ASCRS Young Surgeon Spotlight: Debby Keller

Deborah Keller, MD, FACS, FASCRS
Assistant Professor of Surgery
Division of Colorectal Surgery
Columbia University Medical Center 

Why I am a member of ASCRS:

For the continued education, career support, and mentorship. And because it is the most inspiring group of surgeons anywhere.

What advice do you have for future colorectal surgeons?

Find the things that make you happiest in practice and the people that support and inspire you—this is where you should spend your time. 

ASCRS Young Surgeon Spotlight: Daniel I. Chu

Daniel I. Chu, MD, FACS, FASCRS
Associate Professor
Associate Director, Health Services Research
Medical and Quality Officer for General Surgery/Sepsis
Associate Scientist, Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Center (MHRC)

Where do you practice?

I joined the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) in Birmingham, Alabama in July 2014 after completing my colorectal fellowship at the Mayo Clinic. I have the great privilege of working with 5 colorectal surgeons at UAB (Greg Kennedy, Melanie Morris, Jamie Cannon, Karin Hardiman and Drew Gunnells). My practice covers the entire spectrum of colorectal disease but has an increasing focus on inflammatory bowel disease. My NIH-funded research interests focus on identifying, understanding and reducing health disparities in surgery with particular attention to health literacy.

Why I am a member of ASCRS:

ASCRS has always played an important role in my career. As a resident, ASCRS was the key society that most influenced (and confirmed) my decision to pursue a career in colorectal surgery. As a fellow, ASCRS was the society where I found the greatest of friends and colleagues. As faculty, ASCRS continues to help me grow in knowledge, skills and experience. I still rave to trainees that colorectal surgery is the best profession and that they need to come to ASCRS to see why.

What advice do you have for future colorectal surgeons?

Colorectal surgery is the best. From a clinical standpoint, you will never be bored and always challenged—from 25+ disease processes to managing abdominal catastrophes, patients need you and no day is ever the same. From an operational standpoint, you become an expert in all sorts of techniques (endoscopic, minimally-invasive, open, etc.) applied in all sorts of places (anus, pelvis, abdomen, etc.). From an academic standpoint, you will find that colorectal surgeons are prolific researchers with expertise in the basic sciences, translational work and all forms of health services research.

Like I tell trainees, colorectal topics don’t usually make for great ice-breaking coffee or bar talk, but everyone poops. As a colorectal surgeon, you will never be lacking in meaningful, high-impact and valued work. So my final advice: consider becoming a colorectal surgeon, join ASCRS, and come meet colorectal folks at the ASCRS Annual Meetings!

ASCRS Young Surgeon Spotlight: Gifty Kwakye

Gifty Kwakye, MD MPH
Assistant Professor
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Why I am a member of ASCRS:

Having grown up in Ghana, I have always been impressed by the power and strength of communities. It is here that we draw our identity and learn our core values. Individual victories are celebrated and worn with pride by all members. But it is during times of failure, that you truly see the rallying force of the community as it offers support and engages in the hard process of learning and rebuilding. I became a member of ASCRS because it offers an opportunity to belong to such an extraordinary community.

Why did you specialize in colorectal surgery?

I knew from a young age that I wanted to become a surgeon; that it was a gift to be able to peer inside of a human body and help restore function by fixing a defined problem. It was this passion that drove me for as long as I can remember, and made each surgical rotation seemingly “the best ever!!!”. However, when it came down to deciding on a specific specialty, I thought hard about both the patient population I wanted to serve and the disease process I wanted to commit my academic career to. Whatever I chose had to be globally relevant and offer skills that were easily utilized both here in the U.S. and in developing countries. 

I chose colorectal surgery because it offers exactly such a diverse skillset to address a very broad array of surgical conditions. For instance, it allows me to operate successfully on colon cancer here in the U.S. via a minimally invasive approach, but also in a little village in a West African country using an open incision. I absolutely love the fact that I am an excellently trained surgeon equipped to meet the increasing demands of our Global village!

Letter to White House Urges Full Medicare Coverage of Colonoscopy Screenings

Currently, Medicare doesn’t charge patients out of pocket for preventative colonoscopies—unless the procedure detects precancerous polyps. Forty-five organizations—including the American College of Surgeons and The Colon Club, the 2019 winner of the ASCRS Jagelman Award for Colorectal Cancer Advocacy—have written a letter advising the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to fully cover colonoscopy screenings under Medicare regardless of the presence of polyps.

The letter points out that Medicare patients are disproportionately affected by colorectal cancer due to their age. Colonoscopy screenings are essential preventative services for this population. Billing as such has the potential not only to reduce government spending on preventable late-stage treatment, but more importantly to save thousands of lives.

ASCRS Young Surgeon Spotlight: Steven A. Lee-Kong

Steven A. Lee-Kong, MD, FACS, FASCRS
Assistant Professor, Department of Surgery
Division of Colon and Rectal
Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center
Columbia University Irving Medical Center
NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital
New York, New York

Why I am a member of ASCRS:

To help foster a better understanding of colorectal diseases, to build relationships with others interested in the specialty, to continually expand my knowledge regarding the diseases we treat in order to improve my care of patients, and to help enhance the training of subsequent generations of colorectal surgeons.

Why did you specialize in colorectal surgery?

As a medical student who originally was planning on a career in psychiatry, I was drawn to the specialty by amazing mentors while I was on my colorectal surgery rotation. I am forever indebted to Dr. Ken Forde, Dr. Larry Whelan, Dr. Tracey Arnell and Dr. Danny Feingold.

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