• 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!

Kui Wai Fong Keynote Speaker: Kazuhiko Yamada, MD, PhD
September 15, 2023

Kazuhiko Yamada, MD, PhD

Kazuhiko Yamada, MD, PhD

The 2023 Kui and Wai Fong Lectureship was delivered by Dr. Kazuhiko Yamada, MD, PhD from Johns Hopkins University. A pioneer in the world of transplant research, Dr. Yamada came to Baltimore by way of Nippon Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Columbia University. Since August 2022, he has been a professor of surgery and transplantation and the Director of Xenotransplantation at Johns Hopkins University (JHU).

In his lecture, Dr. Yamada enthralled the audience with his work in xenotransplantation, or transplanting organs from animals into humans. While he was told early on that his vision for xenotransplantation was “simply a good dream,” Dr. Yamada pressed on and is turning that good dream into a great reality.

To start, Dr. Yamada described four milestones he hopes to achieve in his first four years at JHU: 1) achieve funding, 2) establish a collaborative network, 3) obtain even more funding, and 4) start human clinical trials in xenotransplantation. Unsurprisingly, Dr. Yamada kept ahead of schedule and achieved his first milestone within just two months at JHU. Currently, Dr. Yamada and his lab have been focused on pre-clinical models of organ transplantation and inducing immune tolerance.

Dr. Yamada brilliantly fit years of complex, innovative science into a fascinating one-hour lecture for the audience. His initial work consisted of identifying targets for immunomodulation prior to xenotransplantation. Next, he developed pre-clinical models of xenotransplantation by transplanting kidneys from pigs into baboons. Now, he is championing research towards “educating” the host immune system by including the thymus with the transplanted kidney as a method of immunomodulation. He described the thymus as a “T cell school” that can induce immune tolerance and thereby prevent the host adaptive immune system from rejecting the transplanted kidney. The implications that tolerance induction would have for the world of transplant surgery are astronomical: not only would xenotransplantation address the organ shortage, but it could also eliminate the need for lifelong immunosuppression and its associated complications. Furthermore, it could even turn transplantation into a semi-elective surgery.

Fascinating science aside, sprinkled within the colorful slides of intraoperative photos and histology specimens were frequent references to one of Dr. Yamada’s main principles: mentorship is key. “Everybody works hard, everybody is smart, but we need additional things.” He paid tribute to his mentors who helped guide him through his career, and beamed as he proudly displayed a photo of the diverse women and men making up his lab. The amount of pride he has in each member of his team was palpable. Dr. Yamada continued, “I believe this organization [SAAS] is very important for Asians and will help a lot.”

Dr. Yamada concluded his lecture with sage advice for aspiring Asian surgeon scientists. Have clarity about your purpose. Know your goals, and know that they may change. Do not become complacent – if you have reached a milestone, move on to the next one. Self-assess frequently and identify new opportunities that you may not have considered previously. Lastly, if you have not met a milestone after a self-granted grace period of two years, either re-challenge yourself or change directions.

Dr. Yamada’s lecture left the audience awed, inspired, and optimistic both for the future of transplant surgery and the budding careers of Asian surgeon scientists.



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.

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.