AWS presents educational sessions, awards dinner, networking breakfast

Founded in 1981, the Association of Women Surgeons (AWS) offers its members a community of mentoring, education, and networking for personal and professional growth. AWS promotes leadership opportunities and celebrates the achievements of women surgeons worldwide.

On Saturday, the AWS hosted its annual conference with the theme Dare to Be You at the Boston Marriott Copley Place. This year’s conference focused on empowering women by providing them with the tools and skills they need to take charge of their careers while staying true to their own needs.

Kicking off the conference was Caprice Greenberg, MD, MPH, FACS, professor of surgery and the Morgridge Distinguished Chair in Health Services Research, University of Wisconsin, Madison. Dr. Greenberg presented a lecture titled Gender Equity: We’re Talking the Talk, But It’s Time to Walk the Walk. She reviewed the progress that has been made toward gender equality in the surgical community and what remains to be accomplished.

The conference’s scientific sessions featured original research and also Year in Review presentations. The first session, Landmark Papers in Surgery, included work by surgery residents, including Tarin Worrest, MD, Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU), Portland; Caitlin Harrington, MD, OSHU; Bryce Bludevich, MD, University of Massachusetts, Worcester; Ana De Roo, MD, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; and Anjuli Gupta, MD, Duke University, Durham, NC.

Later in the day, a second scientific session with original papers chosen by the editors of the American Journal of Surgery included work from Susannah E. Nicholson, MD, FACS, assistant professor of surgery, University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio; Monica Azmy, MD candidate, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, Newark; Ellen Morrow, assistant professor of surgery, University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City; Erika Rangel, MD, MS, FACS, associate surgeon, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston; Anna Weiss, MD, general surgeon, Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Breast Center; and Maria S. Altieri, MD, Stony Brook University Hospital, NY.

For the first time, the AWS conference featured a Parallel Education Symposium, with workshops dedicated to specific challenges women surgeons may face, especially in the early stages of their careers. Participants learned how to navigate the world of job offers and promotions through the Negotiation Boot Camp, cosponsored by the American Surgical Association and led by master negotiator Robert C. Bordone, the Thaddeus R. Beal Clinical Professor of Law, Harvard Law School. Another session, the Mock Residency Selection Committee Workshop, took medical students behind the scenes of surgical residency admissions to show them how to optimize their applications to general surgery and surgical specialty residencies.

Conference highlights also included an engaging keynote address by Melina Kibbe, MD, FACS, the Colin G. Thomas, Jr., MD Distinguished Professor and chair, department of surgery, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In her presentation, Implications of Sex Bias in Research, Dr. Kibbe spoke about the importance of ensuring equal gender representation in clinical research and what surgeons can do to ensure that their research affects all surgical patients.

Attendees heard two panel discussions from a variety of viewpoints, including perspectives from surgeons in private practice and a range of surgical subspecialists. Presenters included Martha Zeiger, MD, FACS, chair, department of surgery, University of Virginia, Charlottesville; Luanne Thorndyke, MD, vice-provost for faculty affairs and professor of medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School; and Shaghayegh Aliabadi-Wahle, MD, FACS, endocrine surgeon, Oregon Clinic, Portland. The panelists focused on skills related to managing a practice, the strengths of women as leaders, and the pitfalls of leadership for women during Dare to Lead: Leaning in Without Falling Over. The discussion was moderated by Arghavan Salles, MD, PhD, FACS, assistant professor of surgery, section of minimally invasive surgery, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO, and Deborah Munhoz, MS, certified physician leadership coach.

Alia Qureshi, MD, FACS, general surgeon, Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital−Needham, MA, and Martina Stippler, MD, FACS, assistant professor of neurosurgery, Harvard Medical School, moderated a second panel, Success and Failure: Two Sides of the Same Coin. Panelists included Shari Meyerson, MD, FACS, associate professor of surgery, division of thoracic surgery, and associate professor of medicine, division of pulmonary medicine, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, IL; Jo Shapiro, MD, FACS, director, Center for Professionalism and Peer Support, general surgeon, department of surgery, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and associate professor of otolaryngology, Harvard Medical School; Mary Killackey, MD, FACS, chair, department of surgery, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA; and Luz Maria Rodriguez, MD, FACS, physician scientist and medical officer and program director in gastroenterology, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD. The panel discussed confidence, autonomy, imposter syndrome, and the definition of success.

During lunch Saturday, surgeons shared their real-life stories around the conference theme, Dare to Be You, with help from professional storytelling coaches from MassMouth Media. More stories were recorded for podcasts and other media to be shared throughout the year via the AWS website at

The conference also included an address by AWS President Celeste Hollands, MD, FACS, associate professor of surgery, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Lubbock, as well as the Surgeons’ Lounge with corporate partners, committee meetings, and the AWS Annual Business meeting.

Winners of the Starr Medical Student and Resident Research Forum and the Greening the OR contest presented their research as posters, and training began for participants in AWS’s Coaching Project, a two-year research project designed to reduce burnout in residents. The AWS Annual Conference was made possible by corporate support, educational grants, and the generosity of individual chairs of surgery.

The AWS Foundation will present its Annual Awards Dinner Monday, 7:30−10:00 pm at the Boston Marriott Copley Place, Salon G. At this event, the AWS Foundation will recognize individuals nominated by their peers and teachers. 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, and the Patricia Numann Medical Student Award will be honored for their contributions to surgery. The awards ceremony follows a reception at 6:00 pm sponsored by the American College of Surgeons Women in Surgery Committee. A separate registration is required for the dinner; the reception is complimentary.

The AWS will host a Networking Breakfast for members and non-members 7:00–9:00 am Tuesday. No registration is required.