Message from the 2021 President - Meeting Update

Dear Colleagues,

I am pleased to report that we had an extremely successful annual meeting in Minneapolis at the end of June. In addition to the routine business meetings held during this annual gathering, there were more than 2 days of CME programming. While both aspects of the meeting included a virtual component, it was absolutely wonderful to see all those who were able to be there in-person.  While I have already extended my appreciation directly to all those who joined us for the meeting, I wish to take this opportunity to do so publicly. The efforts of everyone who participated and helped to plan this event, both in-person and virtual, are truly appreciated.

Registration for the live portion of the scientific meeting included over 50 paid registrants and approximately 25 invited speakers who joined us for our 82nd Annual Surgical Update. Virtual participation included 37 paid registrants and approximately 30 speakers who pre-recorded their presentations in advance of the meeting. Based on recent history this was a truly remarkable accomplishment given that COVID travel restrictions are still in-force in many communities and institutions around the country.

While in-person participation of guests from abroad was not at the usual level, we did have a colleague join us from Jamaica who participated in our Global Surgery session on Thursday. There were also virtual presentations from Greece, Taiwan, India, Nepal, Malaysia and South Africa. While our typical conference would include representation from even more countries of the world, our original plan was to hold the meeting in-person and as such potential speakers were asked to only present if they thought they could join us in Minneapolis. Ultimately, we were extremely pleased that our colleagues from outside the US could participate in whatever format was most appropriate for their situation.

Other highlights of the meeting included an announcement during the annual House of Delegates meeting that a contract was signed for the sale of our old Headquarters building on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. A sales contract was previously executed in June of 2020, but eventually was cancelled due to financing issues surrounding COVID and other factors. The new buyer was extremely motivated and one of four who made offers recently. I am delighted to also note that the sale has closed and we now have a substantial endowment for the US Section moving forward. The goal is to take the net proceeds from the sale, after paying off a little debt and making some investments in the remaining property, and create a long-term investment that will provide additional resources for the Section to increase programming efforts. Having been intimately involved at the Executive Committee level for the past 5 years in the discussions surrounding both the sale and ongoing maintenance of this aging property, I know that finally divesting ourselves of this asset, which has really been a liability these past 5-10 years, is a load off all our minds.

Once the CME sessions began late on Thursday the focus turned to our meeting theme, Global and Rural Surgery: Two Sides of the Same Coin. The Opening Session featured a plethora of presentations covering a variety of topics focused on mission work. Included during the session were presentations that touched on sustainability, capacity building, residency program involvement, challenges and some success stories as well. I invited a number of these speakers and wish to extend my thanks to them for their participation.

Another session specifically focused on an aspect of our meeting theme was held on Saturday and was entitled, Rural Surgery: Training and in Practice.  Several speakers in this session also belonged to the Northern Plains Rural Surgical Society (NPRSS), of which I am also a member. Our goal of collaboration with like-minded groups was fulfilled through the inclusion and support of this relatively new group that shed a unique light on how many areas of our own country are extremely under-served. I wish to acknowledge the NPRSS leaders and members who joined us for our conference. I hope you will come back to our meetings for years to come.

Of course there were several other sessions presented throughout the program, including the 2 half-day sessions presented by our colleagues from the American Academy of Neurological and Orthopaedic Surgeons. Our two groups have now been affiliated for more than 15 years and have certainly helped each other’s success throughout the years. The members of the Academy and their leaders, many of which are also ICS Fellows, are greatly appreciated for their ongoing support and participation in our Annual Surgical Update. I look forward to seeing you all again next year.

I would be remiss if I didn’t also note 2 special lectures that were presented during our gathering. First, on Friday, during the Honors Luncheon, Professor David Farley from the Mayo Clinic presented, “Surgical Education Requires…Assessment.”  Dr. Farley made this presentation as the 2021 recipient of the Dr. Andre Crotti Award for Distinguished Service to the Profession of Surgery as well as an ICS Honorary Fellowship. I have known Dr. Farley for many years and was delighted that he was able to join us. Then on Saturday, during a special luncheon presentation of the Dr. Arno Roscher Endowed Lecture, we were joined by Dr. Tobias Raabe from the University of Pennsylvania who presented: “Stem Cell Therapies: Facts or Fiction?” It was also wonderful to see Dr. Roscher again. He has been a fixture at our US Section meetings for over 50 years and we are extremely thankful for his support of this important lecture series that has been presented 12 times. Dr. Roscher’s endowment will ensure that these lectures will be made for many years to come.

The week came to a close on Saturday night when the Closing Gala was conducted. All who attended enjoyed a wonderful meal, some delightful music and the camaraderie that we have all come to expect at our meetings. We ate, drank and did some fund raising as well as recognized a few people. Dr. Mark Perlmutter and the American Academy of Neurological and Orthopaedic Surgeons welcomed their new Chair of the Board, Dr. Lucia Zamorano who will be the Academy chair for the next 2 years. I had the pleasure of recognizing a staff member of the Section who has been with us for just over 20 years and would have celebrated her 20th Anniversary last year had the pandemic not caused the cancellation of our scheduled meeting. Joining us in June of 2000, Maggie Kearney is the US Section’s Meeting and Publication Manager. She ensures that the details of our Annual Surgical Update come off flawlessly each year and provides tremendous assistance to each and every President who has served during her tenure with the US Section. Thank you Maggie for all you do!

In closing, I wish to thank everyone who made the Annual Surgical Update in Minneapolis a special event. From the members of the Planning Committee and the Speakers to the Officers and the attendees. It was great to see everyone and I look forward to seeing you all again next year in Providence, Rhode Island.

Thav Thambi-Pillai, MD
President, United States Section
International College of Surgeons

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