If you are anything like me, you tend to let unfamiliar acronyms scoot by your ears without internalizing what they mean until they directly affect you. When I was going through training, as somebody with career goals that were “more heavily clinical than research-oriented,” I let letters like K, R, NIDDK, AHRQ, DoD, and NCI pass me by without giving them much thought. Imagine my dismay when I then found myself in my first job, with success was measured in part by extramural funding. Within my first month, I sat down and googled, “What is a K award?” Then later, “What is the difference between K08 and K12?” Little did I know, that those mysterious AAS Fall courses would have spelled out this whole hidden curriculum for me, if I had only taken the time to go.
I had always heard or seen people from flagship academic institutions talking or tweeting about the Fall courses, but I was never really sure who should be there, and whether or not I could go. Was it invite only? Was it for early career faculty or residents/fellows? My general impressions were not enough to clearly understand, and of course, I never bothered to seek clarity, because who has time for that? So, dear reader, here I offer you the clarity that would have saved me so much time and heartache as I prepared to enter my life as a surgeon-scientist.
What are the Fall Courses?
The Fall Courses are put on by the AAS* (Association for Academic Surgery – a society for junior academic surgical faculty who are in their first 12 years of practice that also welcomes as candidate members all surgical learners enrolled in formal programs).
*As an aside, the AAS meets jointly each February with the SUS (Society of University Surgeons – a society for mid-to-senior-career academic surgical faculty) at something called the ASC (Academic Surgical Congress) not to be confused with the ACS (American College of Surgeons) meeting which occurs every October. The Fall Courses co-locate with the ACS meeting but are not directly affiliated with ACS.
There are two separate courses:
- Fundamentals of Surgical Research Course (FSRC) is geared toward current surgical residents, often entering or in the middle of dedicated research training, or fellows anticipating a career in academic surgery
- Early Career Development Course (ECDC) is for graduating fellows and junior faculty in their first 7 years of academic surgical practice.
Who should attend the Fall Courses?
Anybody who is even remotely interested in academic success as either a trainee (FSRC) or junior faculty member (ECDC). This is not just for those who need to write grants to succeed at their own institution. These are for anybody wishing to build a better foundation for academic productivity and forward career trajectory. If you bothered to read this blog, and have always been curious, you should definitely come!
What will I learn at the Fall Courses?
Simply put, EVERYTHING. In addition to having the whole hidden curriculum of alphabet soup (K, R, P, U and all the rest) spelled out for you, there will be opportunities for personalized mentorship about your own CV/aims/career trajectory, and academic productivity. We also offer invaluable closeup networking with luminaries in academic surgery and with current and future peers. That peer network is the strongest possible foundation for a fruitful career as a surgeon-scientist. I lean daily on peers I have “come up” with – for clinical advice, scientific brainstorming, personal support, and everything in between. This part, the friendships and the networking across otherwise formidable boundaries is the AAS secret sauce. I hope you’ll come see for yourself!