Hail to the Chief: Dr. Marc Melcher

San Francisco Surgical Society

June 1, 2020

This article is part of a series of interviews with Stanford Surgery faculty who were, are, or will be presidents of surgical societies. Dr. Marc Melcher is an Associate Professor in Stanford’s Division of Abdominal Transplantation and Program Director for the Abdominal Surgery Fellowship. He was selected President of the San Francisco Surgical Society (SFSS) in September 2019 for a term of one year.

Rachel Baker: How did you become President of the SFSS?

Marc Melcher: You’re kind of volunteered. There’s a selection committee of past presidents and councilors that selects the President. But I was really happy that I was picked to be president.

Dr. Carlos Esquivel was president in 2010, and he picked me to be his program director. Since then I was on the council, and I was the vice president in 2016.

RB: Why the SFSS?

MM: I think that the first time I went to an SFSS meeting I was a guest of Dr. Welton and Dr. Krummel’s back when I was a resident, and I’ve enjoyed the meetings ever since.

We meet five times a year and it’s usually a dinner meeting with a guest speaker and a discussion. While residents cannot be members, its always nice to bring them along as guests. There is networking potential. The national societies have a very different feel; we don’t have an advocacy role or do we certify fellowships, so we can be a little more informal.

I really enjoy that we bring people together from different specialties around the Bay Area—UCSF, CPMC, even private practice surgeons. There’s usually some healthy competitiveness between programs but these meetings give us an opportunity to get together and socialize and realize we’re all on the same team.

RB: What are your jobs as President?

MM:The main thing is I work with the Program Director, Dr. Yulia Zak, to line up the speakers. My first speaker as President was Dr. Al Roth in November.

One of the other things I’ve tried to do is modernize the Society. We have a website for the first time that has a calendar, news, and bylaws. There’s still work to be done though; you still can’t pay your membership fees online.

Societies everywhere are having a hard time maintaining their memberships, so I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to find out what makes people want to join. Having top-notch speakers, obviously, which is easier said than done. But I’ve also been looking at different formats. Maybe we should have more debates, an interactive discussion, or panels? It’s hard because you’re only there for one year; once you lineup talks, you’re out of time.

RB: How did the pandemic impact your plans?

MM: Unfortunately, we had to cancel our March meeting, but we knew we had to do something for the membership about COVID-19. We had a virtual meeting—our first ever—on May 6, and we had at least as many members present as we do at some of the dinners. Dr. Joe Forrester gave one of the talks on protecting healthcare workers.

RB: What advice do you have for others who want to make an impact?

MM: I think a key is being present: volunteering, showing up, participating. There’s a lot to be said for being an active member and not just listing a membership on your CV. When you show that you can get stuff done, you’ll get picked out of the crowd.