A “fantastic opportunity" and a “career-defining" experience. This was how fourth-year medical student Shadé Breedt described her week-long attendance at the 48th World Congress of Surgery which was held in Krakow, Poland in August.
The congress, which was presented by the International Society of Surgery (ISS), brought together world experts in surgery and provided a platform for collaboration on future diagnostic and surgical challenges and patient-oriented solutions.
This year was the first year that students were invited to attend as part of a delegation from the International Association of Student Surgical Societies (IASSS), the official pre-specialist society affiliated with the ISS. About 23 students and newly-qualified doctors from a range of countries, including South Africa, Australia, the UK, Malaysia, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Somaliland and Europe, took part.
Breedt said it was a life-changing opportunity to be part of the congress which included more than 60 sessions and lectures from world-renowned experts in their respective fields.
“We were able to interact with a range of world famous professionals working in different surgical fields. We conducted interviews with them and assisted with the administration and the social media of the congress. We were also part of sessions on what the future of surgery could be and how we envisaged it. We had opportunities to attend workshops on career advancement and writing, among other things."
Breedt's attendance came about after she attended an annual symposium of the IASSS in Cape Town in 2018, which was co-hosted by Stellenbosch University and the University of Cape Town. “After that symposium, I started seeing myself as a future surgeon."
She applied for executive committee membership of the Stellenbosch University Surgical Society (SUSS) and was appointed as administrator. It was through the SUSS platform that she heard about the Future Surgeons Programme at the World Congress.
“You had to apply with a research project or show evidence of being actively involved as a change agent in your community. I applied with my research project in geriatric trauma under the supervision of Professor Elmin Steyn, head of the Surgery Department at Tygerberg Hospital. I sent my CV and was selected."
Highlights of the trip, she said, were the many skills she and her peers accumulated, including how to “network on a global scale", conduct effective interviews, write research abstracts and how to refine their CVs. “We also gained advice on how to persevere through 12-hour shifts and keep a smile on our faces!"
A personal highlight was to “experience World War II history first hand. “I visited the Gestapo headquarters in Krakow, the Schindler's List Museum as well as Auschwitz concentration camp – an intense and treasured opportunity."
On her future goals, Breedt said: “I have a keen interest in neurosurgery and trauma surgery, but after this congress, which emphasized the importance of research and academic surgery, I will consider those aspects of medicine, with a view to benefiting the larger community."
One week before leaving for the congress, Breedt was appointed SUSS chairperson. “I've only been chair for a month but want to implement lots of what I learnt on the congress. Part of being chair means giving others this career-defining opportunity."
Caption (banner photo): The IASSS Future Surgeons Delegation with the new ISS president, John Hunter. Shadé Breedt is fifth from the right.
Caption (article photo 1): Shadé Breedt with her mentor, Prof Elmin Steyn, at the 48th World Congress of Surgery.
Caption (article photo 2): The new SUSS committee for 2019/2020.