Southern Association for Vascular surgery
Spring 2021 Newsletter

Vascular Specialist

2021 President's Message

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Gilbert R. Upchurch Jr. MD
Gilbert R. Upchurch Jr. MD

I first attended the Southern Association for Vascular Surgery (SAVS) in 1989 when I was a second year medical student. I remember being awestruck by the “giants” in vascular surgery that were in attendance. At that early age, I pondered what exactly attracts so many talented vascular surgeons to the South. Over time, I think I have come to understand the attraction for vascular surgeons to live in the South- it is of course the chance to participate in and join the SAVS Annual Meeting!!!

What is it about being a vascular surgeon in the south that attracts so many of us to this region of the United States? My belief is that at the heart of being an outstanding vascular surgeon is that one has to love being in the hospital and operating room. There are multiple studies documenting that Vascular Surgeons are actually in the hospital more than any other specialty, even more than obstetricians!! While I rarely missed a football game when my kids were growing up, I still worked every Saturday morning. I would also bring work home and often fall asleep editing a manuscript or reviewing a paper at night. My wife Nancy reminds me that is just what was expected and our way of life.

Not only do we as vascular surgeons spend the most time in the hospital, we love being the “fireperson of the operating room”. There is data that suggests we are the most “called upon” specialty in the OR, especially in the emergency setting. We bristle when hospital administrators and insurance companies fail to recognize how valuable we are to the health care system. This is infuriating to most Vascular Surgeons. I get it! Despite this, we actually derive much of our own personal “value” from playing the “great rescuer.”

This personality characteristic, namely being well equipped to manage emergencies, has served us well this past year as the SAVS executive committee and the Diversity Committee responded to the #medbikinni debacle. We worked hard to ensure a more balanced and diverse society going forward. We owe a special thanks to Past President Sam Monday for starting the Diversity Committee and to Chair, Dr. Cynthia Shortell for helping to drive this. We strengthened our stance to promote diversity and inclusion in the SAVS, we committed scholarship money for diverse recipients, we planned a survey to better understand who we are, we planned a session of our program dedicated to diversity topics, we charged the local arrangements committee to continue to focus on activities that appeal broadly, and finally we proposed the creation of a diversity breakfast.

In addition, we have worked hard to maintain the core of the annual meeting, even though we fully understand that the COVID pandemic has changed things significantly on many fronts. We recognize that most members of the SAVS cherish the annual for both its outstanding fellowship, as well as the amazing scientific program. The pandemic, however, has truthfully made our ability to have a “normal” annual meeting unlikely. This year because of the pandemic, attendance will be limited in order to provide social distancing during scientific sessions. In addition, sporting events will be not planned, but may occur spontaneously. Banquets and receptions will be held outside rather than in closed spaces. Plans for the Mock Oral Exams and the Post-graduate course are still being made as we move to a hybrid virtual meeting format.

While our goal is to maintain the core of the SAVS annual meeting, we recognize that changes will need to made in order to create the best and safest meeting environment possible. Recognize that the leadership will continue to respond to the pandemic based on our years of training as “firepersons.” I therefore look forward to seeing some of you in Arizona and others of you virtually at the 2021 SAVS Annual Meeting!