ACFAS recently asked its members to define “professional success.” Members were then asked, “Do you believe you have attained that success?” An overwhelming 93% said yes or they were “on course” to achieve their desired success. This speaks volumes to the professional achievement and pride that ACFAS members feel about themselves - as individuals, as foot and ankle surgeons, and as members of the College.
But the College’s success did not come easily or overnight – and, yes, there are still challenges to overcome. The transformation from chiropodists … to podiatrists … to foot and ankle surgeons was led by thousands of ACFAS members and hundreds of dedicated volunteer leaders who had a vision and devoted themselves to its achievement.
Here is a synopsis of the College’s and the surgical specialty’s history thus far.
In 1938, Dr. William Stickel, then Executive Secretary of the National Association of Chiropodists, had a vision of a qualifying organization for foot surgeons. He appointed Dr. Douglas Mowbray to develop a group that would identify surgical standards and grant fellowship to candidates who met these criteria. In 1942 the new American College of Foot Surgeons (ACFS) was founded and one of its first achievements was the creation of a rigorous surgical certification process. The process evolved to include submission of case histories with detailed documentation followed by successful navigation of written and oral examinations.
The second decade began with the small west coast group, the American Society of Foot Surgeons, merging with ACFS. A group of notable foot surgeons started offering surgical training to members and ACFS began sponsoring educational programs at the new Civic Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, where the first residency training program in foot surgery was established. In 1958 ACFS held its first independent scientific conference. Regional divisions were developed during this time to conduct local programming. At the end of the decade another facility for surgical postgraduate training, the California Podiatry Hospital, was dedicated in San Francisco, California.
The College’s initial scientific journal, the American College of Foot Surgeons’ Journal (later to become the Journal of Foot & Ankle Surgery), started publishing regularly in 1964. Detailed descriptions of officer and committee positions were created. Workshops and surgical techniques clinics became a growing activity for the College and regional divisions.
Podiatric residencies began springing up nationally, modeled after the first foot surgery program at Detroit’s Civic Hospital. The College’s role as a certifying body was spun off into a separate organization, the American Board of Podiatric Surgery, with ACFS Fellows serving as the core examiners. ACFS student chapters were established to extend educational opportunities to students. The first edition of Complications in Foot Surgery was published in 1976 and the Journal of Foot Surgery was accepted for citation by Index Medicus the following year. After serving the College for 18 years in various capacities including officer, president, journal editor, and executive secretary, Dr. Kaplan stepped down.
ACFS moved its headquarters to San Francisco with John Bennett serving as Executive Director of both the College and ABPS. The College required ABPS certification as a prerequisite for Fellowship. Special interest committees in areas such as arthroscopic surgery, biomaterials, laser surgery, etc., were introduced by the ACFS and the Standards of Care Committee was created to promote the activities and parameters of podiatric surgeons. The College retained a Washington-based legislative consultant, developed position papers for podiatric surgeons, published member and consumer brochures, and held international surgical conferences.
To meet the demands of an expanding membership, Cheryl Beversdorf was named the first full time executive director and the headquarters was relocated near Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. In 1992 the College celebrated its 50th anniversary and its new name – the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS) – and a recommitment to the educational mission of the College. The Annual Scientific Conferences and other programs and workshops all enjoyed increased member attendance and participation. Preferred Practice Guideline documents (later to be titled Clinical Practice Guidelines) were introduced. The College expanded its international presence with World Congresses in the U.S. and programs abroad engaging large international audiences of foot and ankle surgeons. In 1996 Thomas R. Schedler, CAE, became the College’s Executive Director. The College increased its member advocacy role by establishing deeper working relationships with regulators, insurance companies, and industry. By the end of the decade, ACFAS reached milestones in membership growth, revenues, and best practices for medical association management.
Entering the new millennium, the College continued its expansion into surgical, consumer and practice management education, including Internet-based learning. ACFAS secured new Joint Commission regulations permitting podiatric surgeons to conduct H&P privileges (later following by similar Medicare regulations) FootHealthFacts.org was launched as a dedicated web site for consumers and patients (later to become FootHealthFacts.org). Staff attorneys were hired for health policy positions. The first College-sponsored multi-site clinical research project was conducted. Outreach to students, residents, and non-North American foot and ankle surgeons were expanded. J.C. (Chris) Mahaffey, MS, CAE was named Executive Director in 2003. The strategic plan, business plan and budget were tied to outcomes of member and practice surveys.
“What is past is prologue.”
How will the College and the surgical specialty evolve in the 2010s and beyond? If the past is indeed prologue, then ACFAS and its members will continue to be the proven leaders and lifelong learners who lead the surgical specialty to even greater scientific achievements, professional parity, and improved patient care.