AWS hosts educational program, networking events in conjunction with Clinical Congress

The Association of Women Surgeons (AWS), founded in 1981, is a not-for-profit educational and professional organization, the mission of which is to inspire, encourage, and enable women surgeons to realize their professional and personal goals. It offers its members a community of mentoring, education, and networking; promotes leadership opportunities; and celebrates the achievements of women surgeons worldwide.

On Saturday, AWS hosted educational sessions at its 2019 annual conference, with the theme Sculpting Our Future. The conference inspired attendees to create the future they want to see inside and outside of the operating room. Sessions covered the importance of improving diversity in surgery, the latest scientific research, and gave attendees tools to build their personal brand and achieve new career goals.

To kick off the conference, AWS President-Elect Sharon Stein, MD, FACS, and President-Elect of the American College of Surgeons (ACS), Valerie W. Rusch, MD, FACS, addressed attendees and highlighted the commitment of both organizations to increasing diversity in surgery.

AWS continued to look toward the future with career-building presentations and workshops at the conference geared toward women surgeons at all stages of their careers. Carla Pugh, MD, PhD, FACS, professor of surgery, Stanford University School of Medicine, CA, discussed the importance of creating a personal brand with her presentation, Sculpting Yourself: How the Development of a Brand Can Lead to Success.

After Dr. Pugh’s presentation, Madeline Torres, MD, of Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Hersey, and Gayle DiLalla, MD, assistant professor of surgery, Duke University, Durham, NC, led the panel presentation, How My Vision Helped Me. A diverse group of presenters, including Maya Babu, MD, FACS, a recent neurosurgery graduate who trained at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston; Karen Brasel, MD, FACS, program director, Oregon Health and Sciences University, Portland; plastic surgeon Vikisha Fripp, MD, FACS, Washington, DC; Julie Ann Sosa, MD, MA, FACS, chair of surgery, University of California San Francisco; and Dana Telem, MD, MPH, FACS, associate professor of surgery, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, explored the idea of creating a lifelong career path in accordance with one’s personal vision.

The panel was followed by a hands-on workshop, Creating a Career Vision and Sharing It, with Lina Mehta, MD, a radiologist from Cleveland, OH.

Later in the day, attendees enjoyed a series of breakout sessions, including: Partnering with Corporate Entities for a Better Surgical Community, presented by AWS President Sareh Parangi, MD, FACS, and Patricia Sylla, MD, FACS, associate professor, Mount Sinai Health System, New York, NY; Disrupting Surgical Education, presented by AWS founder and ACS Past-President Patricia J. Numann, MD, FACS, and Rebecca Hoffman, MD, Chair of the Resident and Associate Society of the ACS; Moving the Needle Forward in International Surgery, presented by AWS Foundation Chair and ACS Past-First Vice-President Hilary Sanfey, MB BCh, FACS, FRCSI, Farah Bhatti, MB BChir, MD, FRCS, consultant thoracic surgeon, Royal College of Surgeons, and Camila Guetter, MD, Vice-Chair, AWS National Medical Student Committee; and Keeping a Private Practice in the 21st Century, presented by Lynn O’Connor, MD, MPH, FACS, a colon and rectal surgeon in Huntington, NY.

Along with sessions that helped attendees imagine the next steps in their career, this year’s meeting featured scientific sessions on recent surgical research. Marion Henry, MD, MPH, FACS, associate professor of surgery and pediatrics, University of Arizona, Tucson, and Megan Delisle, MD, MPH, general surgeon-scientist, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, moderated a session, Landmark Papers in Surgery, during which residents and faculty members discussed important papers published in the last year. A second scientific session featured original papers by Alicia Mohr, MD, FACS, FCC, associate professor, division of acute care surgery, University of Florida College of Medicine, Gainesville; Laura H. Rosenberger, MD, FACS, surgical oncologist, Duke Cancer Center, North Durham; and Kristin Rojas, MD, Maimonides Breast Center, Brooklyn, NY, that appeared in the 2019 AWS edition of the American Journal of Surgery.

AWS continued to showcase women’s scientific accomplishments with a keynote address, Disruptive Technology in Surgery, by Gretchen P. Jackson, MD, PhD, FACS, associate professor of pediatric surgery, pediatrics, and biomedical informatics, Children’s Hospital of Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, as well as a presentation by 2019 AWS Fellowship Grant winner Keri E. Lunsford, MD, PhD, FACS, on her project, Evaluation of Pre-Transplant T Cell Exhaustion as a Mechanism for Recipient Immune Dysfunction and Liver Transplant Futility.

Saturday’s educational sessions ended with the hands-on presentation, Microaggression Master Class, led by Julie A. Freischlag, MD, FACS, Past Chair, ACS Board of Regents, and S.H.E. Talks: What’s On My Mind. The latter session featured short, TED Talk-style presentations about personal experiences in surgery by SreyRam Kuy, MD, MHS, FACS, recipient of the 2017 ACS Mary Edwards Walker Inspiring Women in Surgery Award; Jayme Locke, MD, FACS, vice-chair, health services research, and director, University of Alabama at Birmingham Comprehensive Transplant Institute; Thomas Varghese, MD, FACS, executive medical director and chief value officer, Huntsman Cancer Institute, University of Utah, Salt Lake City; Michaela West, MD, PhD, FACS, a trauma surgeon at North Memorial Health Hospital, Robbinsdale, MN; and Suzanne Yoder, MD, FACS, a general surgeon in Venice, CA.

The conference also included an address by AWS President Dr. Parangi, a Surgeons’ Lounge with corporate partners, committee meetings, the AWS Annual Business Meeting, and Starr Medical Student and Resident Research Forum poster presentations.

Also this weekend, training began for two special AWS initiatives: the second year of the Coaching Project, a research project designed to reduce burnout in residents; and the Signature Speaker Series, created to increase the number of women speakers at conferences and enhance the visibility of women surgeons as experts in their fields. Participants in the latter program received specialized coaching from Marjorie Stiegler, MD, a renowned speaking coach and developer of the Speaking Prescription.

The 2019 AWS Annual Conference was made possible by corporate support, educational grants, and the generosity of individual chairs of surgery.

The AWS Foundation annual Awards Dinner will take place 7:30−10:00 pm Monday in the Cyril Magnin Ballroom at the Parc 55 Hotel. Recipients of the Nina Starr Braunwald Award, the Olga Jonasson Distinguished Member Award, the AWS Past Presidents’ Honorary Member Award, the Hilary Sanfey Outstanding Resident Award, the Patricia Numann Medical Student Award, and the Dr. Sally Abston Distinguished Member Award will be honored for their contributions to women in surgery. The awards ceremony follows a reception at 6:00 pm sponsored by the ACS Women in Surgery Committee. A separate registration for the dinner is required; the reception is complimentary.

The AWS Networking Breakfast will take place 7:00−9:00 am Tuesday at Terra Gallery. With support from Stryker, this event provides a venue for AWS colleagues to reconnect at the ACS Clinical Congress. This event is complimentary, but an RSVP is requested. That evening, 5:00−7:00 pm, support AWS and the ACS Women in Surgery Committee with a complimentary night of art and wine at the Caldwell Snyder Gallery.