SSAT President Steven C. Stain, MD, reviewed some of the society’s key initiatives and accomplishments over the past year and shared his thoughts on both the challenges and the opportunities that lie ahead for the society and the specialty during his presidential address “Our Path Forward” on Sunday.
Dr. Stain, the Henry and Sally Schaffer chair and professor of surgery at Albany Medical College, NY, said as part of the strategic planning process, the society convened a leadership summit last year to identify the society’s most significant strengths and weaknesses in order to better define the society’s identity, mission and vision moving forward.
“We agreed that one of our greatest and most enduring strengths is our relationship with the DDW® meeting,” he said. “The multidisciplinary nature of DDW provides a valuable opportunity for us to network and collaborate with our GI colleagues in other specialties, providing great value to our members.”
Beyond the annual meeting, however, Dr. Stain said SSAT needs to look for ways to provide more value to members and more effective ways to engage with them throughout the year. That starts, he said, with enhancing and reinforcing a clear and distinct identity for SSAT.
“Our membership is still quite strong, but it has fallen slightly as GI surgeons remain members of their subspecialty GI societies. It is up to us to convince them that they should also be members of SSAT,” he said. “There are lots of different organizations, lots of different GI surgical societies, but we are the academic GI surgical society. More than 90% of our members come from academic departments. We can do other things, but that has been our heritage, our history, and we need to embrace it. That’s who we are.”
That does not mean that there is no room for SSAT to expand its scope and its membership, Dr. Stain said, noting that the society is working on initiatives to attract more general surgeons and community GI surgeons to the society, as well as developing strategies to expand SSAT’s global reach.
“Currently, our membership includes representation from 65 countries around the world,” Dr. Stain said. “About 9% of our members come from the South and Latin American regions, and that has been growing over the last few years, whereas representation from the Asia-Pacific region has been declining slightly.”
Dr. Stain said the SSAT Board of Trustees has approved the creation of official international SSAT chapters and those efforts are currently underway.
“Our initial focus will be the establishment of chapters in Mexico and Argentina,” he said. “While we are starting with Latin America, we believe we also have opportunities for chapters in Japan and India and, in fact, we have meetings scheduled with representatives from those countries here at DDW this week.”
Among the other key initiatives ongoing over the past year, Dr. Stain said, is the development and accreditation of an advanced GI fellowship program, which would provide broad-based training in complex gastrointestinal and abdominal operations, and a refashioning of the SSAT Board of Trustees that would create new “Trustees at Large” seats on the board that would be filled by colleagues representing the various GI subspecialty societies, including SAGES, ASMBS, AHPBA and ASCRS.
Also during his address, Dr. Stain reflected on some of the mentors and educators who helped influence and guide his career path and emphasized the need for today’s leaders to become mentors for the next generation of surgical leaders. As he concludes his term as SSAT president, Dr. Stain said he is grateful for the many ways the society engaged with him as a young surgeon and is proud to have had the opportunity to give something back to the society and to the specialty that has given so much to him. Mark P. Callery, MD, will take over as president.
“It’s been a great honor to be SSAT president, and I look forward to continued success for the society as we continue on the path forward over the next few years,” Dr. Stain said.
It’s been a great honor to be SSAT president, and I look forward to continued success for the society as we continue on the path forward over the next few years.
Steven C. Stain, MD