It was with great sadness that I received notice of the passing of Thomas R. Russell, MD, FACS, former executive director of the American College of Surgeons (ACS), on Aug. 4.
A great supporter of PAs and team medicine, Russell led the organization from January 2000 to January 2010.
Russell was a former private practice general surgeon who specialized in colon and rectal surgery. By the time I met him, he had left the OR to head ACS, the world’s largest organization of surgeons.
He knew PAs were a huge part of the surgical team, and he spoke out in support of PAs and the role we play in the surgical theater.
Myself, along with members of the American Association of Surgical Physician Assistants (AASPA) and AAPA, fondly remember his dedication to surgical patient safety and his foresight in promoting the formation of the Council on Surgical and Perioperative Safety (CSPS).
He also helped establish the ACS National Surgical Quality Improvement Program and invited AASPA representatives to attend ACS Committee on Patient Care meetings.
A fervent advocate of the surgical patient and a tireless champion of the surgical team concept, Russell was devoted to and supportive of every single member of the team.
This was evident during CSPS meetings and whenever you met him in the hallway or lecture hall. He always had time to stop and talk to you. At the ACS Clinical Congress he would set aside time to formally meet with the AASPA representatives. Typically the first words out of his mouth during these meetings were, “What can the college do for you?”
During one of those meetings, PA Dana Gray and I told him that we hoped PAs could attend the ACS Advanced Trauma Life Support training and receive the completion of course card, which we had not been able to do up until that point. His response was, “I can take care of that,” and he did.
Even after he ended his tenure as executive director, he exemplified his devotion to the ACS and the surgical team through his steadfast interest in the progress of CSPS and its members.
We will miss his enthusiastic outlook, his heartfelt dedication, his inspiring vision and most of all, his friendship.
Daniel Vetrosky, PA-C, PhD, DFAAPA, is an affiliate member of the American College of Surgeons and AAPA’s liaison to the ACS. He is past chair and a current member of the Council on Surgical and Perioperative Safety and past president of the American Association of Surgical Physician Assistants.