The new ACS president's vision of multidisciplinary surgery teams

Henri Ford, MD, dean and chief academic officer of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and an internationally recognized pediatric surgeon, was recently named the 104th president of the American College of Surgeons.

Dr. Ford joined Becker's to share his plans for the ACS, his vision for the field of medicine and how to address health equity. 

Editor's note: Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Question: In your presidential address, you mentioned your motto for your leadership is to be achieving the best together. Could you tell me a little more about that?

Dr. Henri Ford: The motto of the American College of Surgeons is to heal all with skill and trust. That very notion of healing all presupposes that we're going to address the needs of all people regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status or geography. So, in essence, when you start thinking about what our motto is, it's about achieving health equity for all surgical patients. 

Our job is to prepare surgeons with the necessary tools to deliver the best possible quality healthcare to surgical patients in order to heal all with skill. This can only be done by bringing the entire house of surgery together. We have examples of how a multidisciplinary approach to patient care has been tremendous in improving not only the quality of surgical training programs — because we brought together various surgical disciplines; oral oncology, neurosurgery, orthopedic surgery, ophthalmology and OB-GYN, we brought all of these disciplines together in order to create a new model for training programs. We've ended up with superior training programs. Likewise, the multidisciplinary approach is really the fundamental underpinning of our approach to trauma care and cancer care. By bringing various disciplines together, we can deliver the best superior outcomes to our patients. 

That's why it's important for us in the house of surgery to understand that we need to continue to work collaboratively together to improve outcomes — in the clinical arena, the advocacy arena and also the clinical education arena. Whichever way you look at it, it's absolutely important for us to engage all surgical disciplines together under the umbrella of the American College of Surgeons so we can be far more impactful for the sake of our patients.

The other component that's extremely important: When I talk about achieving our best together, we need to make sure that we embrace inclusive excellence because we need a fundamental nexus of understanding in implementing the social determinants that may impact the patient's health. This is what we need to achieve in order to achieve our best together. It has to be rooted in embracing inclusive excellence. My overall theme is achieving our best together, hashtag inclusive excellence. Inclusive excellence from the perspective of the surgical disciplines and bringing them all together, but also embracing people from all walks of life.

Q: Do you think the idea of coming together and working as a team can be effective treatment or counter the rising levels of burnout that so many healthcare providers are facing?

HF: The first ACS meeting I held after I took over was a surgical coalition meeting; we talked about how we are going to be far more impactful for all surgeons on the issue of burnout. Let's be real, the threat of reimbursement is a real problem that contributes to the burnout. But there are several other elements that we can address effectively as a united body. 

For instance, we talked about the fact that working with a bunch of different groups has registries, or electronic medical records, that are going to be incomplete because what you're putting the data that you put in, say as an ENT or orthopedic surgeon, may be inadequate and disconnected. So one of the things we want to look at is, how do we combine registries under the umbrella of surgeons to be able to longitudinally look at outcomes for our patients? This way you have better capacity to ensure legislators invest properly in the right care delivery models. That's just one dimension. We need to amplify the voice of all the surgical disciplines at the state and federal levels. We need to set standards by coming together. We can set the standards for outpatient surgery and what should be included because typically quality accreditation programs have focused on inpatient care. So it's a bunch of things. Then we can focus on residents and how do we figure out a way to reduce work hours which is also part of the issue of burnout, but at the same time, make sure that the training programs are preparing a competent, well-trained workforce that is culturally diverse and is ultimately better positioned to heal, always with skill and trust. And to do that, we have to make sure surgeons' wellness is being addressed. We have to restore optimism. 

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