Celebrating 100 years of surgery


When the American College of Surgeons was formed in 1913, "infection rates were high, blood supplies were almost non-existent, tools were fairly crude, standards were lax, and patients were rightfully scared," according to an announcement of the organization's 100th anniversary.

Since then, surgery has made significant strides - many of which are shown in the interactive timeline launched by ACS this week on its website in celebration of the centennial milestone.

The ACS was founded to improve the quality of care for surgical patients by setting better standards for education and practices, says president-elect Dr. Brent Eastman. More than 78,000 surgeons worldwide are members of the professional group.

From the first blood bank opening in Chicago in 1937 to the first complete face transplant surgery in Boston in 2011, the ACS has been at the forefront of many medical breakthroughs. But Eastman and the ACS fellows aren't dwelling on the past; even as they celebrate their history, they're looking to the future.

Eastman has four major areas he'd like the ACS to focus on in the upcoming year:

1) Access to healthcare - One of the biggest challenges facing the ACS is the surgeon shortage, Eastman says. The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates that there will be a shortage of 63,000 doctors by 2015 and 130,600 by 2025. As Eastman says, "without access, there is no quality."

2) Rural surgery -- Eastman grew up in a small town in Wyoming, so he understands better than most the problems rural communities face in getting quality healthcare. He plans to encourage the incoming class of ACS fellows to pursue practices in areas that need surgeons the most.

3) Surgical education - "Young surgeons coming in have an increased interest in a balanced lifestyle," Eastman says. Combine fewer hours in the operating room with increasingly complicated technology, and "we really need to look at how we're training our new surgeons."

4) A global approach -- "I think the issues we are facing, like access or rural surgery or surgical training and education, are really international problems," Eastman says. "I think we all have something to learn from one another."

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