I touched down at the San Diego International Airport at approximately 10:00 pm Friday, October 20, to attend the American College of Surgeons (ACS) Clinical Congress 2017. It was a long journey that had brought me from Accra, Ghana, in the West African sub-region.
After arriving to a warm welcome at my hotel, I slept as best as I could, considering that I was jet lagged, and still managed to wake up to register and get to the convention center in time to attend a Postgraduate Course, Management of the Complex Older Surgical Patient: Geriatric and Palliative Care. It was an interesting and practical session with some drills in communication during the palliative care discussions.
The Convocation on Sunday evening was a beautiful ceremony. Being a woman surgeon myself, it was gratifying to hear ACS President Barbara Lee Bass, MD, FACS, FRCS(Hon), talk about the joy and privilege of being a surgeon as she encouraged more women to pursue surgery despite the challenges. The ceremony was followed by a lovely reception, after which the shuttle bus took us on a quiet ride through town back to my hotel.
Monday got off to an early start with the Opening Ceremony. As International Guest Scholars, we got to sit on the stage and be individually introduced during the ceremony. That was a great honor. We also listened to the stimulating 2017 Martin Memorial Lecture on teamwork by a surgeon astronaut, David R. Williams, OC, OOnt, MSc, MD, CM, FRCS. We were advised to aim to do zero harm to our patients, despite mistakes that will inevitably occur.
For the rest of the day, I attended the Postgraduate Course, Breast Cancer: National and International Disparities. It was particularly interesting to hear the perspectives of health care professionals from Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, and to learn about resource stratification in managing breast cancer. The day ended with an International Reception, which was well attended, and I had the opportunity to interact with several colleagues from Ghana and Nigeria.
On Tuesday, the International Guest Scholars took a morning walk to attend the International Relations Committee meeting, which was our first assignment of the day. The women were privileged to meet ACS Past-President Patricia J. Numann, MD, FACS, who took us from this meeting to a breakfast meeting of the Association of Women Surgeons. We were introduced and warmly received, and got to interact with other women surgeons in our fields. I met two lovely breast surgeons from Texas. Attending this session was definitely a fruitful addition to our schedule.
In between attending scientific meetings, the International Guest Scholars also attended the Scholars and Travelers Luncheon at the Manchester Grand Hyatt, during which we were presented with our certificates.
The Governors’ Reception and Dinner took place in the evening, where the ACS Surgical Humanitarian and Volunteerism Awards were given and the Governors were honored. I again got to meet two very affable women surgeons from Michigan and Chicago, IL, who made me feel so welcome and were such good company for the dinner.
The Congress is not yet over, but I can say confidently that it has been a good experience. I have learned about leading-edge practices in surgery while networking with colleagues from all over the world. It has been an awesome experience, and I will go back home with fond memories of all the friendly surgeons I interacted with in the beautiful city of San Diego. More importantly, I am better equipped to go and “do what’s right for the patient.”
Florence Dedey, BSc, MB, ChB, FWACS, is a general surgeon, department of surgery, School of Medicine & Dentistry, Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, Accra