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SIU Surgeon to Lead National Surgery Board

October 27, 2016

Jan Rakinic, MD, FACS, SIU School of Medicine Professor of Surgery, has been named the president-elect for the American Board of Colon and Rectal Surgery (ABCRS.)

“To earn this recognition from a number of my peers, whom I have a lot of respect for, is really humbling,” says Rakinic, who joined SIU in 2001. She is the chief of the Section of Colorectal Surgery at SIU School of Medicine.

Rakinic is the second woman to be elected as president of the ABCRS.

“It was and still is a male-dominated field, and it's still not very easy,” Rakinic says of the surgical field. “Only nine percent of full professors in surgery are women, so even though more women are coming into surgery, as you go up the academic ranks, it thins out quite shockingly,” explains Rakinic, who was promoted to professor of surgery earlier this year.

Rakinic credits her success as a surgeon to supportive mentors. “I was sure I would never be a surgeon,” she recalls, citing a lack of female surgeons during medical school. “But I was lucky to find mentors – men and women, who really helped show me the way.” Between her second and third years of medical school, Rakinic met a surgeon who changed the way she thought about the field. “Surgery brings so many conflicting feelings,” she explains. “It makes you feel powerful because of what we can do, but it makes you feel humble because of the trust these people give to us over the care of their bodies. I think the day you lose that humility is the day you need to leave medicine.”

Having seen the importance of positive mentors firsthand, Rakinic strives to be a guiding force among SIU’s learners. Among her proudest achievements is helping to build a colorectal surgery fellowship at SIU. Since starting the advanced training program in 2009, seven trainees have completed the fellowship. Rakinic notes the incoming surgical workforce is rapidly changing to include more women and more trainees with families. “We’re all learning that life balance is going to be much more important as we go forward. We’re simply going to have to understand the importance of that in being able to attract and retain quality teachers and physicians.”

Rakinic reflects on her own experiences as a mother and surgeon. “I’ve learned to separate work and home. When my children were small, I wouldn’t do anything work-related until they went to sleep,” recalls Rakinic.

Rakinic also has some advice for young women considering becoming a surgeon: Don’t be afraid to fail. “The reality is, of course, we’re all going to fail at some point, and we need to fail to understand how to move on and keep going. When you choose a career like surgery, there are tradeoffs: You’re going to work a little harder and a little longer, but you get to do this thing you really love in a life you love.”

As president of the ABCRS, she aims to improve the process by which colorectal surgeons maintain board certification. “For the last several years, we’ve been intensely working to make this process less burdensome and more meaningful for our surgeons.” Future plans include a more convenient way to take the recertification exam as well as the addition of a learning component for colorectal surgeons.

Rakinic will serve as president-elect through September 2017 and as president from October 2017 to September 2018. The ABCRS was established to promote the health and welfare of the American people by conducting examinations of candidates who wish to become board certified in colon and rectal surgery in the United States.