It was truly wonderful to see many of you in Denver, and for those who couldn’t attend in person, you were missed! SAGES enters the year ahead coming off an outstanding meeting not only because for many it was their first chance to see colleagues long missed, but also because of the outstanding program put together by Dr. Archana Ramaswamy and Dr. Jake Greenberg. Dr. Feldman’s presidential address was an incredible summation of what SAGES is about, and what your organization is accomplishing on so many fronts. As I sat and reflected on the brief summaries of projects and work product being generated from our over 40 committees and task forces, carried out by over 800 committee members, I was again simply…blown away. Whether refining pacesetting Fundamentals educational products, launching a Masters Program and Organization-Wide Learning System, facilitating cutting edge research, producing industry leading educational manuals, redefining the profession and exploring an offensive posture toward surgeon joy and wellness, providing an expanding array of career-development awards for emerging leaders in our field, or leaning into the promise and limitations of artificial intelligence and surgical data science as the foundation for professional refinements yet unseen (to name but a few), SAGES continues to deliver outstanding product, and to provide exceptional career development opportunities for those who represent the future of our profession. Through your collective efforts, SAGES continues to be one of the most dynamic and impactful drivers of education, quality, and innovative thinking in our profession.
To that point, if you are a member who is interested in serving on a committee and has not volunteered to do so, please use this link to let us know of your interest by April 30: https://www.sages.org/leadership/committees/volunteer/. The same link can be used by existing committee members to request a change. Our committees and their work, alongside the outstanding support of our BSC colleagues, continues to be the lifeblood of our Society. They also create opportunities to grow, network, and experience the welcoming community and vibrant work ethic that have characterized SAGES since its inception. If committee service is not something you can lean into at the present time, consider joining one of our ADOPT courses to add new skills with longitudinal expert support in your practice, or attend the upcoming Innovation Summit under Dr. Schlachta’s outstanding oversight to explore the cutting edge of surgery with a group of surgeons committed to helping shape it. If you are a trainee, take advantage of the outstanding webinars and courses offered through our RAFT committee. In short, I hope that however you choose to engage in SAGES, you know how much your presence and care mean to our Society, our profession, and our patients, and that we want you to find SAGES a home and a place where your professional needs are met in a community of learning that is working to hold itself accountable for inclusivity, equity, and diversity to the betterment of us all.
I personally am greatly humbled by the privilege of serving as your president for the coming year, and know that many of you deserve this opportunity more than I. I accordingly want to pledge to our membership, to you, my personal commitment to view the year ahead as a stewardship on all of your behalves, for the growth of each of you in any way we as a Society can contribute to, and ultimately for the well-being of the patients we are privileged to serve. You individually and collectively represent something truly amazing and special, from our resident and fellow members to our George Berci, who at 101 still is teaching us all how to teach and to innovate for the good of those whom we are called to care for.
I look forward to partnering with you in this year of service!
What a difference a year makes.
Though I was unable to attend the Las Vegas meeting in person, the energy of more than 1,400 attendees being together was virtually contagious. There were so many highlights, including Dr. Horacio Asbun’s moving address, the Presidential Plenary reimagining ways we can all live and thrive as surgeons post COVID, Shark Tank winner Endolumik’s $30,000 prize for its innovative fluorescence-guided calibration system and, of course, the much-missed Sing-Off! I know we’re all grateful the meeting was both successful and healthy.
As we now look towards the holidays and SAGES 2022 in Denver, we can also be proud of the many committee accomplishments this year. Since my last update, the Technology Council’s second annual Innovation Weekend was held in Houston in June, one of the first in-person meetings of 2021. The third annual Innovation Summit is planned for February 4-5, 2022 in Houston.
Over the summer, I invited Drs. Amin Madani and Aurora Pryor to Chair and Co-Chair, respectively, a new Surgical Data Science (SDS) task force. Access to rich and diverse data remains extremely challenging for our society to pursue a wide breadth of applications, such as video-sharing for coaching, AI research and innovation, and perioperative risk prediction. SDS will explore potential methods and investments SAGES can make to establish large surgical data sets for its membership to pursue research, educational and quality improvement initiatives. We look forward to hearing the group’s recommendations after their zoom retreat this month.
In other committee news, SAGES Video Based Assessment (VBA) task force is creating a task inventory survey for the development of a lap chole VBA as well as beta testing for the lap nissen rubric. The Diversity, Leadership & Professional Development task force has been working on a number of projects, including updated Climate and Demographic surveys, a Cultural Complications curriculum and a Leadership & Professional Development pathway for the larger SAGES Master Program. Finally, FLS testing centers are back running at full capacity, along with remote testing options. The committee is also actively evaluating fresh exam questions against the newly created EPS to ensure we are truly testing what’s in the scope of our mission statement.
It’s hard to believe that it’s just five months until SAGES 2022! Watch upcoming communications for schedule and registration details, along with various submission deadlines at https://www.sages2022.org.
We’re in a good place in 2021, and I’m excited and honored to serve as SAGES president. Despite the pandemic, we can be proud of our many accomplishments over the last year. As members, the year brought many challenges but it was also an opportunity to reassess our professional and personal priorities.
Last month’s Board meeting showed that renewed excitement and engagement, with a multitude of ideas put forth by each of SAGES incredible 42 committees. SAGES has always been focused on surgical techniques that improve outcomes for patients – whether endoscopic, laparoscopic, robotic or the Next Big Thing. We’ll continue to build on these accomplishments by focusing on innovative educational programs for surgeons at every stage of their professional lives that enhance performance and improve quality and outcomes for patients.
There’s so much to look forward to over the next several months with the release of OWLS, our Organizational Wide Learning System that will enhance access to our multitude of educational resources including our ever expanding Masters program; the Technology Council’s 2nd annual Innovation Summit in Houston in June, which this year features the Surgical Disruptive Technology Summit, NOSCAR Summit, Advocacy summit, and the Surgical Video Data Conference ; the Critical View of Safety Computer Vision challenge to evaluate new and exisiting algorithms for automated detection; the GERD consensus conference; and the all-new Shark Tank competition at the annual meeting in Las Vegas.
The intersection of technology, education and community is what we love about SAGES, and we are all looking forward to an in-person meeting August 31-September 3. Friendship is one of the hallmarks of SAGES and we look forward to seeing as many of you as possible! Register & book housing now at https://www.sages2021.surgery/
It is amazing that a whole year has passed so quickly!
As I conclude my SAGES presidency, I reflect on all SAGES managed to accomplish, even during a fully virtual pandemic year.
We were PROACTIVE responding to the challenges we had to face
We continued to INNOVATE
We maintained our track record to EDUCATE during a year where in-person education was not feasible
We persisted in our ability to COLLABORATE
We were LEADERS
Looking forward, I expect we will be able to reunite in person in Las Vegas for our SAGES 2021 Annual Meeting with an exceptional program that includes very unique subjects for the Storz & Marks keynote lectures. Register & book housing now! https://www.sages2021.surgery/
I end my Presidential year feeling grateful, humbled and with a strong sense of optimism:
Grateful to all the Executive Committee, the SAGES Board, the committee chairs/co-chairs, program chairs, SAGES Foundation, Dr. Pon and to Sallie Matthews and her excellent staff for making this unprecedented year a successful one for SAGES.
Humbled by the tremendous work of “the people of SAGES” including the work done by prior leaders. As a President, I was able to see it all and understand how SAGES has become the organization is today.
Optimistic for what is coming. The development and implementation of our 2019 strategic plan along with this year’s projects in innovation, the practice of surgery and how we relate to industry places SAGES in a strong position for the future. This is coupled with the superb leaders that are taking over the privileged position of President of SAGES: Liane Feldman for 2021 and John Mellinger for 2022. They will undoubtedly lead our society to a bright future.
Horacio J. Asbun, MD