2024 | Volume 25 | Issue 1

Over the next few issues of Surgical News, we will be profiling some of our Educator of Merit Award winners.
The Educator of Merit award is administered by the Academy of Surgical Educators and is awarded annually in the following categories:
-    SET Supervisor/SIMG Supervisor of the Year is to recognise an exceptional contribution toward supporting Trainees or Specialist International Medical Graduates (SIMGs) and is awarded in each state or territory in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand.
-    Facilitator/Instructor of the Year  recognises an exceptional contribution by a course facilitator/instructor teaching on Professional Development or Skills Education courses and is awarded to one participant across Australasia.
In 2023, The Academy of Surgical Educators awarded eight SET supervisor/SIMG supervisor of the year awards, and two facilitator/instructor of the year awards.
Meet two of our SET/SIMG supervisor of the year awardees who share their surgical education experience:
Dr Simon Chong, Plastic and Reconstructive surgeon, Aotearoa New Zealand
What inspired you to pursue surgical education?
All departments, some more than others, have challenges to meet. When I returned home after Fellowship, my new workplace was no different—I saw the Surgical Education and Training (SET) Trainees  reliving my own training struggles, unnecessarily.
There was unrealised potential to uplift the training experience. Shortly thereafter, the Supervisor of Training stepped aside to pursue his sabbatical, and opportunity sang a siren song.
The mana accrued to the position by past supervisors proved a powerful tool, and I initiated conversations of substance, making changes for better training and standing firm against training erosion. On the shoulders of giants, many good things may be done.

What is your proudest moment as a surgical educator?
SET selection is a time of mixed emotions, sadness and disappointment but also joy and elation. I had the privilege of breaking good news to a fine young registrar who had been newly appointed to SET, and the first appointee from our department in 13 years. I won’t forget that phone call, the pride I felt for him, and the pride I felt for all my colleagues. Selection may happen routinely, but it never ceases to be special.

Any advice for new surgical educators just getting started?
A wise colleague once said, “Selection and training are the most consequential things we do as surgeons.” As educators, it is a privilege to touch the lives not just of our own patients, but every patient touched by those we train.


Dr Eric Levi, Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgeon, Victoria


What inspired you to pursue surgical education?
We stand on the shoulders of giants. I have personally experienced how a brilliant surgical mentor or educator can unlock something in me that I did not realise I had. They coached me to a better practice and trained me to be a better surgeon. It's only natural that I want to do the same for the next generation of surgeons.
What is your proudest moment as a surgical educator?
Happens every day in the little things. When the Trainee picks up a new concept. When the Trainee presents better. When the Trainee completes a bigger part of the procedure. When the Trainee describes a challenging case that is well managed. When the Trainee retells the story of a difficult complication managed well. When the Trainee clicks submit on a manuscript. When the Trainee says they're taking time off to be a parent/have a baby/care for elderly parent etc.
All these big and small things that will lead up to the day they stand up to declare the RACS Fellowship Pledge on Convocation Day.
Any advice for new surgical educators just getting started?
See yourself firstly as a coach, not an examiner. Trainees need more small daily coaching notes rather than big conversations at mid and end of term. "In this clinic, please let me see you examine three patients." "You tackled that part well, but this part you can do X to make it better." "The next time you present can you tell me your three management options." "You just named a drug, tell me how it works." "You've just excised this lesion, what do you think the pathologist will see under the microscope?"
Also, my general perspective on procedural training: for the early Trainee: "Let me show you how to do it." For the middle Trainee: "Let's do this part together." For the advanced Trainee: "You show me how you do it." And finally, set up a culture of training in your unit. Everyone is a coach in your department.


Nominations for the 2024 Educator of Merit awards will open in May. Keep an eye on our awards webpage, and upcoming issues of Fax Mentis and Surgical News for  more information.