Report on the IASG SSAT initiative since inception: a historical time line perspective
The Society for Surgery of the Alimentary Tract (SSAT) is the American equivalent of the IASG.
Digestive Diseases Week (DDW) is the combined annual meeting of four societies
The American Gastroenterology Association (AGA)
The American Association for Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD)
American Society for Gastointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE)
SSAT is the smallest of the four societies at the DDW and puts together a comprehensive and popular GI Surgery academic programme at the conference.
The SSAT has tasked itself to increase its international presence and impact and is currently actively pursuing interactions with the Japanese, South Americas headed by Argentina and India.
The Indian interaction was formalized after a chance meeting between Dr Ernst Klar a German member of the SSAT and the then Head of International relations of SSAT and Dr VP Bhalla member of the IASG attending DDW 2013. Both Drs Klar and Bhalla put up proposals to their respective societies for official acceptance to take the proposal forward.
The initial Indian proposal was vetted by senior IASG members and there was an exchange of letters on what the collaboration would mean between Drs Khandelwal President IASG, Dr SM Chandramohan Secretary IASG, Dr E Klar and others. It was decided that it would be a good idea to formalize a working collaboration between the two societies.
The first participation by SSAT in IASG CON was scheduled to be a talk by Dr Stavely O’Carrol at the Kolkata in 2013. He was held up by a mix up on his visa and travel arrangement and could not deliver his talk in person. However, thanks to the efforts of Dr Sanjay DeBakshi, a live video over Skype was made possible and was effectively moderated by Dr Ramesh Ardhanari at the Indian end.
The SSAT put forward a deeply discounted membership offer for members of the IASG
The IASG set up a special SSAT session during the annual IASGCON and decided to invite two SSAT speakers to participate. The commitment of the local IASG was limited to providing local hospitality.
The SSAT executive agreed to the above proposal and a membership drive was undertaken to offer discounted membership including setting up a SSAT stall at IASGCON 2014 at Ahmedabad.
Dr Sanjiv Haribhakti set up the first formal SSAT session at Ahmedabad and Drs Ernst Klar and Stavely O’Carrol participated as SSAT speakers. At the General Body meeting at Ahmedabad the decision to formalize the collaboration was taken by.
Fresh initiative: Indian speaker at DDW
Following discussions during DDW 2014 at Washington Dr Klar prevailed upon the SSAT to start an International speaker session at DDW where a senior Indian speaker assigned by the IASG would participate. The SSAT support for this would be an honorarium that would be offered to all invited speakers. This would partly cover travel and local hospitality for two days.
Dr GV Rao was the first IASG speaker at DDW 2015 Washington
During IASGCON 2015 Pune, Dr Mahesh Thombare organized the SSAT session that was attended by Dr Govind Nandkumar and Dr Hiromicho Ito as SSAT representatives.
In a further push to the collaboration of the two societies SSAT approved an IASG specific fellowship for a young GI surgeon of the IASG with a fellowship grant of US$ 5500. This would cover the fellow’s attendance at DDW and allow the fellow to spend 4–8 weeks visiting centres of excellence of her/his choice in the USA. The SSAT would facilitate the attachment at these centres. The selection process would involve shortlisting of three candidates by the IASG. These names would be forwarded to the Fellowship Council of SSAT. The Council would make the final choice.
A mid-term IASG Silver Jubilee meet on ‘Complications in GI Surgery’ was organized by Dr VP Bhalla as a joint IASG–SSAT initiative in New Delhi in February 2016.
DDW 2016 was held at San Diego and Dr Adarsh Choudhary represented the IASG at the International Session. Dr Anil Agarwal, the then president IASG, the other speaker could not attend at the last minute due to circumstances beyond his control. Dr Choudhary had two additional meetings with the SSAT president and other senior members as the official IASG representative to discuss the way forward. In the second meeting he was accompanied by Dr GV Rao and a way to organize a ‘Best of SSAT’ meeting was proposed by Dr GV Rao. A detailed report on the meetings was submitted by Dr Choudhary.
The IASG fellowship award was announced and Dr Vishal Gupta from KGMU Lucknow was the recipient of the first award. A presentation was made during the DDW and subsequently Dr Vishal submitted a detailed completion report during the SSAT session at Coimbatore. The SSAT session at the IASGCON 2016 in Coimbatore was attended by Sean P Cleary and Daniel I Chu.
The IASG was represented by Drs Ramesh Ardhanari and VP Bhalla in the International session of the SSAT at DDW 2017 at Chicago.
Dr S Saluja was awarded the second SSAT IASG fellowship for 2017 and at the time of writing this report he is scheduled to present his experience at the IASGCON 2017. The process for selecting the next fellow is on and the shortlisting interviews are to be held during the IASGCON 2017.
In addition a detailed meeting was held between Dr Peush Sahni President elect of IASG and Drs Selwyn Vickers and other senior members from both sides including Drs Ramesh Ardhanari, GV Rao and VP Bhalla from IASG and Drs Nathaniel Sooper, Jenifer Seng and Mr Jon Blackstone from SSAT. The Best of SSAT proposal was also discussed, as was the need to inform the SSAT much in advance about the dates of IASGCON to enable SSAT to plan on whom to send for the meeting. A detailed report on the executive meetings has been forwarded to Secretary IASG.
Possible future steps
1. Engage SSAT representatives at IASGCON in other sessions such as Video workshop, CME and Bursary programme
2. Officially propose visiting fellowships and conference attendance at IASGCON for young SSAT surgeons
3. IASG representation on Editorial Board of the JOGSI