Acknowledgment, Reflection, and Action

The American Board of Surgery Leans into Antiracism

John H. Stewart IV, MD, MBA; Paris D. Butler, MD, MPH; Jennifer F. Tseng, MD, MPH; Anna C. Kennard, BA; John D. Mellinger, MD; Jo Buyske, MD


Annals of Surgery. 2021;273(4):619-622. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


The mission statement of the American Board of Surgery (ABS) is as follows: ABS serves the public and the specialty of surgery by providing leadership in surgical education and practice, by promoting excellence through rigorous evaluation and examination, and promoting the highest standards for professionalism, lifelong learning, and the continuous certification of surgeons in practice.

This year has seen the consequences of racism brought to national consciousness by the disproportionate impact of COVID19 on communities of color, overlaid by the recent killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and other Black people. This combination of events has catalyzed societal movements that confront the consequences of structural racism and social injustice. It is clear that every institution in this country, including the ABS, needs to do more to be actively anti-racist. The ABS acknowledges that eliminating racism creates a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable profession, thereby improving ALL patients' outcomes. The ABS has challenged itself by asking how we can address the role of racism in surgical leadership, training, and practice. Building on existing initiatives, the ABS committed to defining a more aggressive plan of action by holding a retreat on September 16, 2020, to address racism in surgery. This retreat's goals were to (1) define racism, (2) identify the impact of racism on training, professionalism, and patient care, and (3) initiate a framework for the ABS to address racism in surgery substantively. The overall themes and next steps are summarized below.