Jonasson Lecturer’s advice: Don’t let the frustrations outweigh the joys of surgical practice

Carol Scott-Conner, MD, PhD, FACS
Carol Scott-Conner, MD, PhD, FACS

As a result of increasing fiscal and administrative constraints, many surgeons have become distanced from the satisfaction and joy that drew them to surgery in the first place, according to Carol Scott-Conner, MD, PhD, FACS, emeritus professor of surgery and emeritus chair, department of surgery, Carver College of Medicine, University of Iowa, Iowa City.

“I am an avid follower of, and sometime participant in the ACS Communities, including serving as editor of the Surgeon Writers Community,” Dr. Scott-Conner said. “Reading those daily digests, it’s impossible not to be struck by the sense of unhappiness and frustration engulfing many of my surgical colleagues. This is in such stark contrast to the sense of joy and vocation that called many of us to the practice of surgery. I think it’s important to for us to acknowledge the issues of concern, but it’s equally important that we find ways to rekindle the spark of joy that drew many of us to this strange and wondrous discipline.”

Dr. Scott-Conner will discuss the importance of maintaining a sense of joy in the practice of surgery and offer some strategies to cope with the stressors that can diminish that joy during this year’s Olga M. Jonasson Lecture, Recapturing the Joy of Surgery, Tuesday afternoon.

“The stressors affecting us today are many—declining reimbursement, the rapid pace of technological innovation, increasing specialization within general surgery, consolidation of hospital systems, conversion to employed status for many in private practice, and the ugly side of the electronic medical record, just to name a few,” Dr. Scott-Conner said.

In her address, Dr. Scott-Conner will share examples, anecdotes, and the philosophies she’s developed during her own career, as well as illustrative examples from other women in surgery, including the lecture’s namesake. Dr. Jonasson was the first woman surgeon to chair a U.S. department of surgery; Dr. Scott-Conner was the second.

“We need to combat these issues and feelings that frustrate us and recapture the sense of wonder that originally drew us into the field because what we do is wonderful, and it should give us joy,” Dr. Scott-Conner said. “We stand at the intersection between life and death. Our interventions forever change lives—not just our patients, but also their families and sometimes the entire community. We need to fight back vigorously, both individually and collectively, against the forces that would stifle that sense of the miraculous and reduce us to mere technicians.”

The Olga M. Jonasson Lecture was established by the Women in Surgery Committee to honor the memory of Olga M. Jonasson, MD, FACS, who died in August 2006. The lectureship is a testimony to leadership and education in surgery, and a reflection of the capacity of women to reach academic pinnacles.

Olga M. Jonasson Lecture

Recapturing the Joy of Surgery
Carol Scott-Conner, MD, PhD, FACS
2:30–3:30 pm, Tuesday
Moscone Center South, Room 205–208