PFD Week, the highlight of the AUGS calendar, has now wrapped up, and Providence seems a little smaller without you all here! It was an amazingly rich program, with record participation in workshops and courses; as always, the level of the science presented here establishes the standard in FPMRS. We hosted leadership from IUGA and SUFU, as well as leaders from South American societies and an Ethiopian surgical network; our program - and our meeting - were the richer for their presence. Dr. Halina Zyczynski’s State of the Society presidential address gave the membership a comprehensive look at the wide array of activities AUGS has underway to promote and enhance scientific progress, clinical care, advocacy, public awareness, practice and payment reform, to name just a few. Fellows’ activities are flourishing, and fellowship reunions are becoming truly remarkable events. Relationships were deepened, and the AUGSome event – well, let’s just say that there is nothing like it.
We also started some really hard work.
Dr Lewis Wall delivered a talk on the background of J. Marion Sims, after whom our keynote lecture has been named since AUGS’ inception in 1980. The talk was scholarly and passionate, and I think we all learned a great deal. But some were left feeling that other sides of the story needed to be explored. The Board of Directors held an open forum, in which members were invited to share thoughts, statements, and opinions directly with the entire Board. We have been receiving messages from members through the Board@AUGS.org email, which is helping us to understand the wide spectrum of ideas and passions that our membership represents. This is painful stuff, make no mistake; but I remain firmly convinced that it needs to be painful, that we cannot take either “easy way out” – simply leaving everything the same, or simply removing it entirely. Neither of those choices allows us the opportunity to deal with the painful truths which lie within the foundations of our society. And I think we are all aware of the uneasy reality that the future may judge us harshly as well.
My personal belief is that, at the end of the day, we cannot truly know everything that was in the heart and mind of Dr. Sims, or, especially, of Betsy, Anarcha, Lucy, and others, without whom we might not know Sims’s name. It is also my experience, thus far, that we cannot hope forcibly to change each other’s minds.
So, I believe we are left instead to turn our energies toward active engagement in identifying and addressing the disparities, within our society, and in the populations we serve. Our own salary surveys continue to show a significant gender gap in income that persists among FPMRS providers; furthermore, there is still compelling evidence that care for women continues to pay less than analogous care for men. There will always be controversies and inequalities, be they new or deeply embedded in our past, that threaten us, so we need actively to work on the tools and processes by which they can be addressed.
This process requires reflection – this will be a theme of this upcoming year. Dr Felicia Lane, along with the entire Program Committee (which started work on the 2018 meeting within 15 minutes of the adjournment of this meeting), is using this theme to enrich next year’s PFD Week.
I am grateful to everyone that has engaged this difficult topic with energy, passion, and a desire to move forward.