UP students attend 48th World Congress of Surgery 2019 in Poland
The 48th World Congress of Surgery was held in Krakow, Poland from 10–August 2019. Stephan Brink and Jomarie Weyers, two students from the University of Pretoria who attended the congress as aspiring future surgeons, were part of the inaugural Future Surgeons Delegation, composed of 23 students representing 10 countries. Those chosen for this privilege all showed exceptional potential in the field of surgery. The congress offered many opportunities for networking, personal development and skills training. “My biggest take away from the congress was the multitude of new colleagues and connections I made all across the world,” said Jomarie Weyers.
Career Development Course
The World Congress of Surgery offers a variety of academic courses to those attending. One of these is the Career Development Course, hosted by the Association for Academic Surgeons (AAS), the World Journal of Surgery (WJS) and the International Society of Surgery (ISS). This course introduces attendees to, among other things, aspects of being an academic surgeon, the dynamics of mentorship, what a surgical journal such as the WJS looks for in a manuscript, how to manage your practice as a profitable business and how to attempt to achieve a work-life balance in your professional career. Among the speakers who addressed the students attending the course were Professor Julie Ann Sosa, Editor-in-Chief of the WJS, Prof Melina Kibbe, Editor-in-Chief of JAMA Surgery and Prof Andrew Hill, now the former President of the ISS.
During the Congress all the members of the Future Surgeons Delegation had the opportunity to conduct interviews with the speakers. This made it possible for them to speak directly to some of the world’s leading surgeons and to promote themselves with a view to possible future endeavours. Some delegates have already received invitations from speakers to visit their institutions, with possible participation in postgraduate training programmes. The interviews also provided the delegates with opportunities to gain experience in presenting themselves in a professional manner. “I had the opportunity to network with some of the world’s most renowned surgeons while attending world class workshops and lectures,” said Jomarie Weyers.
Another popular workshop hosted during the Congress is the Writer’s Workshop, co-hosted by the WJS. Topics such as how to write a proper abstract, peer-reviewing a manuscript submitted for publication, troubleshooting your own research methodology, and many more, were discussed during this three-day workshop, which was presented in the early mornings, before the commencement of other congress proceedings. Attendees were placed in small groups, each led by experts in the surgical fraternity who were all active members of the editorial boards of different surgical journals. The majority of the delegates indicated this as the highlight of their World Congress of Surgery experience and stated that they had gained valuable knowledge and experience in the field of academic writing and reviewing.“I am much more confident now to further include research in my surgical career, and look forward to one day also be on the editorial board of a surgical journal,” said Stephan Brink.
The Congress gave medical students an opportunity to network with some of the world’s most renowned surgeons. In general, the surgeons who presented talks and research papers were extremely approachable, which made it possible for the students to make the acquaintance of mentors from across the world.
Delegates who were part of the Future Surgeons Delegation could also participate in a personal question and answer session with Professor Michael Sarr and Dr Kathleen Kasey, both members of the governing body of the International Surgical Society. During this session, the students could ask questions pertaining to matters ranging from international research and work opportunities to surgery-related public health issues, how to achieve a healthy balance between work and life, and many more.
The World Congress of Surgery offers an extensive and stimulating scientific programme that includes parallel workshops and lecture series presented by its integrated societies, which include the International Association of Endocrine Surgeons (IAES), the International Association for Trauma Surgery and Intensive Care (IATSIC), and the International Society for Digestive Surgery (ISDS). Delegates could attend any sessions in which they had a particular interest and could participate in and contribute to the subsequent discussions. Talks given by leaders in their respective fields could be attended by all the delegates, including the undergraduate medical students, who regarded this as a very special privilege.
After each hard day’s work, entertaining social events ensured evenings filled with laughter, enjoyable company and of course more opportunities for networking and meeting delegates from across the world. Social events ranged from a rooftop dinner to the formal IASSS Society Dinner, and a night out with the Polish Surgical Society students, who took them to the Krakow Main Square.
The social events were among the highlights of the week and delegates could exchange information about their medical schools and share their experiences thus far, helping each other to relate to and collaborate on finding solutions to common challenges faced by the medical fraternity. During some of the social events, the 23 delegates from the Future Surgeons Delegation also met with students from the Netherlands, Poland, Latvia, Italy and the USA, which provided further opportunities for networking and cultivating long-lasting international relationships.
Attending the 48th World Congress of Surgery has been an incredible experience, which not only contributed towards our academic development as aspiring surgeons, but also to the development of the social and personal skills needed by successful surgeons and physicians. We have been exposed to the so-called ‘cream’ of the surgical fraternity, which has inspired us to strive to one day also be regarded as such.
“We would like to convey our sincere gratitude to the Faculty of Health Sciences, especially the School of Medicine, for making this opportunity possible, and to our families, friends and loved-ones for their sustained and unconditional support,” concluded Stephan Brink.