Today’s 2014 EAST conference in Naples, Florida saw an improvement in the weather and continued excellent talks from recognized leaders in the field of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery. Dr. David V. Feliciano gave the Scott B. Frame memorial lecture and advocated a return to previous practice principles. Included in his talk were the conservative ideas of representing trauma and acute care surgery as “no different than general surgery” and an admonishment to young trauma surgeons to avoid “separating themselves from general surgery”. These and other conservative comments were signposts as Dr. Feliciano recreated the mental map he and others have used to achieve success in academic trauma and emergency surgery.
Dr. Feliciano advocated several useful ideas including the calculation of each individual’s Hirsch index (or H index). The H index represents a measure of how many times the individual has been cited by others in publications. He contrasted this against the typical impact factor for journals and said that the H index is utilized by promotions committees at academic centers. In addition to useful specifics, Dr Feliciano gave other advice to young academic surgeons, including ways to avoid unproductive overcommitment to activities that do not add value to their careers.
Some of Dr. Feliciano’s other ideas emerged as he reported on a lifetime of career success. He advocated that young clinicians start their collections of famous papers early, and that the way ahead in terms of publication was the “trifecta” which includes: submitting an abstract to a conference, a podium presentation of that work, and, finally, journal publication of that same research.
In the last 5-10 years, as we know on the blog, there has been an explosion of innovative online publication techniques. Dr. Feliciano’s classic rendition of the pathway ahead for young surgeons did not focus on these newer models or disruptive business models for Surgery as a whole. This left questions for some young surgeons such as whether the way ahead in years previous will continue as the way ahead in the future. Again, some young surgeons were considering the new classic quotation that we must “evolve or die”. How do the innovative systems that influence Surgery so much fit into the path for young surgeons? Will promotions committees ever consider, as the Twitterverse has wondered, social media and associated publications as an influencer for promotion?
Regardless of the specific reaction to Dr. Feliciano’s excellent lecture, it is challenging to argue with a career and experience as successful as his has been given his lifetime of prominence in trauma and emergency surgery. The young surgeons look forward to determining whether the way ahead in years previous will continue to be the way ahead he described given the new techniques, tools, and in light of the American College of Surgeons’ recent focus on innovation in Surgery. Will the models for research and publication described in this year’s Frame lecture persist into the next decade, or will new techniques including business model innovation move regularly to the forefront? Only time will tell, and, as for now, we are left with an exposition of a classic pathway ahead in academic surgery that leads to both academic and clinical strength. For that we can all appreciate Dr. Feliciano’s excellent talk and look forward to EAST day 3.