Author: Sarah Armenia
I first became familiar with the Association of Women Surgeons after a simple Google search of “women in surgery.” After becoming a physician assistant a year prior, I had decided to apply to medical school instead of entering practice in order to become a surgeon. I was already aware of the American College of Surgeons from reading the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, but I had yet to discover an organization like the Association of Women Surgeons.
As a member of the national medical student committee, I was given the opportunity to collect recordings and photos of AWS members discussing why they loved being a part of the AWS. I initially thought interviewing women who have spent their careers shaping surgery and medical education might be intimidating. However, this fear quickly dissipated as every woman shared her story with humble honesty. I developed an impression of these inspiring women as role models from afar, and never expected such a level of approachability, warmth and mentorship. Each woman I approached for photos or videos happily participated and provided deep insights about their experiences within AWS. Their excitement to be a part of an organization like AWS was palpable. The women around me were the very embodiment of the changing face of surgery embraced by the #ILookLikeASurgeon campaign.
The essence of the conference was embodied by a panel presentation focusing on “Productivity and Wellness Across the Surgical Spectrum.” Seven speakers shared personal tips and tricks for “leaning in without stressing out.” Each woman illustrated that there is no single definition of balance that works for all. The importance of continuing to strive for success with a mindfulness of our own personal definition of balance resonated throughout the day.
The balance of research, education, and personal development was equally represented with each session. Following a morning of recognition of the scientific accomplishments of AWS members along with a scientific poster session for both medical students and residents, an executive presence workshop fostered a period of self-reflection and step-wise identification of the individual values. Whether it was a medical student, resident, or faculty member, there was an unique energy when we all shared common values and goals.
I felt honored to have such an experience occur at an early stage of my education, as a first year medical student. The feelings of solidarity and support I experienced after interacting with other AWS members strengthened my motivation to continue moving forward along this long journey.