• Congratulations to the 2023-2024 SAAS Visiting Professors!
  • Zhi Fong, MD is the recipient of the 2024 SAAS Junior Faculty Award!
  • Radhika Rastogi, MD is the recipient of the 2024 Esther Tsai Sugg Award for the highest scoring SAAS abstract to 2024 Academic Surgical Congress!
  • Christy Chai, MD is the recipient of the 2024 SAAS-SUS Mid-Career Award!
  • Areeba Saif, MD is the recipient of the 2023 SAAS-AWS Resident Research Travel Award!
  • Raja Narayan, MD, MPH is the recipient of the 2023 SAAS Resident/Fellow Development Scholarship!
  • Jeremy Chang, MD is the winner of the 2023 SAAS Annual Meeting Travel Award!
  • Russell Woo, MD is the recipient of the 2023 SAAS-SUS Leadership Agility Program Scholarship!

In 2019, NASA had planned the first all-female spacewalk from the International Space Station. While this event was not meant to be a symbol of gender equity, the occasion was celebrated with anticipation. The week before the walk, the agency realized there was only one available suit optimized for a spacewalk that fit the female astronauts. NASA chose to swap out one of their female astronauts for a male and the all-female spacewalk milestone was delayed.1 The design limitation of space suits directly impacted the assignments for which astronauts of “atypical” shapes and sizes are eligible.2

Meghal Shah, MD

Meghal Shah, MD

The field of surgery is facing similar challenges. As the surgical workforce makes strides towards greater gender and minority representation, the instruments we use, and our built environment are not evolving at the same pace to match our diversifying needs. Most surgical instruments were designed in early and in the mid-20th century when the physician workforce was predominantly tall, white, and male. Many of today’s surgeons must now grapple with tools that were built for surgeons of yore who do not look like them, often requiring more physical effort and work-arounds.

The most obvious of these challenges is in hand size. The mismatch between large instrument handles and small hand sizes creates a challenge for many, especially with laparoscopic surgery. One frequently cited culprit is the laparoscopic stapler, which is meant to be held and deployed with one hand, though it is categorically impossible to do so with a small hand size. These challenges create musculoskeletal strain and injury when left unaddressed.

The nature of surgical training and practice compels us to develop ergonomic workarounds and take the blame when we fumble. We need to acknowledge that our built environment is not an unchangeable fact of nature but rather a fallible product of human design. As such, it can be changed. The time for those designing our tools and workspace to witness how all surgeons use what they have built is overdue.

Here are some suggestions on how to make the operating room more accessible:

  • Advocate for equity in instrument design. In 2018, a meta-analysis found that 12% of surgeons were forced to take a leave of absence, reduce/modify hours, or even retire early due to work-related musculoskeletal injuries.3 Before signing supplier contracts, leadership can request a plan to improve instrument accessibility. It is in the hospital’s benefit to invest in and advocate for surgeon wellness as operating rooms generate significant revenue. Health systems need to advocate for equity in instrument and OR design.
  • Ensure that all individuals are equally represented in leadership roles, especially those from underrepresented or marginalized backgrounds, to ensure that products are equitable and accessible. Women comprise 25% of biomedical engineers and 23% of medtech CEOs.4,5 Among the 118 chairs of academic general surgery departments in the U.S., 14.7% are women and 4.3% are Black.6 Diversity in these roles will ensure that valuable insights are incorporated into product and system design. This will only serve to make device companies more competitive and hospitals more attractive to surgeons and patients of all backgrounds.
  • Democratize the design process. We need to actively seek opportunities for the designers of surgical instruments and equipment to collaborate with surgeons and trainees. The people who build our tools and environment should be invited into the operating room to see how our tools are used and how they can be improved.


  1. Fortin, J. & Zraick, K. First All-Female Spacewalk Canceled Because NASA Doesn’t Have Two Suits That Fit. The New York Times (2019).
  2. Koren, M. The Original Sin of NASA Space Suits. https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2019/03/nasa-spacesuit-women-spacewalk/585805/ The Atlantic (2019).
  3. Epstein, S. et al. Prevalence of Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders Among Surgeons and Interventionalists: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA Surg. 153, e174947 (2018).
  4. Biomedical Engineer Demographics and Statistics [2023]: Number of Biomedical Engineers in the US. https://www.zippia.com/biomedical-engineer-jobs/demographics/ (2022).
  5. Kirsh, D. Diversity in medtech: 2022 markedly the best for women in medtech. Medical Design and Outsourcing https://www.medicaldesignandoutsourcing.com/diversity-in-medtech-2022-markedly-the-best-for-women-in-medtech/ (2022).
  6. Kassam, A.-F., Taylor, M., Cortez, A. R., Winer, L. K. & Quillin, R. C., 3rd. Gender and ethnic diversity in academic general surgery department leadership. Am. J. Surg. 221, 363–368 (2021).


SAAS Stories Essay Competition

Read the first few stories from the SAAS Communications Committee’s first-ever SAAS Stories Essay Competition.

SAAS Foundation 2024-2025 Visiting Professorships

Congratulations to the 2024-2025 SAAS Visiting Professors, as well as our other recent award and accolade recipients: Drs. Oliver Eng, Annabelle Fonseca, Kevin Koo, Tammy Holm, Victoria Lai, Melanie Ongchin, James Wu, Jessica Zagory, Zhi Ven Fong, Christy Yoon-Hee Chai, Lillian Kao, Sandra Wong, Danny Chu, and Brenessa Lindeman.

An Ultimate Challenge to the Palate

SAAS members attend a Japanese whiskey tasting fundraiser, hosted by Dr. Herbert Chen at the 2023 SAAS Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland.

A Sansei’s Story

General Surgery Resident Natalie Nadia Hisae Merchant, MD, discusses lessons learned from her family and their history and how they have influenced her experiences, identity and perspective.

SAAS Sips Recap: Acing the Residency Interview

The SAAS Sips for Medical Students Series is a casual, low-stress setting for trainees to interact with SAAS leaders. The Nov. 2, 2023, event focused on “Acing the Residency Interview.”

Kuo Family Lectureship: Jason Kalirai, PhD

This year’s Kuo Family Lecture was given by Jason Kalirai, PhD, at the 2023 SAAS Annual Meeting. Dr Kalirai is the Mission Area Executive for Civil Space in the Space Exploration Sector of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.

SAAS 2023 Presidential Address: Susan Tsai, MD, MHS

Susan Tsai, MD, MHS, delivered her Presidential Address to the Society of Asian Academic Surgeons at the 2023 SAAS Annual Meeting, titled “Navigating the Bamboo Ceiling: Empowering AAPI Surgeons for Success.”

SAAS Leadership Highlights

Congratulations to our members for their recent accomplishments, including Dr. Mayur B. Patel who has been named Chief of the Division of Acute Care Surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

A Moment with SAAS: Herbert Chen

This season’s “A Moment with SAAS” features one of our founding members, Dr. Herbert Chen, chair of the Department of Surgery at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

SAAS Leadership Highlights

SAAS congratulates Drs. Kenric Murayama, Thomas Varghese, Ankush Gosain, Shaun Kunisaki, and Vikas Dudeja for their recent accomplishments.

Medical Student Student Reflections

Medical students Gopika SenthilKumar and Nate Verhagen attended their first SAAS meeting in September and said the meeting offered a place for trainees to build new, lasting relationships.

Kuo Family Lectureship: Debbie Lum

“Why do we always have to play the side part? Why aren’t we the protagonist of the story?” asks award-winning filmmaker Debbie Lum at this year’s 2022 Kuo Family Lectureship.

Kui and Wai Fong Lectureship: David Hu

The 2022 Kui and Wai Fong Lectureship was delivered by Professor David Hu from Georgia Institute of Technology. David Hu is a professor of mechanical engineering who draws inspiration from his observation of nature.

Sustainability in Surgery

Connie Shao, MD, discusses the importance of sustainability in surgery in this issue of the Lotus Scroll.

SAAS Leadership Highlights

The Society of Asian Academic Surgeons would like to congratulate our members on their many recent accomplishments.

Presidential Address: ‘A is for… American. Asian. Ally.’

Tracy S. Wang, MD, MPH, delivered her Presidential Address to the Society during the 2021 SAAS 6th Annual Meeting, focusing on her thoughts regarding Asian American identity in relation to her role as SAAS president for the past two years.

President’s Message: December 2021

SAAS President Dr. Allan Tsung discusses this year’s SAAS annual meeting, the pandemic and the future of the society in his December 2021 President’s Message.

The Sequelae of Hate

Dr. Lindsey Zhang discusses the recent rise in hate crimes, racial discrimination and violence toward the Asian American community.

Q&A: Dr. George Yang

The Lotus Scroll interviews George Yang, MD, PhD, former president of the Society of Asian Academic Surgeons.

SAAS Foundation 2018-2019 Visiting Professorships

Congratulations to the 2018-2019 SAAS Foundation Visiting Professors! SAAS Foundation Visiting Professorships support travel to host institutions for junior faculty to give grand rounds and increase the national visibility of rising stars in academic surgery.

SAAS on Twitter!

This year, SAAS was active more than ever on Twitter! In addition to updates and announcements, more content was created for our followers to improve engagement, highlight issues and events important to our society and members, and promote the activities at SAAS.

SAAS Executive Council: Message on the Rise of Racism

First, as the current pandemic continues to affect our communities and families, we want to express our profound gratitude to our surgical colleagues and to all healthcare professionals who are the frontlines of caring for patients with the SARS-CoV2 virus/COVID-19.

Q&A: Dr. Kenric Murayama

The Lotus Scroll is honored to interview Kenric Murayama, MD, this year’s host of the SAAS Annual Meeting.

President’s Message: December 2019

SAAS President Dr. Tracy Wang discusses how far the Society has come and what’s in store for 2020 in her December 2019 President’s Message.

SAAS 2019 Meeting Recap

SAAS held its 2019 Annual Meeting at the Boston Medical Center, Sept. 26-27, with more than 148 scientific presentations and breakout sessions.

SAAS 2019 Meeting Highlights

The fourth annual meeting of the Society of Asian Academic Surgeons will be held in Boston, Massachusetts, Sept. 26-27, 2019, and promises to be an incredibly fun, impactful and meaningful gathering of academic surgeons, trainees and students from both the U.S. and abroad.

Q&A: Dr. Jennifer Tseng

Jennifer Tseng, MD, MPH, is the James Utley Professor and Chair of the Department of Surgery at Boston University School of Medicine and surgeon-in-chief at Boston Medical Center.

Welcome to the Lotus Scroll

Welcome to the launch of Lotus Scroll, the official newsletter of the Society of Asian Academic Surgeons (SAAS). Through the Lotus Scroll, we are excited to distribute and enhance the vision of SAAS: to promote diversity and inclusion in academic surgery through the sponsorship and development of its leaders.