The Association of Women Surgeons National Medical Student Committee

24 May 2023

By Charlotte Smith, Gopika SenthilKumar, Paulina Gutkin

Fostering a community intended to elevate women medical students is vital not only for increasing representation within surgery, but also building and strengthening professional and interpersonal connections among the future generation of surgeons. The AWS National Medical Student Committee (NMSC) is a collaborative of 27 medical students from across the United States and five international regions. We are incredibly excited to introduce the 23’-24’ NMSC members

The committee plans and coordinates national and local initiatives designed to engage medical students with the parent AWS organization and its values: engage, empower, and excel. Our main projects can be divided into the following categories: 

Research and Resource Development

We use our strength as a diverse committee to brainstorm and execute research projects related to the main mission of AWS. In 2022, we published our paper “Comparison of Male and Female Surgeons’ Experiences With Gender Across 5 Qualitative/Quantitative Domains” in JAMA Surgery, generating exciting discussion on contemporary issues faced by AWS members. Several committee members also presented projects at ACS, including “The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Experiences of Female, Underrepresented-in-Medicine Surgical Applicants during the 2020-2021 Residency Match.” Our committee is also responsible for organizing the Starr Research Forum at the AWS Annual Conference. We typically review over 200 abstracts to select ten medical students and ten residents/fellows to present their novel research at the conference, and provide scholarships for several under-represented in medicine (UIM) finalists. 

Outside of our research work, we produce a multitude of online resources for pre-medical and medical students, covering areas including getting involved with research and finding mentors. Please stay tuned for the publication of our newest resource, “Knots for thoughts”, a podcast run by our committee dedicated to helping students succeed on their surgery clerkships.

Mentorship and Diversity & Inclusion

One of the key goals of the NMSC is to create opportunities for medical students to find mentors that resonate with them. As such, the Mentorship Coordinators on the NMSC run a 6-month long mentorship program that pairs medical students one-on-one with a surgeon mentor. This past year, we piloted the incorporation of large group panel sessions on key topics of interest to medical students; these sessions provided an opportunity for students to meet each other, as well as a variety of other female surgeons. In addition, initiatives at the K-12 level are key for creating pipelines for students from disadvantaged/underrepresented backgrounds to not only gain exposure to the field of surgery, but also find mentors and opportunities to succeed. The NMSC helps organize day-long events for local K-12 students at the location of the annual AWS conference, and also coordinates a virtual day-of-service for students around the country to gain exposure to surgery. This upcoming year, the committee is looking forward to expanding these programs and also developing mentorship resources/opportunities for international students who have unique considerations within surgery. Our long term goal is to establish collaborations with other national surgical societies to create robust and scalable mentorship initiatives for students interested in surgery.

We also are dedicated to promoting discussion related to Diversity and Inclusion, while providing space for our medical students to feel welcome and included within AWS. Our most popular project is our recurring Instagram Live series “Diverse Perspectives”, highlighting unique obstacles and triumphs of surgeons of various ethnicities at all stages of their careers. Keep an eye out for information regarding our Annual International Day of Service, partnering with URM high school students. 

Fostering Local and Regional Communities

One of our primary goals is to expand the reach of AWS globally, as well as, strengthen the chapters that already exist. Local chapters at medical schools are a great resource for students to gather in person and form relationships with others within the institution that embody the mission of AWS. All chapters are in communication with regional representatives, who organize regional conferences that bring together many of these chapters and create local but accessible cohorts of AWS members. With this structure, the committee is able to strengthen relationships at the local and regional levels. 

This year, our goal is to improve the resources available for new and existing chapters, and create opportunities for implementing some of our more successful national events/initiatives at the local level. In addition, we hope to foster innovative spaces to share ideas between chapters/regions and build upon each others’ experiences. 

How to Support/Get Involved with The Committee 

Looking for ways to get involved or support the committee? As a medical student, we encourage you to participate in the numerous events that we organize, become involved with local chapters/regional events, and please introduce yourself to committee members at conferences! We have a webpage dedicated to medical student resources – We also encourage you to apply for committee positions if you are interested in our work. 

As for residents/ fellows/ attendings, we are always looking for valuable speakers, panelists, and mentors! If you are interested in receiving emails about opportunities to help out the NMSC, please reach out to


Our pictures and Bios:

Charlotte Smith is a fourth-year medical student at UNC School of Medicine, interested in Trauma and Critical Care Surgery. Active within AWS since 2020, she is serving as chair for this year’s National Medical Student Committee. Her prior roles on the committee include Southeast Regional Representative and Research Coordinator. She is most proud of her effort coordinating the Starr Research Forum for the 2022 AWS Annual Meeting. 

She grew up in France before attending UNC-Chapel Hill for undergrad as a member of the D1 Fencing Team. Outside work, Charlotte enjoys medical illustrations, watching Formula 1, and supporting the Tar Heels!

Gopika SenthilKumar is a G3 (5th year) in the MD-PhD program at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, and is the incoming Vice Chair for the AWS National Medical Student Committee 23’-24’. In this role, she is looking forward to supporting and encouraging the incredible initiatives organized by the committee members! For the past two years, she served as a Mentorship Coordinator within the NMSC, where she helped implement and expand an annual 6-month long mentorship program for medical students with limited access to mentors. She also helped coordinate the high school outreach event at the annual AWS conference. In her free time, Gopika enjoys trying local restaurants, painting, and working out with friends!

Paulina Gutkin is a fourth-year medical student at the Medical College of Wisconsin, interested in surgical oncology. She is serving as Chief of Chapter Development for this year’s committee and looks forward to working with our 13 Regional Representatives to strengthen and expand AWS chapters globally. Paulina previously served as the Midwest Great Plains Regional Representative on the committee.

Raised in New York, she obtained her Bachelor of Science in Biology at Bucknell University, where she was also a Division I softball scholarship athlete. In her free time, she loves to hike, travel, and spoil her cat.

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