#WhyIAWS: Calling on all medical students (MD/DO/MBBS) pursuing surgery

30 Mar 2020

By Ashley Choi

As I reflect on the past three years of being a part of the AWS National Medical Student Committee, I am blown away by how much I have grown personally and professionally. One thing is clear: AWS has given me much more than I can give back. It has gifted me with my tribe.

Who we are: The “Med Student Committee” is a 20 person committee with every position grounded in leadership and service. We have specialized roles to ensure that tasks are completed in a short period of time, including Research Coordinator, Resource Development Coordinator, Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator, Social Media Coordinator, Mentorship Coordinator, and 11 Regional Representatives who together manage 80+ AWS chapters worldwide. At the end of the day, we all work together to be a resource to our colleagues in need. 

What we do: I want to share some of the work that we have done this past year as well as our efforts to respond to COVID-19. It is becoming more evident that COVID-19 is affecting every part of the healthcare system and will continue to do so in the coming months. With most institutions suspending clinical service for medical students, there are many uncertainties as to how these policies will impact away rotations, residency interviews, and USMLE exams. Just two weeks ago, we hosted a #tweetchat on the topic of away rotations in the midst of a pandemic. We also celebrated our graduating fourth years through a #virtualmatch ceremony on Twitter. This past year, our committee has had one of its most productive years in history:

  • 14 surgical subspecialty career guides for medical students were published online,
  • The Starr Research Forum 2019 had a record number of abstracts (170+),
  • High-impact research led by the committee is currently underway to investigate the impact of intersectionality on the female surgeon experience,
  • And we launched a new mentorship program dedicated to under-represented minority students in collaboration with the Society of Black Academic Surgeons and Latino Surgical Society.

Join us: Our work to promote gender equity in all levels of training is far from done. We still need to understand how to better support our LGBTQ colleagues, students aspiring to become military and rural surgeons, and women from all walks of life interested in surgery and looking for a community where they feel welcomed and like they belong. We welcome anyone who is up for the challenge of working in a fast-paced environment with emphasis on collaboration and professional communication. Whether you are someone who was not offered a position last year, someone just learning about the committee, or someone who is unsure if you are qualified to apply, please APPLY! We pay attention to the unique experiences that you bring to the table to represent others like you. We love to see ideas that we have not considered before. In addition, there are countless advantages to joining a professional society early in your career. Beyond amazing networking opportunities, AWS is home to all women surgeons. Be a part of the solution and apply today: https://forms.gle/TDWm7P6vF95sTGuYA.

#WhyIAWS: If you are still not sold on the idea of joining, I want to tell you #WhyIAWS. My family is from South Korea. As with many parts of the world, it remains a conservative community with slow progress towards gender equity. I was raised by a single mother who did not have the same opportunities that I did. Despite a series of unfavorable turns in life, she never gave up finding a way. She always told me to look past today and find my tribe. Whether you are status post (s/p) a rough day in the OR, s/p breakup in the middle of rotations, s/p getting destroyed by reviewer #2 on your manuscript, or s/p hurtful criticism by someone who made it all about your gender, your tribe just gets you without having to explain a single thing. I found my tribe. 

The AWS National Medical Student Committee is my tribe:

We’ve laughed and cried together:

We’ve also all shown up to a 6am committee meeting at the AWS national conference in San Francisco smiling, excited to see each other in person:

I come back to this tribe whenever I feel like I’m alone in my journey because let’s face it, sometimes it really feels like we walk alone. AWS gives me the community and support that inspires me to continue this journey towards the #FutureIsFemale.



Ashley Choi is the outgoing Chair of the AWS National Medical Student Committee and a rising fourth-year medical student at Duke University School of Medicine. She hails from Southern California and grew up playing tetherball. As an undergraduate at Johns Hopkins University, she studied International Relations. She plans to train as an academic cardiothoracic surgeon and improve the care of patients with end-stage heart and lung disease. In her free time, you can find her playing volleyball or tweeting away on Twitter @AshleyYJChoi.


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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