show some enthusiasm and commitment you will be amazed of the opportunities that will present themselves. I encourage you to not only list the FACS initials after your name, but to think of how you can potentially get more involved and to help support the mission and activities of the ACS.