Dr. J. Wayne Meredith’s Presidential Address urges Initiates to strive for excellence by fostering a diverse, collaborative approach to patient care

J. Wayne Meredith, MD, FACS, MCCM
J. Wayne Meredith, MD, FACS, MCCM

J. Wayne Meredith, MD, FACS, MCCM, the 2020-2021 President of the American College of Surgeons (ACS), compelled the more than 2,200 Initiates and other participants at Sunday night’s Convocation to embrace diversity as a sustainable approach to moving the surgical profession forward.

“These are unprecedented times in which we are living right now, but they are not insurmountable times. We are all going to get through this,” Dr. Meredith said, acknowledging the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic before turning his attention to the death of George Floyd and the necessary attention it brought to racial inequity in the U.S.

Dr. Meredith, the Richard T. Myers Professor and Chairman, department of surgery, Wake Forest School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC, outlined the goals of the ACS Board of Regents (B/R) Task Force on Racial Issues: Identify the structural, procedural, and cultural areas within the ACS that need improvement; identify actionable, substantive changes that need to be made; and recommend changes to the B/R to implement sustained progress.

“The take-away message is this: to be truly excellent, we need to be excellent at issues of race. Race is an issue everywhere in American life…it is not enough to be color-blind; we must be color bold,” Dr. Meredith said.

“I want to impart some [other] messages to you about being a better surgeon, and it’s not about cutting and sewing and dissecting and tying—it’s about enjoying your career as you progress,” he said. “The difference that really great surgeons have is the ability to build teams…it’s the ability to make the people around you better than they would be if you were not there.”

In the closing remarks of his Presidential Address, Dr. Meredith outlined three suggestions for ensuring surgeon satisfaction.

“Live your life with the presumption of virtuous intent—it will relieve you of that burden of feeling like everyone is there to obstruct you—they’re not. Catch people doing something right six times as often as [you] catch them doing something wrong. People will move mountains if you catch them doing something right. And lastly, don’t forget why you went into this field in the first place. This is the greatest profession in the world. You’re at a young stage with altruism and you’ve gone into this to help people or to be part of something greater than yourself—never lose sight of that. It is a high honor to be inducted into the College, and I want to congratulate you on that; you’re going to have the greatest job on earth.”