• 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!

Illustration of open book that reads "SAAS Stories"

The SAAS Communications Committee held the first SAAS Stories Essay Competition this year, and we were blown away by the response from all of you! The SAAS Stories Essay Competition was created to give our membership body an opportunity to express themselves and tune in to their creative sides.

There were no restrictions to format or topic, and we had 26 incredible essays and poems submitted that spanned topics from mentorship and personal identity to sharing about family stories and patient experiences. We will feature stories from our finalists in the SAAS Newsletter this year, and our winner will have their essay published in the Journal of Surgical Research in the annual SAAS edition of JSR.

We hope you enjoy our first few SAAS Stories with this newsletter!

Illustration of open book that reads "SAAS Stories"

When Excellence Isn’t Enough

In elementary school, I got one spank for every question I got wrong on a test. Afterwards my māmā would say, “Next time, no mistakes.” Carelessness was painful and costly; only excellence was acceptable. My māmā—and later, many surgical mentors—made sure I understood this. Surgery, however, has taught me that excellence isn’t always enough.

When I was a second year resident, my māmā learned she had breast cancer and decided to undergo a bilateral mastectomy. She just “wanted me to know” but didn’t want me to stop work or come care for her. That would’ve been an acknowledgement of worry, and if I was worried, then this was serious. To me, this was a shocking admission of vulnerability and fragility from a woman who embodied stubborn strength. When she was denied the opportunity to train as a physician in Taiwan, she emigrated to the US, became an RN and raised three doctors: a PhD, MD, and DDS. Now, she faced a new hurdle, and my intellectual excellence wasn’t enough to explain away her fears. Nor did she want my explanations. All she wanted was for me to stop talking and listen to her (for once). That was how to show her I cared.

I will also never forget the lessons I learned from a 19-year-old, Chinese male with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. When he coded, his dad stoically told us, “When it’s time, it’s time. We don’t want any machines keeping him alive to be a vegetable.” Pause. “I just don’t understand. It’s so stupid.” Something about this dad’s rectangular wire-rim glasses and the way he said “stupid”—emphasizing the “st-“ and dropping the “-d”—reminded me of my own bàba. I couldn’t imagine my bàba having to make such a decision if that were my brother dying from a wound that technical excellence couldn’t fix. All I could say to this dad was, “I’m so sorry.”

What does success as a surgeon—and as a parent—require? Both demand intellectual, technical and emotional excellence to the point of utter exhaustion and unfathomable joy. But if excellence is not enough to save every life, or cure every cancer, or assuage every fear, why pursue it at all? Is it the fear of failure and punishment? No. It is for every parent whose child has died in my OR from horrendous trauma and yet managed to whisper, “Thank you for trying to save my child.” It is for every patient who has suffered one setback after another and still smiled at me to say, “Thank you for taking care of me.” So instead of teaching my trainees and children that only excellence is acceptable, I will also strive to pass on the wisdom of recognizing their limits, the humility of admitting them, and the grace of offering empathy and compassion when needed—both to our patients and ourselves.

Minna Wieck, MD

Assistant Professor, Pediatric Surgery, UC Davis

When Your Patient Dies

“Just let me know when it’s my time.”

Lisa asked me this favor, as her battle with inflammatory breast cancer progressed. Diagnosed two years prior, her treatment journey was intense, with rounds of chemotherapy and surgical efforts that, unfortunately, did not yield the results we wanted. “I know you always do your best so I’m going to be fine”—her optimism unwavered, in my abilities as a surgeon and for her prognosis equally.

Our patient-doctor relationship deepened as she entrusted every aspect of her care to my judgment. When she called me telling me she was yellow—I knew the day I was dreading was here faster than we had predicted. Despite the grim prognosis, Lisa remained steadfast, her faith in my abilities unshaken. She fainted at home one day and came to enough senses to text me that she had seen her MRI results on her portal as I was crossing the street to enter into the hospital.

In the next weeks, I saw an ugly progression. Although I had seen few, thankfully, of my patients progress to having metastatic breast cancer, usually this would happen over years. When she did not respond to my message, I knew in my heart something was wrong. My visit to her hospital room confirmed my fears.

She must have been tossing and turning in that room all night. The bedding was a mess and she was as yellow as a traffic light—as she once told me. “Lisa? Do you know who I am?” I asked, afraid of what she might say in her delirium that came way too fast. Then she answered me, “Of course I know who you are. You are Dr. Flannery—my best friend who saved my life. I will never forget you.” I knew in my heart that this was the moment to tell her we were at the end of our road.

As a breast surgeon, the bulk of my work involves early-stage cancer patients, where end-of-life care is less common. Yet, with Lisa, the situation was different. I found myself orchestrating discussions about her final days, a responsibility that was both an honor and a profound emotional burden. I told her husband that it was time for her to come home.

Reflecting on Lisa’s journey, I am reminded of the humbling power of cancer—its capacity to grow and spread in devastating bursts that defy our best medical efforts. Our patients place immense faith in us, often more than we sometimes feel we deserve. This trust is not merely medical but deeply personal, binding patients and doctors in a shared human experience that transcends medicine.

Lisa’s trust in me, her unwavering faith amidst challenging circumstances, has been a profound influence on my practice. It drives home the importance of our work, not just in the technical execution of surgical procedures but in the compassionate care we must provide. Each patient’s trust allows us to continue, pushing us forward even in the face of relentless adversity.

Kay Yoon-Flannery, DO, MPH

Assistant Professor, Breast Surgery, Cooper University Health Care

I Have Eviscerated a Man

I have eviscerated a man
Bowels spilling over the confines of their home
My hands elbow deep, with blood that ran
In red rivulets over my arms onto the floor

I have eviscerated a man
But not to kill or steal a life
But to staunch the flow
Of blood, to use a knife
And cut out the hole
In the lengths of bowel
And remake the body whole

I have eviscerated a man
(Not) just because I can
And it’s not the first time
But I swear, it’s not a crime
Of passion, but I do it with zeal
If only to finally seal
Shut the leaking vessel and guts
More a sculptor with careful cuts
Of the chisel to carve away
What is injured, not to slay
And yet, still I can say
I have eviscerated a man

Radhika Rastogi, MD

Surgery Resident, University of Virginia

Archives

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.”

Designing an Inclusive Operating Room: For All and By All

As the surgical workforce makes strides toward greater gender and minority representation, Dr. Meghal Shah proposes ways to make the operating room, including surgical instrument design, more accessible for everyone.

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.