Interview with Susan Pories, MD, FACS, Immediate Past President of the Association of Women Surgeons

30 Nov 2013

by Jane Zhao

Dr. Susan Pories is Co-Director of the Hoffman Breast Center at Mount Auburn Hospital and Associate Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. She has been named one of America’s Top Surgeons and is an editor of The Soul of a Doctor: Harvard Medical Students Face Life and Death. She obtained her medical degree from the University of Vermont College of Medicine, where she stayed to continue her general surgery residency. She completed a surgical oncology fellowship at New England Deaconess Hospital. She served as the immediate past president of the Association of Women Surgeons.

Click here to learn more about Dr. Pories from the beginning of her AWS presidency.

In today’s post, Dr. Pories touches upon her involvement with AWS, her work as a breast surgeon, and the grand plans she has moving forward.

Q: You have quite the impressive curriculum vitae! Tell us a little about yourself that readers may not know about just from searching you up on Google.

A: I grew up as an “Air Force brat”. We moved a lot and I always envied people who didn’t have to move so often. I vowed that when I had my own family, I would make sure to stay in one place. However, in retrospect, I realize that the experience of moving taught me to be resilient and now I am grateful for this strength.

Q: Why breast surgery? 

A: I started out as a general surgeon but I was the only woman practicing in Cambridge at the time and women with breast problems naturally gravitated to me. After awhile, I was so busy with breast surgery that I decided to specialize in this exclusively. In addition, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in her 40s and underwent bilateral radical mastectomies, which led to my personal interest in this area as well. I have been very happy with this area of practice.

Q: What excites you most about your day-to-day routine?

A: Actually the best thing about my professional life is the variety of things I am involved in. I have the opportunity to participate in research and teaching as well as clinical care and administration. I love the interactions with patients and getting to know them and their families.

Q: How did you become involved with the Association of Women Surgeons?

A: I joined AWS to find a community of other women interested in surgery. I always attended the meetings and dinners but didn’t really get involved actively until Dr. Betsy Tuttle invited me to serve as Vice-Chair of the Grants Committee. This position was a great chance to get more experience with leadership as well as grant review and ultimately opened many doors.

Q: What was your proudest accomplishment during your term as president of the Association of Women Surgeons?

A: While President, I started a Task Force to create the AWS Surgical Career Mentor. This is modeled after the Pocket Mentor for residents, but meant for practicing surgeons. There are over 30 chapters addressing topics such as interview skills, negotiation, research, publishing, teaching, and running a practice. This is nearing completion and should be released sometime this year. I am hoping this will prove to be a useful resource.

Q: What advice do you have for the next generation of surgeons?

Surgery is a great field and you are sure to find a niche that will be fulfilling. Try to find an area to focus on and become the expert at this. This will lead to invitations to speak and the most interesting referrals. Align your clinical and research interests so that one informs the other.

Q: What can we expect from you next? 

A: I am the Co-Chair of the Initiative for bringing the arts and humanities into the medical school curriculum and culture at Harvard Medical School. This is a true labor of love – I have met so many interesting people from other specialties and learned so much. We have put on plays, musical events, visited art museums, had poetry readings and more. I am convinced that this effort will enrich and improve the educational experience for students and residents, leading to more balanced practitioners and better patient care.

Thanks for a fantastic year, Dr. Pories! We can’t wait for the AWS Surgical Career Mentor to be published and have absolute faith that your future endeavors will be met with success. 

Readers, what questions do you have for Dr. Pories? Are there any other issues you would like to see addressed—or resources you would like to see be made available—by current and future AWS leadership?


Jane Zhao is a fourth year medical student at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston. She completed her undergraduate studies in Medicine, Health, & Society at Vanderbilt University. She was the 2012 recipient of the Shohrae Hajibashi Memorial Leadership Award. Her interests include healthcare social media, quality improvement, and public health from a surgical perspective. She chairs the AWS blog subcommittee and can be followed on Twitter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *