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Alumna completes term as youngest and first female president of oldest chapter of American College of Surgeons

Susan Lee, M.D. (PRES ’93, OBG ’97), recently completed a term as the youngest and first female president of the Brooklyn/Long Island Chapter of the American College of Surgeons (ACS), and is now a governor to the national ACS chapter. Brooklyn/Long Island is the first chapter of the ACS and one of the largest.

“Serving as the ACS chapter president was a really great experience,” says Dr. Lee, a breast surgeon at Winthrop Surgical Associates at Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola, New York. “It is at least a six-year commitment  you serve as secretary-treasurer for two years, vice president for two years and president for two years,” says Dr. Lee. “Then you’re a governor to the national ACS chapter for three years  renewable for an additional three years.

‘Do-able’ time commitment
Dr. Lee says many physicians worry that the time commitment for leadership positions such as this will be too much.

“It didn’t run my life,” she says. “One of our female board members is a neurosurgeon with two children. It’s certainly do-able with a busy practice and personal commitments. And, once you enter a leadership position, you meet so many other people and you get access and exposure to other leadership opportunities.”

Dr. Lee is now one of two New York state chairs for the ACS Commission on Cancer.

Inspiration from Mayo mentors
Dr. Lee encourages other surgeons to become involved in the ACS. “Surgeons often don’t feel compelled to join the ACS because their subspecialties have their own organizations,” she says. “Two of my former Mayo Clinic mentors  Maurice Webb, M.D. (GYNO ’72), and Karl Podratz, M.D., Ph.D. (GYNO ’79)  were on the ACS Board of Regents and inspired me to become involved.

“Given all the changes in medicine today, surgeons can’t just focus on their clinical practice. We must get involved in regulations and standards that affect how we take care our patients, how we practice, how we are reviewed and compensated. Active participation helps to ensure we are involved in the decision-making process instead of being dictated to about how to practice our profession by those lacking clinical experience. The ACS provides many areas for involvement including education, quality improvement, networking, and advocacy as well as a united voice for all surgical subspecialties. There is always strength in numbers.”

Reflection on Mayo training
Dr. Lee reflects on her training at Mayo Clinic. “The exposure to colleagues from all over the world is really significant,” she says. “I had incredible mentors and friends during my time at Mayo and still have close friendships with many of them.

“When you’re in Rochester, there aren’t a lot of distractions. You spend years with the same people, which is conducive to forming strong bonds and promotes a sense of collegiality. That collegiality is so interwoven in Mayo Clinic and contributes to the clinic’s efficiency. It truly is a special place in terms of patient care, collaboration and attitude. It provides a foundation of expecting a certain level of excellence.”

Dr. Lee shares that a former colleague told her, “I will never forgive Mayo Clinic for giving me such a high caliber work environment and high expectations. Wherever I go from there, I will be disappointed.”

Susan Lee, M.D.
Breast Surgeon, Winthrop Surgical Associates, Winthrop University Hospital, Mineola, New York
Fellowship: Breast Surgery, Brown Medical School/Women & Infants Hospital, Providence, Rhode Island
Residency: Obstetrics and Gynecology, Surgery, Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education, Rochester, Minnesota
Medical School: University of Illinois College of Medicine, Urbana
Undergraduate: University of Illinois Champaign/Urbana

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