9th International Women in Surgery Symposium – Realizing the Quadruple Threat

05 Mar 2018
By Madeline B. Torres.

I had the privilege of attending the 9th Annual Women in Surgery Symposium on February 16-18, led by Dr. Sharona Ross and Dr. Patricia Turner. The Women in Surgery Career Symposium started 9 years ago in Dr. Ross’s living room as a way to provide professional and academic development for women surgeons and to inspire those pursuing a career in surgery.  The theme of this year’s conference was the Quadruple Threat: Clinical Excellence, Confidence, Character and Charisma.

Clinical Excellence  was present in every aspect of the conference, from the session on Friday evening where upcoming changes in healthcare, billing and coding were discussed, to the Sunday morning session moderated by Dr. Sandra Wong  on quality outcomes. The session focused on patient satisfaction, the importance of online reviews, and the value of ERAS and NSQIP to improve patient outcomes.  Dr. Paula Ferrada led a session for students and residents on how to navigate the American College of Surgeons: “Show up, start local, contribute, follow up, reach out, persist and have fun.”

Confidence amongst participants was built through different sessions. A special session discussing building a CV and research, tips to succeed in residency and mock interviews was offered for residents and medical students on the first night. The Saturday sessions continued the theme, starting with tips from Dr. Lattisha Bilbrew on how to stand out in medical school and residency by having a plan and staying organized.  Dr. Vani Sabesan provided suggestions to build financial confidence by discussing the importance of finding a financial advisor, getting disability insurance early in your training and carrying that through after graduating residency. Contract negotiation was provided with the advice, “Everything is negotiable, all you have to do is ask.”

Character building and development were important topics of discussion throughout the weekend. Dr. Dana Telem delivered a powerful speech about unconscious and implicit bias. In her speech, Dr. Telem described how unconscious bias leads to inequity and how our experiences have created biases that contribute to who we are and the way we start to overcome those biases is with awareness of their existence. Awareness leads to change in behavior and subsequently increased collaboration, inclusiveness and satisfaction. Her closing remarks and my takeaway message from her speech is that “diverse teams perform better.” We touched on the importance of emotional intelligence with a session held by Dr. Schwaizberg followed with emphasis on important characteristics of individuals with a high emotional quotient (EQ): self-awareness, self-management and social awareness.

Charisma – with multiple networking opportunities available during the entire conference, we were able to apply this theme in action. Sessions focused on the importance on finding a mentor and sponsor,  while life coaching was discussed in a session moderated by Dr. Christine Laronga  included speakers such as Dr. Susan Pories , Dr. Nancy Gantt , Dr. Patricia Numann, Dr. Stephanie Bonne, Dr. Celeste Hollands  and Dr. Rajesh Aggarwal.

In summary, the 9th Annual International Women in Surgery Career Symposium delivered an opportunity to develop clinical excellence, build confidence, develop character and express charisma.

P.S. below are a list of books that were recommended throughout the conference: 



Madeline B. Torres, M.D. is a general surgery resident currently completing a research fellowship in surgical oncology at the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

Dr. Torres was born and raised in El Salvador. She immigrated to the United States with her mother and brother at the age of nine. Dr. Torres obtained a B.S. in chemistry from the University of Colorado at Denver and her M.D. from the University of Utah School of Medicine. She became involved with AWS during medical school after working with AWS members Amalia Cochran M.D. and Leigh Neumayer M.D. whom she considers mentors.

Her interests include: surgical education, surgical oncology, work-life balance and encouraging women and minorities to pursue surgery and careers in medicine.

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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