Message from the EAST President

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Dear Members of the Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma (EAST),

 It is with a profound sense of honor and responsibility that I address you today as your new president.  I am deeply grateful for the trust you have placed in me to lead this exceptional organization. As we start this year, I wish to express my heartfelt appreciation for the dedication, expertise, and compassion that each of you brings to caring for other humans. Your pursuit of relieving human suffering as well as to supporting each other in this work not only advances our field but also embodies the very mission of EAST – to enhance the care of the injured and surgically ill patient, through professional development and support of those who are committed to these patients.

One of the more daunting challenges of leadership in an organization like ours, is setting the course for coming year while being mindful of the past and future.  I have done a lot of thinking over the past few months about EAST, its mission and the challenges we face in our profession and in our world today.  In his EAST Presidential Address this year, Dr. Jason Smith talked to us about the limited amount of time that we have to make a difference.  He reminded us that we should strive to use this limited time to improve our world.  As I thought about all of this, I fell back on three notions that have been instructive to me over the years.  These notions, each powerful on its own, together create a foundation that can steer us through the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

Antifragility, a term coined by Nassim Taleb, refers to the capacity of a system to not only withstand chaos and stress but to emerge stronger from it. In his words: "Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors."  In the context of EAST and the dynamic field of acute care surgery, we find ourselves in an environment full of unpredictability and intense challenges. Yet, it is these features that allow us to have the unique opportunity to grow, innovate, and improve. By building systems and helping people to grow in the face of stress we can adopt a culture of adaptability and of continuous learning within our organization. We will see setbacks not as obstacles but as catalysts for growth, driving us to refine our techniques, expand our knowledge, and enhance our capacity to serve our patients.

The Process”, as characterized by Nick Saban, emphasizes the importance of focusing on the present, the dedication to each step of our work, and the relentless pursuit of improvement. This idea teaches that success is not the goal but the byproduct of a commitment to doing everything the right way, every single time. For EAST, this means dedicating ourselves to the minutiae of our practice, the continuous education of our members, and the meticulous pursuit of advancements in our field. It is in the daily grind, the study, the surgeries, and the collaboration where our greatest achievements will be made. 

Stoicism, an ancient philosophy that teaches the development of self-control, bravery, and freedom from passion through rationality, offers us guidance in navigating the inherent uncertainties of our profession. Marcus Aurelius, a Stoic philosopher, once said, "You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength." This mindset is especially relevant in our field and can be transformative.  It can help us to face the highs and lows of our profession with levelheadedness and strength. It reminds us that our reactions to challenges are within our control, and through this control, we can lead our teams with wisdom and compassion.

This year, the agenda for EAST will reflect these philosophies in the initiatives, projects, and goals we set. We will:

Foster Antifragility: Launch initiatives aimed at innovation and adaptability in our organization will endeavor to use these principles to inform our initiatives over the next year in service to our members and patients. 

Embrace "The Process": We commit to focusing on the small, incremental steps that lead to excellence in our practice and professional development.

Incorporate Stoic Principles: Develop resources and programs that support the well-being of our members, fostering a balanced approach to the challenges of our work.  We will approach our work with a calm mindset, focusing on what we can control and accepting what we cannot.

I cannot express enough my gratitude for the opportunity to serve as your president. The work we do is not easy, but it is of the utmost importance. Together, guided by the principles I mentioned above, we can navigate the challenges of our field, continuously improve in our personal and professional lives, and make a lasting impact on the care our patients.

Thank you for your dedication to our mission and for the hard work you do every day. I look forward to what we will accomplish together.

Warmest regards,

Ben L. Zarzaur, MD, MPH, FACS 
President, Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma

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