Surgeon Storytellers Delight and Awe in Washington, DC

Last Monday, October 17, 2016, Springer Nature Storytellers returned to the stage and opened the fall season with a live surgery-themed show in Washington, DC, the location for the 2016 American College of Surgeons Clinical Congress(ACSCC).

Co-hosts, Shane M. Hanlon and Farah Z. Ahmad, photo by Michael Bonfigli

After a busy first day in the exhibit hall, Springer staff, authors and curious members of the public gathered at Busboys and Poets, a beautiful local neighborhood hangout in the historic Mount Vernon Triangle district, just steps from ACSCC, for an evening of storytelling by surgeons themselves. Guests staked out their spots in the theatre-style set-up, enjoying a drink on the house and indulging in complimentary refreshments as they waited for the show to begin.

Without a chair to spare, co-hosts, Shane M. Hanlon and Farah Z. Ahmad, both members of our partnering organization, The Story Collider, took the stage and warmed up the audience with anecdotes and experiences related to surgery, from their own lives.

Dr. Mahul B. Amin, photo by Michael Bonfigli

Our first storyteller and Springer author, Dr. Mahul B. Amin, Editor in Chief of the much-anticipated 8th edition of the AJCC Cancer Staging Manual, took the stage with a smile and an enthralling tale of growing up in India, remarking on how his father’s career as a door-to-door physician impacted his work in developing personalized patient care  as one of the world’s leading pathologists.

Dr. Marie Crandall, photo by Michael Bonfigli

Dr. Marie Crandall took our breath away with first-person accounts of the devastation a trauma surgeon witnesses due to gunshot fatality among Chicago’s youth. Her passion and motivation to change the circumstances within which she works, including details of the incredible research she has led, left the audience suspended in disbelief.

Amy Oestreicher, photo by Michael Bonfigli

Before a brief intermission, Amy Oestreicher, a storyteller from The Story Collider, injected a patient perspective into the mix with a remarkable personal account of having experienced over 30 surgeries to-date.

With drinks topped off and guests back in there seats, Dr. Kathy Hughes shared how building a social media presence and committing to science communication has helped her create an important balance between the nature of her job as a surgeon and her life-long dream of being a writer.

Dr. Kathy A. Hughes, photo by Michael Bonfigli
Dr. Rob B. Lim, photo by Michael Bonfigli

Before the night came to end, Dr. Robert B. Lim, author of the 2016 Springer title, Surgery During Natural Disasters, Combat, Terrorist Attacks, and Crisis Situations, shocked the room and yet gave us quite a few laughs with his accounts of being deployed to Iraq as part of a Forward Surgical Team in the United States Army.

Our opening show was a huge success and we can’t wait to give you an opportunity to hear these incredible stories for yourself here on the blog once the podcasts have been published.

Our next stops are Springer Nature Storytellers at the American Society of Criminology 2016 Annual Meeting next month in New Orleans (registration is now live) and Springer Nature Storytellers at American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting 2016 in San Francisco. Stay tuned for more updates and as always, if you have a story that you’d like to tell, visit our Pitch Page to find out how you can become a Springer Nature Storyteller!

The Top 10 Qualities of Scientist (Communicator) Leaders

In this featured guest post from the COMPASS blog*, author Nancy Baron (COMPASS Science Outreach Director) shares the key traits that define leaders in science. What’s the top quality that most sets them apart from their peers? Their expert ability to communicate.

Over the past 12 years as a communication trainer for the Leopold Leadership Program, and as a coach for many scientists, I have observed an intrinsic link between communication and leadership.  As I wrote in a past Nature Comment:

It’s no coincidence that environmental scientists who lead the pack, both within academia and beyond, are good communicators. These scientists know how to articulate a vision, focus a debate and cut to the essence of an argument. They can make a point compelling, even to those who disagree. They talk about their science in ways that make people sit up, take notice, and care.

I have also witnessed that, as scientists work toward becoming more effective communicators, they increasingly move into realms of leadership. When I look back at the early days and the scientists I have worked with this is evident in their trajectories. In a rough video clip I produced of a Leopold gathering in 2001 called “True Confessions: Coming Out of the Ivory Tower,” the fellows reveal why they decided they needed to work on communicating their science. “True Confessions” now has the unforeseen impact of a “before” glimpse of many scientists who have increasingly risen to leadership.

When you stand up and speak out – to the media, or policymakers, or you write an opinion piece or blog post – it is like a drop of water hitting the surface. It sends out ripples with unexpected repercussions – often, good ones.  Doors may swing open, new opportunities may arise.  You will meet new people and make new connections. Yet there are also challenges. Being a leader also means learning how to deal with the criticisms that arise, and keeping on keeping on. One thing, however, is clear – putting yourself and your science out there is a form of practice, learning, and giving.  And, by giving in that way it will somehow come back to you… thus a spirit of good intent is important.

"Just as ripples spread out when a single pebble is dropped into water, the actions of individuals can have far-reaching effects." Dalai Lama. Photo courtesy of Mark J P via Flickr

“Just as ripples spread out when a single pebble is dropped into water, the actions of individuals can have far-reaching effects.” –Dalai Lama.
Photo courtesy of Mark J P via Flickr

Leaders come in all shapes and sizes – and they are not necessarily flashy. There is no single way to be, no single destination. It’s really a process of exploration, experimentation and finding your own voice.

And while communication is a critical aspect of leadership, there are other qualities as well. Here are the 10 key attributes that I see in scientist leaders – scientists who are making their science matter:

1) They have a vision – and can articulate it.

2) They are passionate. But don’t necessarily wear it on their sleeve.

3) They work hard at communication… even if they make it look deceptively easy.

4) They are generous and think beyond their own work to support others.

5) They take risks and are willing to fail – sometimes publicly.

6) They are resilient. And pick themselves up and keep on going when they fall.

7) They are self-examining and adaptive.

8) They seek solutions. And address the “so what” so people care.

9) They have a fun factor or some kind of charisma – but are not necessarily extroverted.

10) They are persistent. Patience eventually pays off.

While these ten things make a leader, not everyone will have all of these qualities. But most, in my experience, have many. Do you agree or disagree? And who, as a scientist communicator and leader, is currently inspiring you?

*This article was originally published on May 13, 2013. It has been reposted with the permission of COMPASS Science Communication, Inc., a non-profit, non-advocacy organization whose vision is to see more scientists engage effectively in the public discourse about the environment.


A. Leslie Morrow: What Keeps You Going?

Dr. A. Leslie Morrow shares what keeps her going in her research on alcoholism: misguided reviewer comments, a promising new development in gene therapy, and the miraculous life of her cousin, Lance. Listen below or stream the official podcast!

Listen on iTunes!

Dr. A. Leslie Morrow’s work is focused on developing an understanding of the role of GABAA receptors and neuroactive steroids in normal brain function and neuropsychiatric disease, particularly alcohol use disorders.