As chairman of the Advisory Council for Ophthalmic Surgery of the American College of Surgeons, I would like to address the issue of membership in the ACS. Why should we join yet another professional group, and what are the benefits to being a member of the ACS?
At this time, it is imperative that all of medicine work together, and numbers count. The ACS is the world’s largest surgical organization, with a total membership of more than 74,000. As the umbrella organization for all surgical specialties, the ACS needs support from ophthalmologists as does the AMA and the Academy, etc. In turn, we, as ophthalmologists, can look to the ACS to speak for us at times when we need a voice from another camp for some of our concerns.
Membership rolls are critical when we go to Capitol Hill with advocacy issues, and providing membership numbers for the ACS is important. By not becoming ACS members, we will not be contributing to the strength in numbers that is required from a group representing a cross section of specialties in surgery. There are currently 3,382 ophthalmologist-ACS members representing 5.49 percent of the total ACS membership.
In our ongoing battle with organized optometry, ophthalmologists were served very well by the ACS through its Advocacy and Health Policy Committee as well as its Research and Optimal Patient Care Committee. The ACS issued an official statement urging that laser surgery be done only by medical doctors. The College’s executive director, Thomas Russell, MD, FACS, and other ACS members have testified in state legislative battles regarding scope of practice issues in Oklahoma, New Mexico and other states. Dr. Russell also represents the ACS on the Ambulatory Care Quality Alliance, the body responsible for approving CMS guidelines.
There are even more tangible advantages for surgeons at all stages of their careers: numerous educational opportunities such as free registration for the ACS Clinical Congress, and scholarship programs and traveling fellowships for young surgeons, residents and medical students.
The “Find a Surgeon” function on the ACS Web site supports members by providing increased visibility and referrals and advising the public of the member’s specialty areas.
The Bulletin and the Journal of the American College of Surgeons are included with each membership. These publications are excellent sources of information to keep us up-to-date on issues affecting all surgical practices. Members are eligible for enrollment in ACS-sponsored insurance programs and the ACS Web portal allows direct access to the Case Log System for Maintenance of Certification. The Surgeons Diversified Investment Fund, a no-load, open-end asset mutual fund can be very beneficial and has recently become available to all ACS members. This investment fund continues to make significant gains.
The ACSPA-SurgeonsPAC, like OphthPAC, provides ACS members with input and access to national as well as local legislators.
These are just some examples of the importance of our affiliation with the ACS. Applications for membership are available at www.facs.org. Annual dues are $440, just over a dollar a day, and on any given day that ACS membership can prove to be a great investment in the future of eye surgery.