Editor’s note: The following is an edited version of the
Presidential Address that Dr. Richardson wrote for presentation at the Convocation on October 4 at the American
College of Surgeons (ACS) Clinical Congress 2015 in Chicago, IL. Dr. Richardson was unable to attend the event.
In his absence, ACS Executive Director David B. Hoyt, MD,
FACS, read the speech. The presentation has been modified
slightly to conform with Bulletin style.
In 2013, the ACS celebrated its 100th anniversary, and we have devoted considerable time to reflecting on the organization’s glorious past. The challenge
as we move into the second century is to cherish the
traditions and values of the past while embracing our
future with enthusiasm.
The etymologic derivation of the word “challenge” is
13th-century French, at which time it suggested “an
accusation of wrongdoing.” That is certainly not the
current intent. By the late 14th century, the word came
to mean “a call to fight,” and, in a figurative sense, that
is part of my meaning. We often use the word “
challenge” to mean “arouse or stimulate,” and hopefully,
the younger Fellows will embrace that definition.
This class of ACS Initiates is reportedly the largest
in the College’s history, with 1,679 new Fellows. It is
much more diverse than in our remote past, with 354
women and 451 from outside the U.S. A total of 981
Initiates are in general surgery-related specialties [such
as breast, endocrine, vascular, and trauma surgery],
whereas 698 are in defined specialties outside of general surgery [such as neurological, cardiothoracic, and
Pillars of the College
The Board of Governors, which represents the many
broad constituencies of the College, uses the term
“pillars” to define certain core activities of the ACS.
Although these areas of focus will likely change going
forward, I would like to offer some brief thoughts
regarding the current pillars and possible future chal-
lenges in each area.
“Communications” might seem like the most straightforward area of College activities, but in my tenure
of leadership, it may have been the most difficult to
accomplish. The College leadership is very sensitive
to the concerns and desires of Fellows, and while
responsive to those issues, it often has been difficult
to communicate the activities of College Officers and
staff to rank-and-file members. As a consequence,
there often is a disconnect between our busy Fellows
and equally hardworking leadership because of poor
The future of communications is rapidly changing
and younger generations of Fellows should be able to
communicate better than mine. Young Fellows of the
ACS should begin to communicate with the organization’s leaders now. We have a large number of online
“Communities” for myriad surgical interests at present. Embrace the Young Fellows Community; become
enmeshed in conversations about advocacy, rural surgery, international surgery, or wherever your interests
and passions may lie.
The mission of the Division of Member Services is to
serve the many diverse interests of ACS members. As
with Communications, the great challenge is, how do
our Fellows engage with the ACS as an organization
and vice versa?
At the April 2015 ACS Leadership & Advocacy
Summit, retired U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal
offered his perspective on leadership, conveying what
he learned from his command experience in the Middle
Eastern theater. These lessons have been collected in
his widely acclaimed book, Team of Teams: New Rules
of Engagement for a Complex World. Stated simplistically,
one theme he articulated is the need to have leadership that is not top-down but that is actively engaged