Sandra Wong named president-elect of Society of University Surgeons

by Lucy Turnipseed | 2/22/19 3:00am

On Feb. 13, Geisel School of Medicine chair and professor of surgery Sandra Wong was announced as the president-elect of the Society of University Surgeons.

Wong was previously named the surgery chair at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in August 2015. She is also a professor of The Dartmouth Institute and is currently completing a three-year term as the SUS treasurer. 

The SUS is an organization comprised of academic surgeons interested in advancing their careers. The group has two representatives on the American Board of Surgery, the body that oversees the training and certification of surgeons in the country.

Wong said that the SUS “really kind of stands behinds leadership and leadership training.”

Currently, the group is furthering several initiatives dedicated to advancing members’ careers, including a partnership with Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, a mid-career leadership workshop and other partnerships that ensure there are leadership opportunities for those who are underrepresented in medicine.

Wong said she plans to continue these initiatives and add her own ideas to the mix in the year-long process of refining her ideas serving as president-elect before she becomes president.

Wong added that her initial reaction to her appointment was excitement. 

“I was really honored to get that position and I think it’s one of those things that I will use the platform to hopefully advance the Society and other surgical leaders,” she said.

Additionally, Wong described her two roles as “synergistic.” She noted that her new position will be a great opportunity for the DHMC in terms of connections and exposure.

Many of her colleagues similarly emphasized her unique leadership style that made her well-suited to serve in both positions.

General surgery resident Spencer Trooboff arrived at Dartmouth around the same time as Wong and worked with her on a study published in the Journal of Surgical Oncology in December 2018. From the operating room to research mentorship, he described Wong as “invaluable,” “engaged” and a “tremendous asset” to Dartmouth.

As of 2017, Wong had over 150 peer-reviewed scientific studies, making her one of the most well-respected health services researchers in academia, according to Trooboff. She accomplished these feats while deftly navigating the different medical societies, maintaining important relationships within the field and all the while teaching, he added.

“It’s very difficult to balance the clinical responsibilities of being a surgeon with the administrative responsibilities of being a chair and the educational responsibilities of being a research mentor,” Trooboff said. “And I can think of very few people that I’ve come across in my experience as a medical student and now surgical trainee, who have been able to balance those three goals.”

He said he frequently tells prospective students about Wong’s commitment, her after-hours meetings and late-night email responses, in order to persuade them to attend Geisel.

Geisel surgery professor Joga Ivatury credited Wong with his opportunity to do a visiting professorship at the University of Michigan, which is rare for someone at this point in his career, according to Ivatury.

“She is always sponsoring one of our junior faculty,” he said. “Her leadership style is both hands on and as a sponsor.”

Ivatury added that Wong’s election is “well-deserved.”

“Her efforts in building clinical programs, research efforts and educational programs convey her values of hard work and data-driven decisions,” The Dartmouth Institute professor Philip Goodney said. 

Goodney said he is certain that Wong will bring the same collaborative spirit and dedication to the SUS.

“She does a very good job at guiding her mentees and frankly, other faculty researchers around her towards offering something in the academic sphere that’s really value-adding for the larger surgical community,” Trooboff said.