Many organizations and activities define themselves by their exclusivity. We are bombarded on a daily basis with offers for “exclusive” shows, conferences, journals, cars, and the list goes on. But exclusivity also necessitates an element of exclusion – restricting or limiting the people that can participate. In a time when exclusion appears to be a marketing norm, I believe we should strive toward inclusion. Despite an increasing interest in diversity, and it’s benefits, it can still be a struggle to find organizations that include all genders, ethnicities, and sexualities. What’s refreshing about the Association for Academic Surgery (AAS) is it’s inclusivity, not only of different demographics but also of wide variety of surgical specialities, academic affiliations, and levels of training. We should work on and persevere to change the current cultural norms of exclusion and highlighting organizations with intentional inclusivity is an important step.
As I reflect on my own career, it can be difficult to find inclusion in national organizations. I completed fellowship training as a Surgical Oncologist, but I practice as an Acute Care Surgeon. I love my hybrid role as it allows me to care of a population of patients that also do not fit into a typical category, specifically emergency surgery and palliative cancer patients. Yet academically, it can be challenging to find an area for my niche practice and research. I no longer completely fit into Surgical Oncology meetings, but I also don’t fit with Acute Care conferences, which can be predominantly Trauma focused and led. As I seek to create my own hybrid role and be a leader in this field, I also search for academic conferences that will allow my work to be included. I feel fortunate that I have had the opportunity to become a member and committee member of AAS because I know that it is a community where I can find inclusion clinically, academically, and socially.
I first heard about AAS when I was in fellowship from my program director who told me about the Academic Surgical Congress. I worked hard to submit an abstract within my first month of starting fellowship at the hopes of being able to attend the conference. I was excited to be accepted as a member of AAS and for a quick shot presentation. By including me at this point in my career the AAS opened doors for me to participate in some of the best meetings I have attended, meet amazing surgeons and develop connections, and socialize in inclusive settings. I attended the annual meeting again the following year, along with many other fellows, residents, and medical students from our research group. I have never had such a great educational and social experience as at that meeting. What struck me about the AAS is how much it focused on inclusion. While other meetings and organizations struggle with issues like predominantly male senior leadership and ‘manels’ – all male panels – this is not an issue for AAS.
— Ashlie Nadler (@ashlie_nadler) November 16, 2016
Given my experience with the AAS to this point, I applied for the membership committee after receiving an email seeking nominations. However, I was still used to other exclusive organizations where committee positions are reserved for ‘big names’ or those with connections. So I was surprised that not only was I considered, but I was elected to the membership committee. Now I have the pleasure of reviewing membership applications and allowing others to be included in AAS. It is great to see how many people apply from different stages of their careers and from different practice settings. It is also amazing how much focus the membership committee puts on attracting others from varied specialties and institutions. The organization is very much committed to including anyone and everyone who is interested in being part of AAS.
I am fortunate to have found this inclusivity in AAS. I hope that we all strive to continue this and to create inclusion in other organizations. I would love to know how you feel in the comments below. Where do you feel included/excluded in the surgical community? Is there anything else AAS can do to help you feel included?