Setting up a Surgical Society
If your medical school does not have a surgical society or the current one needs reinvigorating, why not get involved? Our guide below covers everything you need to consider.
- Committee and succession planning
- Support and funding
- Website and email addresses
- Future Surgeons Forum
Events and activities
Most medical school societies are started by a small group of individuals. After checking that there is not already a surgical society, it is worth talking to the student body to gauge support and interest. Once you have established interest you can put together a working party to act as the founding committee.
You may be tempted to get a group of friends together and dive straight in. However, we recommend opening up the initial committee to a selection of years (first and second years may have more time but fourth and fifth years may have better contacts and ideas).
The key areas of work in the beginning will include:
- funding and financing
- website development
- administration work
Therefore, you should look for people with the following skills to make up your working group:
- web design
- IT skills (Microsoft Excel and Word)
- letter and email writing
- desktop publishing
- finance management/basic accounting
The president of the society or nominated leader should ensure that no individual’s studies (including their own) suffer because of the society and that tasks are evenly distributed.
Eventually, the committee will need to expand to include people responsible for different work areas. To see how different surgical societies structure their committees, we suggest looking at established society websites, e.g. Nottingham Scrubs and Hull-York Surgical Society.
It is important to consider committee succession from the outset. Societies can flounder if not enough thought is given to the replacement of key members of the group upon graduation.
It is important to get local surgeons and key bodies to support your venture. Local surgeons, especially those with an interest in teaching (such as the head of the School of Surgery) can help you get started by suggesting funding sources, speaking at events and providing useful contacts for sponsorship.
You should approach key bodies such as your Student Union and possibly the Student Medical Society for financial support and/or resources such as an email address, office space or a postal address. They can also add credibility to your society.
Most surgical societies raise funds in four ways:
- Sponsorship: Many companies will provide societies with sponsorship in return for advertising. Medical insurance, pharmaceutical and local companies can provide nominal funding to help you get started. Look on company websites to see if there is a local student sales representative. Approach local cafés/pubs - they may be able to provide refreshments or a venue rather than money. Send letters to named individuals and be clear what they will receive in return for their sponsorship. The RCS can provide small amounts of sponsorship for events; email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
- Donations: You can approach past students, current consultants as well as current students and potential members.
- Fundraising events/activities: Socials, raffles and auctions are all good ways of raising funds.
- Membership fees: Once your society is established you can charge a nominal fee to join. Again, it is worth checking with existing societies to see what they charge and what potential members are willing to pay.
Your student union or medical school may be able to set you up with a website that you can easily edit. Check with your IT department to see what help they can provide. If they can’t help, we recommend that you recruit a committee member with specific responsibility for this role as soon as possible. Make sure that once you have a website it’s kept up-to-date with events listings, news and information about surgery and the society.
Members and potential members need to be able to keep in touch with the society. We recommend one or more generic email addresses which can be passed on to subsequent committee members. This way logins and contacts belong to the society - not the individuals.
The RCS Future Surgeons Forum can provide a forum for you to share ideas with other students and the College. Visit the Future Surgeons Forum page for more information.
Events and activities
For details on how to organise events please see our section on running events.
Most societies run a mix of talks, tutorials, careers and social events. It is best to start with straight-forward talks and expand as you gain experience into other areas. Always check demand before you start planning events.
Established societies can run large programmes of events targeting a range of students. We suggest that you speak to existing surgical societies and use their models to recreate successful events and workshops. Equally, if you run a new event that is successful, why not write up what you did and share it with the Future Surgeons Forum.
Be clear about how much you are going to spend and include contingency funding in your plans. Where possible, negotiate with local facility providers to minimise costs and get sponsors to cover large expenses.