International Guest Scholar reflects on experience at Clinical Congress

by Marcelo A. F. Ribeiro Jr., MD, MSc, PhD, FACS

Chairman, department of surgery, and dean, Santo Amaro University School of Medicine, São Paulo, Brazil

Left to right: Savino Gasparini, MD, FACS, President, Brazilian Chapter of the ACS, and ACS Governor; Fernanda Lage Lima Dantas, MD, Baxiram S. and Kankuben B. Gelot Community Surgeons Travel Awardee from Rio Branco, Brazil; and Dr. Ribeiro at the Opening Ceremony.
Left to right: Savino Gasparini, MD, FACS, President, Brazilian Chapter of the ACS, and ACS Governor; Fernanda Lage Lima Dantas, MD, Baxiram S. and Kankuben B. Gelot Community Surgeons Travel Awardee from Rio Branco, Brazil; and Dr. Ribeiro at the Opening Ceremony.


I have been a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) since 2003, and this year I once again attended the Convocation at Clinical Congress on Sunday. Recognizing the importance of the College to surgeons, like last year when one of my assistant surgeons became a Fellow, this year I had the privilege of seeing one more become a Fellow.

The ceremony was beautiful. We had 1,970 Initiates from the U.S., Canada, and 73 other countries. From Brazil, with great pride, we had 30 colleagues become Fellows, reflecting the growing importance of the ACS globally as a representative entity, not only from the technical point of view, but also as a place for congregation and exchange.

Early Monday morning, I arrived at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center and went to the Opening Ceremony. I was able, after 20 years of attending the event, to see the attendees from another side. It was a dream come true. I always looked at people on stage at the Opening Ceremony with admiration, wondering if I would ever be there representing my country, my university, and the surgical associations that I belong to in Brazil. Finally, this day had come.

Along with the other colleagues, I had the opportunity to be an International Guest Scholar standing with the big names of the surgical world. We were able to attend the Martin Memorial Lecture given by Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, Director, National Institutes of Health (NIH). In addition to highlighting cancer research, I was impressed with the information he provided on the research investment each institute makes annually, making the NIH undoubtedly the largest clinical research center in the world. I am thankful for the opportunity to have participated in such an inspiring session.

The rest of the day was filled with attending many scientific activities, meeting with colleagues from around the world, and visiting the Exhibit Hall. I watched a session on diverticulitis with great interest, followed by another session on the difficult airway—both highly relevant topics for the general surgeon.

In the afternoon, I participated in the session on controversies about repairing the inguinal hernia and on acute appendicitis, where I observed with interest how such a common disease can still cause so much controversy today.

We closed the day with the reception for the international guests, where I was able to meet friends from Brazil, Latin America, and other countries, allowing me to develop some plans on medical education with colleagues from La Federación Latinoamericana de Cirugía.

I met my mentor, Haytham M. A. Kaafarani, MD, FACS, director, patient safety and quality, trauma and emergency surgery, and director, clinical research, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH); and associate professor of surgery, Harvard Medical School, Boston. Dr. Kaafarani is organizing and supporting me during this visit and took me with him to a reception of Harvard surgeons, where I was introduced to many of his colleagues in the department of surgery. Everyone was very receptive, and some of them will meet with me next week and allow me to watch their surgical cases. I am excited about the prospect of being at MGH next week.

Tuesday I attended the International Relations Committee meeting, which included discussion of an interesting idea to stimulate the young residents in Colombia to become interested in the Colombian Society of Surgery. I will discuss the concept with the President of the Brazilian Chapter of the ACS to initiate a plan to present an award to the best surgical residents in Brazil.

Next, I attended a session where, together with colleagues and Immediate Past-President of the ACS Barbara Lee Bass, MD, FACS, FRCS(Hon), we discussed the challenges and solutions for surgery in resource-limited settings. I offered the perspectives of Brazil and Latin America, and we had a very productive meeting that allowed me to expand my network of friends and colleagues.

The day was intense. After attending the conference on management of complex abdominal hernias, I went to the Scholars and Travelers Luncheon where we received our certificates and we were able to meet other surgeons who have already received this award.

That night I attended the Board of Governors Reception and Dinner, where I was in the presence of some of the great names in surgery from the ACS and all over the world. This event offered an opportunity to expand my friendships and my perception of the Clinical Congress experience.

On Wednesday, I spoke on trauma surgery in Brazil at the International Scholars and Travelers meeting. The session was an enriching experience, with speakers providing high-level presentations.

I am looking forward to the next four weeks of visiting the trauma teams at MGH; R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center, University of Maryland, Baltimore; Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond; and Jackson Health System’s Ryder Trauma Center, Miami, FL. I am sure this will be the experience of a lifetime.

I am grateful to the ACS and the International Relations Committee for this unique and memorable experience, which has consecrated an important part of my career as a surgeon. I certainly will never forget this opportunity. Thank you.