2023 | Volume 24 | Issue 5
Author: Dr Nicola Hill, Otolaryngology Surgeon at Nelson Marlborough Health, Aotearoa New Zealand, Council Elected Member of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons
When I think about the value of Fellowship of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS), I often think about the tangible benefits. And there are plenty of them. Membership of RACS brings many advantages, including:
- Use of the post-nominal Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (FRACS): The FRACS post nominal is a mark of recognition. It demonstrates our dedication to maintaining the highest standards of practice. It signifies a commitment to upholding the ethical and professional standards set by the organisation. The FRACS logo and other artwork is available on the members portal on the RACS website for use on letterheads, business cards and websites. The post nominal can only be used by current members of the College.
- Continuing Professional Development (CPD) with a structured CPD program: From January 2024, all Australian doctors will need a CPD Home that is quality assured and supports safe practice. All Australian Medical Council (AMC) accredited specialist medical colleges are CPD homes and as a FRACS, we automatically meet the requirement to have a CPD home. Developed by surgeons for surgeons, the RACS CPD program meets, and often exceeds, the rigorous requirements of the Medical Board of Australia (MBA) and the Medical Council of New Zealand (MCNZ) with specific professional development and skills programs. The online CPD platform and app make it easy to record CPD.
- All courses are either free of charge or at low cost to Fellows: RACS also offers events such as the Annual Scientific Congress and scientific meetings in our respective jurisdictions, micro-learning activities on key surgical standards and reflective practice, webinars and networking events organised by sections and special interest groups.
- Access to the latest research and information with subscriptions to RACS publications including:
- The ANZ Journal of Surgery, a leading publication for surgical research in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand
- Surgical News, a bi-monthly magazine, now with its own website, which focuses on news, the latest surgical developments on research funded by scholarships, and RACS events and courses
- Fax Mentis, an e-bulletin sharing news, information, and events once a fortnight.
- Access to RACS library collections, services, and research assistance.
- Mortality audits that monitor surgical safety, address process errors, and identify significant trends in surgical care.
- A trauma verification program helps hospitals and trauma teams measure their skills and processes against international benchmarks.
- Surgical scholarships and grants: The Foundation for Surgery is the second-largest funder of surgical education and research worldwide, awarding up to $2 million dollars annually in scholarships and grant funding. The Scholarships and Grants Program supports you in your research, and learning and development activities in Australia, Aotearoa New Zealand and overseas.
In addition, membership of RACS carries less directly quantifiable benefits, including advocacy, commitment to professional standards, and involvement with education. RACS advocates for its members and the field of surgery—providing a strong voice in healthcare policy and regulatory matters. For example, RACS voice was decisive in support of the government's gun law reform laws in Aotearoa New Zealand. As members, you can contribute to discussions and have the opportunity to influence the strategic direction of the College. RACS membership also signifies a commitment to upholding defined ethical and professional standards. This commitment is vital for maintaining the integrity of the surgical profession.
The first of the four stated purposes in the constitution of our College are to advance education, training and research in the practice of surgery. As Fellows, we are privileged in being involved in the training of our future surgeons and colleagues. Fellowship offers the opportunity to become a hospital supervisor for Surgical Education and Training (SET), an examiner, or a skills course instructor or director.
On a personal level, I highly value my Fellowship of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (FRACS). I am proud to be part of an organisation with a rich history, and to be part of a wider surgical community. I value our longstanding binational relationship. As a New Zealander, I welcome the perspectives I gain from my Australian counterparts. The collective nature of RACS is powerful.
I recently attended the Aotearoa New Zealand National Committee Annual Scientific Meeting in Wellington. To hear from and speak to the Minister of Health, Ayesha Verrall; Margie Apa and Riana Manuel, the Chief Executive Officers of Te Whatu Ora and Te Aka Whai Ora (Aotearoa New Zealand’s health leaders); Director-General of Health Diana Sarfati; and Medical Council of New Zealand Chair, Curtis Walker was a privilege and emphasised how influential the combined voice of surgeons can be.
I am very proud to be a FRACS, which is an acknowledgement of many years of training and preparation. When I have a difficult case, I draw confidence from the high standard of training I have had as a FRACS.
Being a member has given me opportunities to grow leadership skills through committee roles and relationships with my colleagues across Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia. The James Ramsay Fellowship for Provincial Surgeons helped me attend the Harvard School of Public Health for a clinical leadership course and I am grateful for this opportunity.
At present, RACS is going through a period of disruption. This is a time of review and reset for our College. Some of the upcoming changes may be confronting and mean some of our services will be delivered differently. However, we have weathered many challenges since RACS was established. Disruption is unsettling but it gives us an opportunity to grow as an organisation. We can modernise while retaining our rich history and core values. I believe this is a time to reflect on the value of Fellowship and how we maintain this while we build a stronger College for our future surgeons and communities.