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Advancing the Careers for Women In Surgery–Fourth International Symposium Great Success

Women in Surgery

Women Surgeons Paving the Way for Women Surgeons

San Francisco, June 7-9, 2013

What started as an informal “let’s sit and chat in my home” invitation, issued by Sharona Ross, MD, more than 5 years ago, has grown into a mega-event for women who are, or see themselves, as future surgeons of America.  When more than 100 women responded to this first chance, she realized that there were a lot of women who were yearning to meet other women surgeons.  So she made it happen and hence in 2010, the first Career Symposium for Women in Surgery was held in southern Florida.  The second grew even further again in Southern Florida.  The third symposium, was hosted in Baltimore where the dynamic Julie Freischlag, MD, Chair of Surgery at Hopkins resides.  And this year we flew across the country where the legendary transplant surgeon, Nancy Asher, MD, PhD, Chair of Surgery at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).

With over 25 faculty, and more than 250 participants ranging from medical students to seasoned practitioners, this symposium, while the inspiration of minimally invasive surgeon, Ross, was organized by a student committee brought together by Dr. Ross and c0-chair Dr. Asher.  These included pre-medical students, medical students, and residents.  These young women, so poised and confident, invited and introduced the speakers.  They planned the poster competition.  And they planned the meals from the welcoming reception following afternoon workshops on campus to the banquet Saturday night where speed mentoring was the desert course.

But most of all they planned an outstanding program.  Each speaker brought a unique point of view.  The 2013 program gives those of you who were not able to attend a taste of what was and what is to come.  Highlights included panel discussions, workshops, a fashion show, and the poster session with prizes.  Oh, let’s not forget the in-depth talks about career choices, from private to academic, and practice models–solo vs. group.

On a personal note, I had a most exciting was seeing the conference through the eyes of my daughter, an MD-PhD at UCSF, who attended with me.  As faculty speaking on work-life balance (“Let Go of the Guilt! And Other Secrets for Work-Life Integration”) I was most worried if my daughter would find what I had to say important and relevant.  I have to admit that I was a bit worried about her reaction most of all!  And when I was done, she gave me a firm, professional handshake of congratulations.  It felt good.

I was more than happy to be there.  Paying back and paying forward through being available, mentorship, sponsorship, and sharing both your triumphs and your travails is what we owe one another.  This generation and the next.  Those beginning give added reasons for us to continue to be the best surgeons we can be, and the best women we want to be.  Once thought mutually exclusive, these 250 women proved that it can and will be done.

I learned so much more than I was able to teach.  I heard the dreams of so many women, so much more confident that I remember being.  This boosted my energy and commitment to women physicians and making their futures bright.

Next year: Washington, DC, June 20-22, 2014.  Hope to see you there!

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