A Brief History of SAAS
The founding of SAAS can be traced to the Presidential Session on Unconscious Bias in Academic Surgery that took place during the 6th Annual Academic Surgical Congress (ASC), directed by then-Society of University Surgeons (SUS) President Dr. Dai Chung. Dr. Don Nakayama presented an eye-opening talk on the lack of Asians in the leadership of American academic surgery, and would later publish that data in the Annals of Surgery [Nakayama, DK. Asian Americans in leadership positions in academic surgery. Ann Surg. 255(3):583-8. 2012]. As it turned out, Dr. Chung was the first Asian to ever be elected to the SUS presidency.
That October, during the American College of Surgeons (ACS) Clinical Congress in Washington, DC, a group of nine Asian academic surgeons gathered to talk about the implications of that talk. This group of nine would become the founding members of SAAS (see right). During that meeting, they agreed to pay the initial dues that would provide the seed money to create a new society. After the initial tongue-in-cheek suggestion of naming it the Asian Surgical Society, it was decided to call it the Society of Asian Academic Surgeons.
At first, it was unclear what role we would serve to our membership. The first thought was that we would serve more as a social society that would allow members of the Asian community to meet and network. However, we soon realized that there were important issues facing our community, and we soon changed our focus to the personal and career development of Asian academic surgeons with the belief that the best way to increase Asian representation in the leadership of academic surgery was to prepare future generations to succeed.
Towards this end, we raised money to provide scholarships for both trainees and junior faculty to help them with their career development. We also initiated awards for the best research submitted by members to the ASC to showcase the advances being made by Asians in the field of academic surgery.
From the beginning, our society has been fully inclusive. We defined “Asian” in the broadest sense to include not only those from East, Southeast, and South Asia, but also Persians, Arabs, Turks and any other nationality from the Asian continent. Furthermore, membership in SAAS is open to anyone of any ethnicity who has an interest in promoting underrepresented populations in any arena of academic surgery.
Our membership quickly grew by word of mouth, and we hosted get-togethers at the ACS Clinical Congress and at the ASC. It soon became apparent that we needed to take the next step of organizing our own meeting focusing on the issues important to our membership. 2016 marked the fifth anniversary of the founding of SAAS as well as the inaugural Annual Meeting. The membership continues to grow and interest has never been stronger.