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Passing the Baton


A Reflection on 25 Years' Service to the ABS


In 1994, I received a call to be an associate ABS examiner in Nashville. Six years earlier, as an examinee, I had quaked in mortal fear in front of Marshall Orloff, Don Trunkey, Larry Way and three others in an airport hotel in San Francisco. Now I was being offered the opportunity to be on the other end of the examining calculus. I got to see behind the curtain. I was thrilled.

Fast forward two decades and many years of ABS involvement. In 2014, I had just been elected to serve as vice chair elect of the ABS, in line behind David Mahvi and Steve Evans. A strategic plan was recently completed, but it seemed that each successive board chair exhibited some degree of frustration that one year was insufficient to create meaningful change in a century old organization, to move the board forward to meet the needs of a rapidly changing world of surgery, surgical education, and ongoing certification in the 21st century.

Given a congruence of vision, Drs. Mahvi, Evans and I committed to a three-year cycle of work, completing the unfinished business of the prior board chair at the same time as we introduced new initiatives. By "passing the baton" between ABS board chairs we had the opportunity to see important projects through to their logical conclusions, as most transformative projects cannot be completed in a year. Subsequent board chairs, Mary Klingensmith, Spence Taylor, and now Craig Kent have also provided the continuity that we so desired as they focused on board governance, structure and function, as well as taking on innovative education programs to improve and make more flexible surgical training.

On December 9, 2019, during my last exam as a senior examiner, we turned the metaphorical symbol of continuity into a physical emblem as I presented Craig Kent a gold (colored only!) baton with his name engraved. It is my hope that Craig will present John Mellinger a similar baton - in addition to a basket of unfinished work, I suspect - to create a new tradition, a tradition that acknowledges the importance of continuity in carrying forward the work of the Board.

In the ABS office a plaque has been placed to remember those in the 21st century who served as ABS board chair, providing leadership and continuity as they pass the baton to the next leader of our venerable organization.

With great respect for Dr Buyske, the remarkable staff at the ABS, and all those who serve and have served the ABS as Directors and Council members,

John G. Hunter, M.D.
ABS Chair 2016-2017

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