Concern and Compassion
The American College of Surgeons (ACS) is a professional organization of surgeons founded in 1913 to raise the standards of surgical practice and improve the quality of care for surgical patients worldwide. The Fellows of the College are organized into 66 chapters in the United States, 2 in Canada, and 42 in other countries around the world; fellow is the highest level of membership. The College has more than 365 employees and approximately 80,000 members, and is the largest organization of surgeons in the world. ACS headquarters are in Chicago.
The ACS has partnered with the military on many fronts. In 2015, the ACS and the Military Health System of the U.S. Department of Defense launched the Military Health System Strategic Partnership American College of Surgeons (MHSSPACS) to:
- ensure that current and next-generation surgeons are prepared to provide optimal care to patients who are injured on and off the battlefield, and
- facilitate the bilateral exchange of best practices between the military and the civilian sector
The ACS has always hired veterans, but in 2015 it began a concerted outreach with a variety of organizations to hire more veterans. It also engaged TalentRISE, a consulting and recruitment firm in Chicago, to help develop a strategy to recruit transitioning veterans with a military healthcare background.
The College believes that veterans make great employees because they have unique skills, particularly in the areas of leadership, project management, decision making, and critical thinking – regardless of whether they were enlisted members or officers. All of these skills are completely transferable – and essential – to the organization.
The College emphasizes a team approach, and its work is imbued with concern and compassion for the surgical patient. As a result, the organization’s veterans say its culture and values make the ACS a good fit for them.
The ACS core values align well with the aim and mission of the U.S. military:
- Professionalism: Exemplify the highest standards of accountability, honesty, responsibility, loyalty, and respect.
- Excellence: Exceed internal and external standards that define the ACS commitment to outstanding work outcomes.
- Innovation: Seek profound creative and forward-thinking improvements to advance organizational goals and individual effectiveness.
- Introspection: Engage in continuous self-improvement through self-awareness, self-assessment, and professional development.
- Inclusion: Collaborate with all appropriate individuals and/or entities to harness their collective intelligence.
A VETERAN SUCCESS | JIMM DODD
Jimm Dodd is the program manager, education, within the ACS Trauma Quality Improvement Program (TQIP) and a veteran of the United States Army. He served for 29 years, retiring as a major, and is still active in the Army Reserve. He has spent his entire military career in medicine, including service as a flight medic and a commander.
He served with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment during Operation Enduring Freedom and in the 1st Theater Sustainment Command Special Troops Battalion during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He also served with the 108th Sustainment Brigade, Chicago. He is currently in the Army Reserve Central Medical Area Readiness Support Group (CE-MARSG), Fort Sheridan, Illinois.
Becoming a commander is something that Dodd still takes seriously. “In the Army, officers are selected as commanders as a result of leadership potential and previous military success,” he said. “Commanders are responsible for everything that happens within the unit, including mission planning, collective training, setting tone and vision for the unit, and soldier morale. Being chosen as a commander is one of the highest honors, as you are viewed as a leader and someone who can make a positive impact and lead a unit to success.”
Dodd started working at the ACS in 2015. He focuses on performance improvement and patient safety at 413 of its members’ trauma centers in the United States and Canada. The goal of the performance-improvement initiatives is to decrease the mortality of trauma patients and increase positive outcomes. Dodd works with trauma surgeons to
develop best practices guidelines. He also helps facilitate data gathering and the development of practical performance-improvement measures.
“My boss unleashed me to do my job immediately upon my joining the ACS,” Dodd said. “From the start, I was engaged in putting my energy, creativity, and skills into making this position as valuable as possible to the rest of the organization and our members.”
The opportunity to lead in the U.S. Army has paid off for Dodd in the civilian world. “The military and the U.S. Army, in particular, offer leadership courses that are not only focused on military leadership but on how to be a leader in general, regardless of the situation,” he said. “In my career in the Army, I was identified early on as a commander; so I took all the courses that I could, whether in the field of medicine or within the military officer career curriculum. All of this training in effective leadership has been very valuable in my civilian career.”
TalentRISE helped put Dodd and the company together. “Emily Garrity of TalentRISE made the connection for me,” he said. “Ms. Garrity asked me about my future plans, and she saw a fit with her client at the ACS. She also re-wrote the job description on behalf of ACS to ensure that the description of the requirements would translate into terminology used by the military. That led to an interview with ACS Talent Manager Cindy McWilliams. Applying interview tips provided by TalentRISE, instead of asking me about my qualifications, Ms. McWilliams asked questions about the skills I acquired in the military, which led to a meaningful dialogue. She was totally open-minded, and she gave me the opportunity to explain my past experiences to figure out how they matched the requirements of the position.”
“For instance, when I told her that I had been a commander responsible for over 100 soldiers, she correctly understood that it meant I had extensive experience in leading groups and developing projects. Ms. McWilliams encouraged me to explain the details of my skills honed in the military, and I’m here today because of that. The ACS human resources department has the experience to ask the right questions, whereas a lot of organizations are so focused on ‘word matching’ a veteran’s resume to job requirements or matching a candidate’s background to an MOS translator – and neither necessarily matches a candidate to a job that is the right fit.”
Dodd said that veterans should not hold back when looking for post-military careers. “I advise veterans to look beyond the qualification requirements in position descriptions,” he said. “Don’t be afraid or assume that you aren’t qualified for a position simply because of how job descriptions are worded. For instance, some positions may require a master’s degree on paper, but those of us with 20 or more years in the military may have accumulated the equivalent knowledge – if not far more. Look at the responsibilities that are listed, and spend less time worrying about credentials and titles. The worst a recruiter can say is ‘no.’”
Many of the skills and traits Dodd developed in the Army help him succeed at ACS. “Time management and project management skills are key,” he said, “as are the ability to function under pressure, think outside of the box, formulate a plan, and be spontaneous. One must also be flexible, willing to work long hours, ask questions, and, finally, be accountable for one’s own decisions.”
Being able to handle change is another trait that veterans bring to the table. “In the military, we get used to changing jobs and, with that, we experience changes in coworkers,” said Dodd. “Because of that, we come to expect that our coworkers will support us, even if they are new to the position or role. Frequently, while serving, I didn’t know what I didn’t know, but my teammates were there to support me. That’s given me an understanding of what it’s like to be the new kid on the block as well as why it’s important to give that person a leg up. It means we’re not afraid of change and that we support each other – and that is a huge change-management agent.”