Have the Characteristics for Success as a Surgeon Changed? A Century of Perspective Through the American College of Surgeons

Academic Article


  • Background: The Presidential Address of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) is an influential platform during the convocation for new Fellows every year. Recent work reported that most ACS presidents primarily discuss personal characteristics for success; however, these qualities were never specified. Therefore, this study aimed to identify the personal characteristics that are espoused in ACS presidential addresses as essential for success as a surgeon. Study design: Thematic analysis was completed for every ACS presidential address (98 addresses between 1913 and 2019). Full-text addresses were reviewed (2 team members), personal characteristics were coded (1 team member) and then assembled into patterns and themes (3 team-members’ consensus). A temporal frame was adopted in grouping these themes in that personal qualities that appeared consistently throughout this period were classified as Enduring Characteristics and those that emerged only in later years were classified as Recent Characteristics. Results: Enduring Characteristics that were present throughout the century included sincere compassion for patients; integrity; engagement (willingness to help shape the changing field at the institutional or national level); and commitment to lifelong learning. Recent Characteristics included humility and the interpersonal attributes of inclusivity and the ability to be a collaborative team leader. Conclusions: Surgery has experienced countless paradigm shifts since 1913, and the perceived characteristics for success have similarly evolved to include more interpersonal abilities. The importance of sincere compassion for patients, integrity, engagement, and commitment to lifelong learning remained consistent for more than a century.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Young KA; Lee SM; Adams MD; Buonpane CL; Hayek SA; Shabahang MM; Rogers DA
  • Start Page

  • 203
  • End Page

  • 209
  • Volume

  • 232
  • Issue

  • 2