It is apparent from the many letters I have received as medical editor of Vascular Specialist that vascular surgeons are disappointed that our patients, insurance companies, hospital administrators, and the government do not recognize the special skills we provide.
I believe there are two principal reasons that, although different, may be related. First may be that we are still not recognized as a separate specialty from General Surgery. This despite the fact that, for most of us, endovascular procedures have supplanted a significant number of open operations. Second may be the failure of the Society for Vascular Surgery’s name to define its relevance or attract new members. If I am correct then perhaps SVS should be renamed the American College of Vascular Surgery. A brief review of past events may help explain why this name change would be beneficial.
Some years ago a poll of vascular surgeons favored establishing vascular surgery as a distinct specialty. However, despite considerable effort Frank Veith, Jim Stanley, and others were unsuccessful in creating a recognized American Board of Vascular Surgery.
In part this was because the leadership at the time did not support separation from the American Board of Surgery. Further, the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) would not recognize Vascular Surgery as a distinct specialty.
Today our small group of actively practicing vascular surgeons, perhaps no more than 2,500, have splintered our institutional organizations. Cynics may suggest that we have almost as many societies as we have members.
We have SVS, SCVS, VESS, AVF, and even the new American Academy of Peripheral Vascular Surgeons, as well as many regional societies. Further, even though SVS may be the de facto umbrella organization, it is hampered by its restrictive name. The Society for Vascular Surgery sounds like an elitist club and not the governing body that we need to represent us on the national and international stage.
Accordingly there are still many vascular surgeons who, incorrectly, consider themselves unwelcome. They also may not realize just how involved the SVS has become in every aspect of our vascular practices.
SVS, with almost 50 committees staffed by paid employees as well as numerous volunteers, is involved in nearly every aspect of vascular surgery as well as postgraduate education. It represents us on the RUC and CMS and our active (but poorly supported) PAC represents our interests in Washington.
SVS generates research dollars and supports numerous grants and fellowships and encourages medical students to become vascular surgeons. It runs the most prestigious and all-encompassing scientific and social meeting. Vascular surgeons from all over the world are honored to be affiliated members of our Society yet some local surgeons still remain nonmembers.
By changing the SVS name to the American College of Vascular Surgery (ACVS) we provide our organization with a monicker that has the same gravitas as professional Societies that are recognized by the ABMS. It also demonstrates that our members, rather than being a select clique, have collegiality.
Furthermore, it confirms that it is our governing body and is the voice of all American vascular surgeons. It reaffirms that it is a unique organization dedicated to treating patients with vascular conditions and composed of surgeons who “operate, dilate, and medicate.”
We will not need the ABMS to approve this change. We don’t even need to sever our association with the American Board of Surgery. After all we are still surgeons!
We can continue to get Board certification through that body since our Board examination is, for practical purposes, developed and run by SVS. Members who pass the exam will become Fellows of the ACVS and will have the privilege of adding FACVS to their professional signature rather than FACS. Our Distinguished Fellows will use DFACVS. We can even have a formal convocation.
Certainly, some structural changes may need to accompany this name change in order for the American College of Vascular Surgeons to be fully representative of all vascular surgeons. But for now, with this simple change, we will encourage more vascular surgeons to join our ranks and advance the recognition of vascular as a distinct specialty.