My First AWS Meeting

01 Nov 2019

By Kristin Rojas

Annual medical conferences are not only an opportunity to stay up-to-date with developments in your prospective field, but also a convenient way to catch up with inspirational friends and colleagues. The Association of Women Surgeons (AWS) Meeting in San Francisco this past weekend was no exception. With a theme of “Sculpting our Future”, it was full of sessions led by dynamic, inspirational women in surgery sharing personal experiences and insightful career mentorship. There were a wide range of attendees: from established faculty and past Presidents of the American College of Surgeons to fellows, residents, medical school and even high school students. 

The day began with inspirational words by AWS President Dr. Sharon Stein, followed by Dr. Carla Pugh, who shared her own journey sculpting her brand. She encouraged us to listen to those that introduce you, even if the introduction is incorrect, as your brand is what people say about you when you aren’t in the room. She shared with us how her own brand needed “chiseling”, and that when even your biggest supporters ask painful questions…don’t kill the messenger.

A panel of four surgeons followed, sharing valuable insight into their own career paths. Dr. Dana Telem encouraged the audience to follow their heart, while Dr. Maya Babu described the potential benefits of a more fluid market in medicine in a world where we might be more comfortable with risk. Dr. Karen Brasel described how writing a vision statement for her desired position helped her shape her own career. Dr. Julie Ann Sosa shared that her own path was not the straightest line, but that we can learn from inefficiencies.

Dr. Julie Freischlag (@jfreischlag) provided the audience with strategies for addressing microaggressions in a tactful way.

I personally had the opportunity to share the stage with two other @womensurgeons researchers, Dr. Laura Rosenberger from Duke University and Dr. Alicia Mohr from University of Florida. Presenting our opioid-sparing initiatives from Maimonides Medical Center in front of so many game-changing surgeons that I admire, topped only by being voted “Best Paper” by my peers,  was the highlight of my year. 

The day finished with a collection of S.H.E. Talks, where the safe space created throughout the day fostered an environment of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The inspirational day left attendees with a better understanding of where we have been and where we are going, and the future of women surgeons is bright.

Dr. Kristin Rojas is a fellowship-trained breast and gynecologic surgeon at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York. Originally from Texas, she attended the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, completed residency at Brown University, and later the Society of Surgical Oncology Breast Fellowship at Brooklyn Breast Program of Maimonides. Her research interests include studying the implementation of opioid-minimization ERAS protocols, along with cancer survivorship and sexual health during and after treatment. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter @kristinrojasmd.

Our blog is a forum for our members to speak, and as such, statements made here represent the opinions of the author and are not necessarily the opinion of the Association of Women Surgeons.

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