The Importance of Mentorship and Experiences

31 Oct 2018

By Fabiola Valenzuela

As one of the winners of an essay contest held by the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine ( Surgery Department and Interest group, I was given the opportunity to attend  the Association of Women Surgeons (AWS) annual conference and American College of Surgeons (ACS) Clinical Congress.  Attending the ACS Clinical Congress and AWS annual conference was a very rewarding experience for me. It was my first time attending a surgical conference, which provided exposure to various surgical specialties, and encouraged and empowered women to pursue a career in surgery  Moreover, I was exposed to panels ranging from novel research findings to presentations regarding clinical experiences and surgical techniques. I was surprised to see the wide variety of topics that were discussed including ethics and how to deal with medical error and resilience.  Among so many different sessions, a few that most captivated me were a surgical education session and a panel on iatrogenic nerve injuries and techniques of avoidance and management.





The surgical education session discussed the importance of higher quality surgical training from medical students to attendings, and. It also highlighted the importance of research on monitoring outcomes and safety in surgical training, as many medical students, residents, attendings, and fellows presented their research findings and perspectives on the field. I was very impressed by the presentations by the medical students, and how supportive the ACS panelists were of their work while providing constructive criticism.

Regarding The Iatrogenic Nerve Injuries panel, this was the first time I heard a discussion on  surgical nerve repair, and I was fascinated by the techniques and research advancements in this field. Moreover, it was nice to see various surgical specialties collaborated in the discussion to prevent and better manage nerve repair injuries.

Throughout the ACS conference I had the opportunity to engage in various networking opportunities, which were facilitated and directed by a couple of faculty surgeons from my school, my mentor Dr. Romero Arenas and Dr. Snyder. I particularly enjoyed attending the Latino Surgical Society (LSS) reception with Dr. Romero Arenas along with other medical students and surgeons. The LSS reception presented me the opportunity to engage and connect with various Latino surgeons from all over the country. I very much appreciated the willingness of LSS members to share their personal experiences and advice. These networking opportunities along with mentorship are  important especially during such an early stage in our medical careers as students because they have an enormous impact in our career pathway, from establishing what type of surgeon we want to become to providing support and guidance throughout the process.I am very grateful for this opportunity as it allowed me to engage with many surgeons of various surgical specialties and career stages, which provided me with a better understanding of surgery and how to better prepare for a career in surgery. My experience at the ACS further motivated and inspired me to pursue a career in surgery.


Fabiola Valenzuela is from Arlington, TX. She is a medical student at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine. She completed her B.S. at Duke University, and then worked on Neuroimaging research for two years at Stanford School of Medicine. She is currently working on an endocrine surgery research project studying thyroid hormone replacement therapy dosing. Fabiola serves as national Service Chair of the Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA) and Vice President of the UTRGV School of Medicine LMSA Chapter. She is very passionate about diversity and inclusion in medicine, and is the student representative of the diversity and inclusion committee at her medical school. She is a new member of the Association of Women Surgeons and the American College of Surgeons. You can find her on twitter @fabiola_valenz.

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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