The ‘Silent Minority’


In May, Rebecca (Becky) Maron CAE, the first Executive Director of the Society for Vascular Surgery, is retiring. Becky played a pivotal role in setting the stage for the exponential growth and success of the SVS we know today. Her leadership ability, strategic planning acumen and management style were a perfect fit with the visionary SVS voluntary leadership. This has continued to be true throughout her 13-year tenure with the Society.

I am certain that every SVS President and committee member who has worked with Becky over the years will agree that she has a wonderful “board side” manner – she is a true partner, always providing support and guidance to ensure that each leader is able to achieve the Society’s goals and objectives during their term of office. Patricia Burton, Deputy Executive Director and Executive Director of the SVS Foundation, writes that “Staff would agree that Becky is a wonderful leader as well, always providing just the right amount of oversight and direction needed.” Becky has also been instrumental in the growth of the SVS through the addition of new programs and services, the most notable of which are the SVS PSO and VQI. We will definitely miss her guidance.

I asked Becky if I could interview her for this editorial but she respectfully declined stating “I prefer to stay a behind the scenes person.” Come to think of it, I would expect nothing more of this demure person who has been both a good friend and mentor to me in my position as medical editor of Vascular Specialist. Becky oversees my editorials and makes sure that I do not embarrass myself or the Society, and she frequently has provided me with important direction in developing these opinion pieces.

However, her reluctance to being feted made me realize that there are many others who work for the Society yet gain little or no recognition. These include our excellent paid fulltime staff but more significantly the “Silent Minority,” the members who serve on SVS committees. There are 36 committees including the various Councils and the Board of the SVS, requiring the work of over 500 volunteers. Currently, at least 100 members serve on at least two, and many serve on a multitude of committees. Almost all of these volunteers are also “behind the scenes persons” garnering little recognition from the general membership. They are, for the most part, busy clinical surgeons during the day but willing to devote countless hours, usually at night and on weekends, to their committee work. Yes, “Silent” they may be but why do I refer to them as the “Minority”? After all, isn’t 400 a large number? Well, not really. The SVS has over 5,000 members of whom 2,200 are active. So only about 20% of active members participate in its organizational activities. Further, many of these are a dedicated cadre who have been involved year after year. Perhaps the real “silent minority” are the limited number of members who contribute to the SVS PAC. I gather that no more than 10% are donors and once again it is that small group who pledge year in and year out. Yet the PAC is so critical to all vascular surgeons. It is one of our most important methods of assuring the survival of our specialty and our ability to serve vascular patients.

So why are so few members willing to contribute time or money to further the functions of the SVS? Perhaps it is because many members still do not realize just how our Society has evolved since Becky became its first Executive Director. Thirteen years ago, two predominantly academic vascular societies merged into one, becoming the preeminent Society for all U.S. vascular surgeons. Originally, its dominant function was to put on a premier vascular meeting. Of course this is still a major function of our Society and most would agree that the annual VAM is the foremost meeting of its kind in the world. This year’s upcoming meeting organized by Ron Dalman and his committee may be the best ever. However, over the ensuing years, the SVS has become involved not only in the academic arena but in government relations, patient education, training of future vascular surgeons, postgraduate education, research, quality assessment, and all aspects of vascular and endovascular surgery. It argues on our behalf for improved payment for our services. It funds research enterprises and trains future leaders. It provides courses on coding vascular and endovascular surgeries. It now provides the essential tool for quality initiatives. There is representation on it from regional, other national, and many international vascular societies. It produces the Journal of Vascular Surgery, the Journal of Venous and Lymphatic Disorders, the Journal of Vascular Cases, Rutherford’s textbook of Vascular Surgery and, of course, this newspaper -Vascular Specialist.

Furthermore, it authors authoritative manuscripts and position papers on current diagnostics and therapies for vascular disorders.

Let me assure you, the Society for Vascular Surgery bears little resemblance to that original Society Becky inherited. Through her efforts, and the tireless silent work of many vascular surgeons and office staff, we are now the beneficiaries of this amazing organization. But it still has much more to offer and more goals to achieve. Most importantly it needs to increase public recognition of what we do as vascular surgeons and why patients should entrust their vascular health to us rather than some of the other specialists involved in delivering vascular care.

In the ensuing months Ron Fairman, Clem Darling, and Bruce Perler, three of our most tireless “minority” will select volunteers to serve on the various SVS committees. Many members have already volunteered but I urge all to consider helping. If not now, perhaps next year. And please consider making a donation to our Political Action Committee. It may be true that many practitioners either don’t have the time or the interest to pursue such positions. Some may feel that even if they serve they will not have the power to make a significant change that could positively affect our lives or those of our patients. I fervently believe that is not the case! The more volunteers and donors, the better the chance that vascular surgeons will no longer be seen as a silent minority but rather the outspoken leaders in the field. n


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