Getting Involved at a National Level

  • Roger H. KimEmail author
Part of the Success in Academic Surgery book series (SIAS)


Developing a successful academic career depends on networking. Out of necessity, much of networking in the context of surgical education takes place at a national level. Unfortunately, the majority of surgeons have had little or no instruction on how to get involved in national organizations and professional societies. This chapter describes a strategy and tips on how junior faculty can successfully increase their national profile in surgical education. In addition, specific opportunities at a selection of national organizations are presented as reference.


National Organization Academic Career Junior Faculty Surgical Education Regional Society 
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Developing a successful career in surgical education is highly dependent on networking. Like so many other academic endeavors, success does not occur in a vacuum. For the junior faculty member just starting on his/her academic career, strong mentorship and engagement with like-minded personnel is critical. While there are a few institutions where education enjoys a robust support structure within the department of surgery, with multiple faculty members involved in educational endeavors, the vast majority of surgical educators do not enjoy such abundant availability of networking opportunities on a local level. Fortunately, there are many national professional organizations that provide the less fortunate among us with opportunities to engage in networking with other surgical educators.

A selection of the professional societies that are involved in surgical education is listed in Table 5.1. While this list is by no means comprehensive, it is representative of many of the key organizations that are heavily involved in education. In addition to this list, many surgical subspecialty organizations have forums or committees for education. These organizations provide additional opportunities for getting involved at a national level.
Table 5.1

Professional societies important to surgical education

Society of University Surgeons (SUS)

Association for Academic Surgery (AAS)

American College of Surgeons (ACS)

Association for Surgical Education (ASE)

Association of Program Directors in Surgery (APDS)

Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC)

Surgical Council on Resident Education (SCORE)

Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME)

American Educational Research Association (AERA)

American Medical Association (AMA)

National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME)

Association for Medical Education in Europe (AMEE)

In this chapter, I will present some strategies for increasing one’s involvement in surgical education at a national level, based primarily on my own personal experience. Some of the strategies described below may appear to be self-evident. However, I would assert that many of us were never instructed or advised on these matters during our surgical residencies. Most junior faculty, myself included, learned these lessons the hard and inefficient way – through personal experience, whether positive or negative. These reflections are presented here in order to allow faculty to start their academic careers in the most efficient manner possible in regard to involvement on a national level. In addition, highlights of the opportunities at various national organizations will be outlined to serve as a resource guide.

Strategies for Increasing Involvement

As a preface to describing some strategies for increasing one’s national profile, I would be remiss to not point out that junior faculty are often under two significant constraints: money and time. In this day and age of financial constraints, where surgical departments are often under significant budgetary pressures, the burden of annual membership dues and travel expenses associated with involvement in academic societies cannot be neglected. In addition, time spent away from home during such involvement can have a significant impact on one’s clinical practice, academic endeavors, and personal life.

Because of this, each junior faculty needs to prioritize his/her involvement in organizations. This is often easier said than done. It can be tempting, especially early in one’s career, to get involved in every organization and opportunity that presents itself. Resisting this temptation and selecting an appropriate distribution of time commitment will help prevent one from becoming spread too thin. As a general rule, depending on how much time and resources a faculty member has at his/her disposal, attendance at two or three national meetings per academic year may be a realistic goal, with membership in perhaps one or two additional organizations, including a state or regional surgical society. National organizations often have the advantage of presenting a greater opportunity for networking than local or regional societies, primarily due to their larger membership. However, smaller organizations at the local level can also be helpful to junior faculty, as they can offer opportunities that may not be easily accessible in larger societies at the early stages of one’s career. The proximity of other members in state or regional societies can also make collaborative efforts easier than with members that are located in institutions on the other side of the country. The selection of which meetings to attend and which ­organizations to commit to is obviously a highly individualized decision and one that will depend on one’s surgical subspecialty and career goals. Some of the opportunities at a few select organizations will be described later in this chapter.

Conduct at regional and national meetings can play a large influence on a junior faculty’s trajectory for involvement. As with so many things in life, a happy medium is necessary. It is clearly not productive to be a social wallflower when it comes to these meetings. Getting one’s name out there and on the mind of the leadership of a given organization is critical to opening the doors for involvement in that organization. Quietly attending a meeting and never speaking a word in a public forum would not be conducive to getting involved on a national level. Going up to the microphone after a research presentation to ask an insightful question or give a comment on a regular basis is helpful to increasing one’s profile among an organization, especially if preceded by a concise introduction (name and current institution).

At the same time, a certain degree of restraint is needed. When commenting on another investigator’s research in a public forum, doing so in a polite and complimentary manner is more effective than immediately launching into a scathing critique of the methodological flaws and limitations of the research. While going into “attack mode” may draw attention to oneself, it is not generally of the positive type and is unlikely to lead to opportunities to get involved in the organization, however correct the criticisms may be. This is an example of where emotional quotient (EQ) trumps intelligence quotient (IQ). It is far more productive to question and comment with a healthy dose of civility. Such professionalism does not go unnoticed by other members of a society, who are often in positions to help promote others to greater involvement.

Presenting at research meetings is another method of raising one’s national profile. As more surgical societies recognize the importance of educational research, the opportunities for such presentations are becoming more abundant. Having one’s name appear as an author on a regular basis in these research forums obviously has a significant impact in opening doors to greater involvement, whether as a moderator at future meetings or in terms of committee membership within the organization. These opportunities should be jumped on whenever possible. Performing assigned tasks in an exemplary fashion will lead to further advancement within the organization, as one’s reputation continues to grow.

Finally, sharing credit and acknowledging achievement by others should be done as often as possible. By acknowledging the academic and clinical accomplishments by others in one’s network of colleagues, these colleagues are more likely to reciprocate. Again, this is EQ at work. Sharing credit after a successful collaboration is not only a professional courtesy. This type of investment in human capital can also gain dividends in terms of reciprocation.

Opportunities for Involvement

The following sections are intended to highlight some of the opportunities for involvement in national organizations that are important to surgical education. These sections are not intended to provide a comprehensive list of every such ­opportunity. Clearly, such a list would be beyond the scope of this book. Instead, these selected examples from a handful of organizations are provided to serve as templates for opportunities that exist as other associations and societies.

Association for Academic Surgery

Founded in 1967, the Association for Academic Surgery (AAS) is focused primarily on research-based academic surgery and is geared towards junior faculty in the first 10 years of their academic career.

The Education Committee of the AAS has the mission of furthering the education of medical students, residents, and faculty in the field of surgery. Committee members are self-nominated and elected by a vote of the active membership to 2-year terms. One of the key tasks of the Education Committee is the planning of the annual Fundamentals of Surgical Research Course.

The AAS also has leadership positions for representatives to other societies dedicated to education – a representative to the ASE and a representative to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).

Jointly with the Society of University Surgeons (SUS), the AAS hosts the annual Academic Surgical Congress (ASC), the largest annual meeting of academic surgeons in the world. The profile of surgical education research at the ASC has steadily risen over the past decade, and the meeting now includes a dedicated Education Plenary Session to highlight the most compelling surgical education research reports. The official journal of the AAS is the Journal of Surgical Research, which publishes selected papers from the proceedings of the ASC, including manuscripts from education-based projects.

Society of University Surgeons

The Society of University Surgeons (SUS) was founded in 1938 and is one of the premier professional societies for academic surgery. One of the founding objectives of the SUS is the development of surgical resident training methods; thus, the SUS has surgical education as one of its core missions. Membership in the SUS is very selective and is based on four criteria: publications, grant funding, education/administrative activity, and participation in the ASC.

Among the standing committees of the SUS is the Committee on Surgical Education. Committee membership is by appointment by the president of the SUS and represents one of the prime opportunities for surgical educators to be involved on a national level.

As mentioned before, the SUS co-hosts the annual ASC with the AAS. The SUS is affiliated with the journal Surgery, which publishes many of the manuscripts that originate from presentations at the ASC, including many in educational research.

American College of Surgeons

The American College of Surgeons (ACS) is the largest organization of surgeons in the world. The ACS Division of Education spearheads the organization’s efforts in regard to education of practicing surgeons, residents, and medical students.

The ACS Division of Education conducts the annual Surgeons as Educators (SAE) course, which is a 6-day course offered each fall and is designed to enhance the abilities of surgeons as teachers and administrators of surgical education programs. Topics covered by the SAE course include teaching skills, curriculum development, educational administration and leadership, and performance/program evaluation. The SAE course is an excellent opportunity, not only for improving one’s educational skill set, but also as a forum for networking with like-minded faculty from other institutions. The SAE course is discussed in greater detail in a later chapter of this book.

The ACS Division of Education has multiple committees available for involvement. Membership of all standing committees in the ACS is by election by the Board of Regents. The standing committees of the Division of Education are listed in Table 5.2.
Table 5.2

Committees of the American College of Surgeons Division of Education

Advisory Committee on SESAP

Committee on Education

Committee on Continuous Professional Development

Committee on Resident Education

Committee on Medical Student Education

Committee on Allied Health Professionals

Committee on Emerging Surgical Technology and Education

Committee on Ethics

Committee for the Forum on Fundamental Surgical Problems

Committee on Video-Based Education

Program Committee

Patient Education Committee

Association for Surgical Education

The Association for Surgical Education (ASE) was founded in 1980 and represents institutions throughout the United States and Canada. The mission of the ASE is to promote, recognize, and reward excellence, innovation, and scholarship in surgical education. Membership in the ASE is open, and membership categories exist for residents and students. The ASE, in conjunction with the Association of Program Directors in Surgery (APDS) and the Association of Residency Coordinators in Surgery (ARCS), hosts the Surgical Education Week, an annual meeting held each spring, that is specifically geared towards providing a forum for individuals involved in surgical education.

The ASE is particularly well suited for junior faculty starting a career in surgical education due to its committee structure. Unlike other professional societies, the standing committees of the ASE are open to any member interested in getting involved. Committee meetings are generally held during the Surgical Education Week and during the American College of Surgeons Clinical Congress in the fall. The committees of the ASE are listed in Table 5.3.
Table 5.3

Standing committees of the Association for Surgical Education

Committee on Curriculum

Committee on Assessment and Evaluation

Committee on Faculty Development

Committee on Educational Research

Committee on Information Technology

Committee on Nurses in Surgical Education

Committee on Coordinators of Surgical Education

Committee on Clerkship Directors

Committee on Simulation

Committee on Graduate Surgical Education

The ASE also sponsors, through its foundation, the Surgical Education Research Fellowship (SERF). The SERF program is a 1-year, home-site fellowship designed to equip investigators to plan, implement, and report research studies in the field of surgical education. Accepted fellows are matched with a SERF advisor, who will serve as a mentor and consultant on the research project. Each SERF advisor is a respected and experienced researcher in surgical education. The SERF program has been highly successful and has jump-started the academic careers of many of the current leaders in surgical education research. More details on the SERF program are discussed in another chapter.

The official journal of the ASE is The American Journal of Surgery, which publishes selected papers from the Surgical Education Week.

Association of Program Directors in Surgery

The membership of the Association of Program Directors in Surgery (APDS) is comprised of the program directors and associate program directors of general ­surgical residency programs accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education in the United States or by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. Program directors and associate program directors automatically become members of the APDS upon their official designation as such. Other persons interested in graduate education in surgery are eligible for associate membership (non-voting). A resident membership category is also available.

As stated earlier, the APDS co-hosts the Surgical Education Week with the ASE and the ARCS. The official publication of the APDS is the Journal of Surgical Education (formerly titled Current Surgery), which dedicates one issue to the ­proceedings from the annual meeting.

As with the other organizations mentioned, the APDS has several committees that provide opportunity for involvement. A current listing of these committees is provided in Table 5.4.
Table 5.4

Committees of the Association of Program Directors in Surgery

Education/Mentorship Committee

Issues Committee

Ethics Committee

By-Laws Committee

Financial Committee

Curriculum Committee

Simulation Committee

Industry Committee

Association of American Medical Colleges

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) represents the 138 accredited US and 17 accredited Canadian medical schools, as well as almost 400 not-for-profit teaching hospitals and close to 100 academic societies. The AAMC supports professional development groups for leaders at its member institutions; membership in these groups requires appointment by the medical school dean in most cases. However, the Group on Educational Affairs (GEA) is open to any individual at a member medical school with a professional responsibility in education. The GEA hosts an annual Research in Medical Education Conference in conjunction with the annual meeting of the AAMC. The GEA also has annual meetings for each of its four designated AAMC regions: Southern, Central, Northeast, and Western. The national and regional meetings offer sessions and exhibits for research as well as teaching and learning opportunities. The AAMC and the GEA are not specifically intended for surgical educators exclusively; because of this, they offer opportunities for surgical educators to network with colleagues in other medical disciplines.

Academic Medicine is the official publication of the AAMC and is focused on issues involving undergraduate, graduate, and continuing medical education. Academic Medicine is currently ranked as the highest impact journal in the field of education in the scientific disciplines.


Multiple opportunities exist for getting involved at a national level in surgical ­education. There are a larger number of organizations that offer opportunities to network and collaborate with other like-minded faculty. A thoughtful and intentional strategy can aid in utilizing these opportunities to their maximal potential to increase one’s national profile.

Further Reading

  1. Capella J, Kasten SJ, Steinemann S, Torbeck L, editors. Guide for researchers in surgical education. Woodbury: Cine-Med Publishing; 2010.Google Scholar
  2. Carnegie D. How to win friends and influence people. New York: Simon and Schuster; 1981.Google Scholar
  3. Goleman D. Emotional intelligence: 10th anniversary edition: why it can matter more than IQ. New York: Bantam; 2006.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SurgeryLouisiana State University Health Sciences Center in ShreveportShreveportUSA

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