The Society of Black Academic Surgeons Conference

“The Society of Black Academic Surgeons (SBAS) was founded in 1989 against the backdrop of a paucity of African-American surgeons in academic medicine and the absence of an organized network of African-American surgeons to stimulate, mentor and inspire young surgeons and medical students to pursue academic careers. The Society’s annual meeting is designed to stimulate academic excellence among its members by providing a forum of scholarship in collaboration with the leading Departments of Surgery in the United States.” (www.sbas.net) They have a conference every year. The first one was at Duke, and this years conference was in Chicago, split between the Rush University School of Medicine, the American College of Surgeons, and the Wyndham hotel. Next year the conference will be at the Cleveland Clinic Learner College of Medicine, but my experiences at this years conference is below:
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Thursday, April 12, 2007

I was dropped off at the Wyndham Hotel and all I can say is WOW; this place is truly classy. I’m actually pretty impressed with Chicago as a city. As big as it is, it is quite clean compared to New York and Baltimore; also Lake Michigan really adds a sense of beauty to the whole city landscape. So the first event of the SBAS conference was a meet and greet in the library of the American College of Surgeons. This place is absolutely beautiful, and their meeting room looks like a smaller version of the United Nations. I also swear that the building for the AOA Medical Honors program is in Chicago also. Check out the pictures below:

Anyway, of course I felt like a timid school girl as all these residents, fellows, and attendings were chatting and laughing with each other, but my mentor started introducing me and I started to loosen up a little. There were some SERIOUSLY big names at this meet and greet session. I met a pediatric surgery attending from UCLA, a trauma/critical care attending from Brigham and Women’s (Harvard), a couple of surgical residency program directors, the chair of Duke’s Dept. of Surgery, the chair of Albany’s Dept. of Surgery, the chair of EVMS’ Dept. of Surgery, and some others. I really can’t describe enough how inspiring it was to talk with these people. When I introduced myself as a 4th year undergraduate student who is going to medical school this year, they all were really happy that I was coming to this conference so early, and I truly believe that EVERY black student interested in surgery should come. I met the Chair of Surgery at Meharry, Dr. Beech, and I also met a professor of surgery at Morehouse, Dr. Weaver. In all honesty, I don’t remember many names, but I’m sure if I did I could Google these guys and I would get a good amount of hits. The main point is that these guys (and girls) are smart, dedicated, successful, and poised to help others be successful also. I’m learning a lot of about the inner workings of academic surgical residency programs, and I’m liking what I’m hearing. Tomorrow is when the scientific presentations start, so I need to hit the sack!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Today was pretty amazing. I woke up and got ready to get on the bus to Rush University School of Medicine. They served us breakfast there and basically it was a portion where faculty at Rush could show their school off…and show off they did. We had presentations on how many penetrating and blunt trauma patients that Cook County gets, Dr. Starzl, the father of transplant surgery, public health initiatives to mentor kids prone to gun violence, etc. Overall I came away with more respect for Rush University and I would recommend anyone to apply there. Check out the videos below from Rush:

 

Following the morning conference that Rush, we then took a bus back to the Wyndham Hotel where we were served lunch. The keynote speaker for the lunch was the wife of a former coach of Northwestern University’s men’s basketball team. He was apparently gunned down by a white supremacist a block from his house with his children standing beside him (I think it happened in 1999). It was a truly sad story, but overall it was encouraging and inspiring to hear how his wife grew stronger after the incident. She gave the surgeons advice on how to deal with families that have received news that their loved ones have died; especially when they died as a result of violence.

After the lunch, we went downstairs in the hotel to the conference room where the scientific presentations started. I was actually pretty interested by many of the projects and my outlook on doing a 7-year academic residency has actually become more favorable. You can certainly do basic science research as a resident in an academic surgical residency but you can also do clinical research or outcomes research. For example, Dr. Warsaw (the premier surgeon and expert on pancreatic cancer) talked about the different outcomes seen when operating on different types of pancreatic cancer on different parts of the pancreas. From there, Dr. Warsaw made recommendations on what you would do if you ran up against X cancer, that was X size, that had an X% of cancerous activity. It was very interesting and it is research that I wouldn’t mind doing. Check out the pictures below of the scientific conference:

This conference has given me a better understanding of academic surgery and the impact that black academic surgeons can have on rising black surgery residents. These surgeons I’m meeting are some of the biggest names in SURGERY, and they just happen to be black. You just can’t resist being inspired and wanting to be like them. There overall advice to me was to choose Maryland out of the 3 schools I’m thinking about, and to do as well as I possibly can there. And then when its time to apply to residency, they said to call them, and they will take care of the rest. That is the power of meetings like this; you get to network with some amazing people. What I was told that as you get higher up, especially in medical school and residency, everyone has great grades, board scores, ABSITE scores, etc. What gives you that edge is who you know and we as black people need to be at the top so we can open the doors for others. Trust me when I say that the Jews and the Whites and the Asians have their networks where they make sure that they promote their own; so in order to protect your own interests you need to be at the head of the game also and come to conferences like SBAS. I encourage everyone to get to KNOW these guys (and girls), and I know it will take you places.

After the research conference I slipped out with my mentor and he showed me around downtown Chicago. It is certainly a ritzy place and I’m certain that I would never be able to afford anything downtown. We wentto the top of 2nd tallest building in Chicago and the view was just amazing. You can check out some of the pictures below:

Later that night was a meet and greet at the Washington Library. I was a little leary of going because it was getting close to sunset and I didn’t want to break the Sabbath but it worked out because the entertainment was actually a children’s gospel choir. Check out the video below of the choir:

 

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While there I got to meet Dr. Fullum who’s an minimally invasive surgery attending at the University of Maryland Hospital who actually graduated from Howard SOM and knew my mom who graduated 3 years before him (small world). I also met Dr. Cornwell who is the head (I think) of trauma at Johns Hopkins hospital. He was featured on ABC about 6 years ago on a show called “Hopkins 24/7”. There are rumors that he might be moving to Howard’s department of surgery, so that place is about to blow up. I met Dr. Stain, who is the chair of surgery at Albany School of Medicine, a couple of pediatric surgeons, and a plastics resident from Stanford. So yeah, all those guys told me to go to the University of Maryland, but I know that where ever the Lord wants me is where I will do the best, so I’ll just wait for the doors to open.

Saturday, April 15, 2007

So we went to church today and then went for a bite to eat. Downtown Chicago is truly ritzy, and its kind of sad because the homeless poor seem even worse off downtown. Anyway, I just chilled around with a couple surgery residents and my mentor until it was time for the black tie affair. Before the black tie affair I was just listening to the surgery resident’s conversations and it was really interesting to hear how they describe different programs, attendings at different programs, how sweet it is to be a fellow, difficult cases, hidden racism at their program, etc. On the note of racism, what I got from their conversation is that when get to the level of residency and fellowships, you really will never find any overt racism or discrimination. You’ll see it though when you are working you butt off just as much as the white guys in the program, but you only get a mediocre evaluation while they are considered the best surgeon since Lister. My mentor was mentioning how during his 2 year of residency he was rounding in the morning with the other residents, and the white residents were talking about how much fun they had at Dr. So and So’s house (their attending) last night. Of course my attending was feeling hurt because they had all came in at the same time, yet he was never invited out to the attending’s house for anything. But you can’t really be hurt; you just have to remember that as far as we have come in America, people will still continue to take care of their own. I will repeat this once again; EVERY BLACK PERSON THAT IS INTERESTED IN SURGERY SHOULD GO TO THE SBAS CONFERENCE. If I don’t go to Loma Linda, I think that I would definitely pursue an academic surgical career; I truly believe that you can make more of a difference that way for more future black surgeons coming after you. You can’t help but be inspired to do this after being at the SBAS conference. I’ve truly learned that most of what matters is who you know, and the best way to know these folks is to come to SBAS. Ok, so yeah, the black tie affair was pretty amazing. I guess when a bunch of black surgeons get together, it has to be classy. I ended up getting the cards of a lot of folks who can potentially become mentors in the future so I’m pretty happy. I’m currently typing this blog this from my mentor’s friend’s house; he’s an interventional radiologist and his house is FAT. I’m telling yall; if you are smart and dedicated then you can be amazing physician and do very well in life. Ok, so I’m pretty much done and I’ll need lots of prayer because I have a biochem midterm that I haven’t studied at all for tomorrow at 3 p.m. Once again…I encourage all black undergraduate students, medical students and residents who are interested in surgery to attend the next SBAS conference in Cleveland at the Cleveland Clinic Learner College of Medicine.

3 Responses to The Society of Black Academic Surgeons Conference

  1. Sheriff says:

    What’s up DoctaJay,

    Just wanted to let you know that your blog has been really helpful to me and I appreciate all your efforts….I was wondering as far as the SBAS Conference were there any DOs, As I tried to get into an MD program, but because of being a non-traditional student and my previous undergrad history from 12 years ago, I was able to receive acceptance to a DO school. I would really like to attend this conference in the future in other to start a network that may benefit me in the future…email me if you can (eigball@yahoo.com)…again I appreciate your efforts…

    Sheriff..

  2. Miss B says:

    Hi! I really appreciate the blog. I’m only a sophomore undergrad, but I am really interested in surgery specifically cardiac surgery. I am going to try to attend the conference next year if I can get some funding, but please e-mail me with more information – msashe88@gmail.com

  3. M.Williams says:

    I think that from your experience, this event is something to really invest time into. I was just wondering, who was your mentor and how did u get in touch with one? Also is there any sort of funding for med students? Thanks again for letting people know of such events and email me with any more info on this if possible. (mwills85@gmail.com)

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