By Susan Pitt
Every year, the Association of Women Surgeons co-hosts a luncheon at the annual Academic Surgical Congress (ASC) with the Society of Black Academic Surgeons (SBAS). The topic of this year’s luncheon that will take place in Houston, TX on Wednesday, February 6th, 2019 is “One of These Things is Not Like the Other – How to Manage Up, Down, and Across in a Multi-ethnic, Multi-gendered, and Multi-cultural Work Environment.” The luncheon is sponsored by SBAS and was organized by their representative Zara Cooper, MD, MSc (https://eventpilotadmin.com/web/page.php?page=Session&project=ASC19&id=20190033).
The session features several speakers and aims to have participants:
- appreciate the perspectives of a number of leaders in academic surgery with respect to increasing diversity, equity and inclusion in academic surgery.
- apply strategies for negotiating diverse working environments.
- appreciate current approaches leaders in academic surgery are using to foster diversity and inclusion in surgery.
The speakers and specific topics include:
- Anne C. Mosenthal, MD – “Lessons and Observations of Being a Female Leader in Academic Surgery”
- Jacob A. Greenberg, MD, EdM – “Training the Next Generation – How Can We Get This Right?”
- Edward M. Barksdale, Jr., MD – “Treating Our Patients and Ourselves – Achieving Greater Inclusion and Equity in Academic Surgery”
- Herbert Chen, MD – “Leveraging Social Networks and Professional Societies”
As I prepare to attend the ASC meeting and co-chair this session with Dr. Cooper, I find myself reflecting on times when I personally experienced that “one of these things is not like the other.” The most obvious example from my own life was with my chief general surgery class at Washington University in St. Louis. I was the only woman in a class of 7 surgical residents. The classes above and below me had much more gender diversity, but in my class, I was the only woman…and I used that difference to my advantage. My leadership style and skills were a little different, yet complimentary to those of my male colleagues. These differences helped me be elected as the Resident Representative for the PGY1-4 classes. They also helped me become one of the Administrative Chief Residents. While being different can be uncomfortable, it can also be a major advantage.
The advantages of diversity are increasingly recognized in business and in medicine. Several popular books are written on the topic, such as The Diversity Bonus: How Great Teams Pay Off in the Knowledge Economy by Scott E. Page or Inclusion: Diversity, The New Workplace & The Will To Change by Jennifer Brown. Just a quick search on Amazon.com reveals several reads.
The benefits of having diverse ethnic, gender and cultural perspectives are many. For one, diverse teams are known to be more productive and perform better. Diversity among team members helps inspire creativity and drive innovation by increasing the knowledge and insight of a group. The group then can become a more competitive, profitable, and higher quality team. When an organization draws from a culturally diverse talent pool, it also maximizes its ability to attract and retain the best talent. Increasing diversity of thought and skill base also allows an organization to offer a broader and more adaptable range of products and services as well as offer greater opportunity for personal and professional growth. With all of these advantages to diversity, it only makes sense that all teams should strive to be diverse and inclusive.
On Wednesday, February 6th, 2019, SBAS and the Association of Women Surgeons hope to show you how diversity is an advantage in surgery. The lineup of incredible speakers promises to prove the benefits of “one of these things not looking like the other” and explore means for increasing diversity and inclusion. In the meantime, ask yourself, “How are you different? How are your differences an advantage? What can you offer your team?”
Susan C. Pitt, MD, MPHS is an Assistant Professor of Endocrine Surgery at the University of Wisconsin. Dr. Pitt serves at the Liaison to Association of Women Surgeons for the Association of Academic Surgery.
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.