Let me start out by saying that I am not a blogger. I don’t usually read blogs (except for the Academic Surgeon, of course), and I have never written a blog post. When I was preparing this one, I wondered how I would know what to do. So, I reverted back to my surgical training and immediately sought help from one of my former senior residents. Luckily, Dr. Mehul Raval, had just written an interesting post1 that gave me an idea of how to proceed. Then I did what any self-respecting surgeon would do prior to entering in to unknown territory—I asked Dr. Google. I figured that would be more helpful than watching a YouTube video about how to write a blog.
I quickly landed on some reasonable appearing sites and received some helpful hints on how to start. It seemed easy enough and I diligently started writing. Unfortunately, this was quickly followed by my attention being pulled in ten different directions, so I had to re-consult Dr. Google after I had put out some fires and was able to refocus. So, here goes…
How do we define diversity?
Merriam-Webster offers the following: “ The condition of having or being composed of differing elements; especially: the inclusion of different types of people (such as people of different races or cultures) in a group or organization.”2
While we are all involved in surgery, we come from a wide variety of surgical cultures. As you registered for the upcoming Academic Surgical Congress or renewed your membership dues, you may have noticed a screen asking for some of your demographic information. The creation of this form was in response to a desire to understand the diversity of our organization, so that we may better serve our membership needs. As Steven Covey said, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Currently, there are a variety of endeavors happening in the AAS to both understand, as well as increase the diversity of our membership. Currently, we have members from across North American and throughout the world. New initiatives to decrease barriers for our fellow surgeons who serve in the military and those who come from low-income nations to join are also underway.
Another initiative is to increase the diversity of the types of surgeons involved in a variety of subspecialties that have traditionally had low participation. Members of the Membership and Subspecialty Committees have been working to showcase the benefits of the AAS to residents and surgeons in the areas of cardiothoracic, plastics, orthopedics, otolaryngology, vascular and urology. For the last several years the Young Investigator Awards have been given to successful applicants from these subspecialty groups to attend the Fall Courses immediately preceding the American College of Surgeons Clinical Congress and the Academic Surgical Congress. It has been our hope that highlighting the unique opportunities of camaraderie, cross-disciplinary collaboration, mentoring and networking that exist in the AAS will help to inspire and develop young academic surgeons in these areas—truly the mission of our organization.
As we are about to gather in Houston in a few weeks for the upcoming Academic Surgical Congress, I would ask you to reflect for a moment on why you are a member of the AAS. For me, it is really the tremendous opportunities for research collaboration across surgical disciplines, because the AAS has such a broad reach across academic surgery. I would also ask you to think about colleagues at your institution or across the country in subspecialties that tend to not participate in the AAS and reach out to them. Our organization continues to be on the leading edge of mentorship, career and research development, and providing a multi-disciplinary showcase for research. We all benefit as we increase the diversity of our membership, not only in terms of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, and country of practice, but also in terms of surgical practice. We are constantly looking for new ways to enhance our membership and welcome any ideas you may have. So come to Houston in a few weeks with a great deal of enthusiasm, and bring a friend from CT, plastics, ortho, ENT, vascular and/or urology and show them what a great opportunity they have in participating in the AAS!