With over 82,000 members, the American College of Surgeons (ACS) is the largest organization of surgeons on the planet. Founded in 1913, the ACS sets the highest standards for medical care and organizes the largest medical conference in the world, the Clinical Congress. The Clinical Congress hosts about 26,000 surgeons a year for five days of educational and networking events. In between annual medical presentations and demonstrations are social events; such as meet and greets, happy hours, and a host of other activities from the SurgeonsPAC ( Political Action Committee) where member surgeons (referred to as “Fellows”) can join in on early morning yoga classes, touring, and participate in “Surgeons who Selfie.” However, the Clinical Congress looked a little different this year.
For the first time in more than a century, the Clinical Congress was virtual…. and free.
The event took place October 3rd–7th of this year, and the Clinical Congress still hosted presentations on various topics across the surgical field and a virtual exhibit hall. However, there was no travelling to and taking over a new city this year as the social events were distinctly…. socially distant. Nevertheless, the SurgeonsPAC met and the schedule of full and robust presentations occurred simultaneously.
The fact that the event was free this year is not insignificant. Typically, new Fellows would pay a $200.00 application fee on top of the annual cost of $659.00 to attend this event. This year, the application fee is waived for new Fellows and discounted for non-surgical new members. This was a good opportunity for new surgeons to attend and have the educational experience and connect with surgeons around the world amidst the pandemic. Even non-surgeon members were offered a fifty percent reduction of their application fee.
The Clinical Congress is not the first health conference this year to go virtual and it won’t likely be the last. The European Society of Cardiology (ESC) also hosted its annual meeting, the ESC Congress, online for the first time as well. The American College of Medical Toxicology (ACMT) 2020 Annual Scientific Meeting was planned to be in person in New York City in March, but on the first day and in preparation for the pandemic, the entire conference switched to a virtual platform.