“Dear Pat”: Providing Answers to Questions from Surgical Residents and Fellows

25 Feb 2018
By Danielle Henry and Marie Crandall

The Association of Women Surgeons (AWS) is excited to announce the start of a new resident and fellow focused blog titled, “Dear Pat”. “Dear Pat” will answer questions about issues that are pertinent to residents and fellows, like applying to fellowship, family planning, and navigating difficult situations on the job. Questions may be submitted anonymously and will be answered by AWS council members. The monthly recurring blog will be published in the AWS blog on the fourth Sunday of each month. We want to hear from you, so if you are interested in submitting your question to be answered, use this link.  All questions submitted will be kept anonymous.

“Dear Pat” is led by the Resident and Fellow Committee in collaboration with the Blog Team. Fashioned after the column “Dear Abby”, “Dear Pat” is an advice blog for surgical residents and fellows. “Dear Pat”, is named after our founder Dr. Patricia “Pat” Numann. Dr. Numann founded the Association of Women Surgeons in 1981, when she invited as many women surgeons as she could identify to breakfast at the October meeting of the American College of Surgeons to share common experiences, interests and concerns. Dr. Numann has provided much advice over the years to our members. This blog is a tribute to Dr. Numann’s work by bringing experienced women to the blog to share advice helpful to other women surgeons.

Here is a preview of one of the questions answered by Dr. Marie Crandall from the AWS Council:

Dear Pat,

How do I set myself up at the end of residency to have a powerful academic career? I see some female faculty who have amazing careers with national leadership positions, but I have no idea how they got there! Is there anything I can do now to be on that path? Any advice on what steps I should take in choosing a job or starting my academic career?

Sincerely, Future Triple Threat

Dear Future Triple Threat,

Outstanding! Great plan, I fully support being a triple threat. So, picture a 20 year path; it takes that long to get settled into a high powered academic career. As you say, it’s a triple threat. The first step is clinical excellence, learn surgery, learn it well, and continue to learn in fellowship (if chosen), courses, and by reading the literature in your chosen field. Second, academic excellence is also a process. Identify clinical opportunities for research in training, and consider taking time off for research if your program allows. Depending on your field of interest, an advanced research degree (like a PhD, MSc, MPH) may be desirable. When you are looking for your first job, ensure you negotiate for adequate time and resources for research and grant-writing. Research presentations and publications will position you on the national stage; become involved in your specialty organizations and volunteer for committees, committee work, and leadership positions that interest you. Then, every few years, evaluate your path, ensure you like what you’re doing, and redirect or look for next steps (such as Division Chief, Program Director). Finally, the best academicians are frequently the best teachers, with a passion for learning and imparting knowledge; but taking courses such as “Residents as Teachers” or courses hosted by your institution to bolster teaching skills can be very helpful. Good luck to you!

Dr. Marie Crandall

2 Replies to ““Dear Pat”: Providing Answers to Questions from Surgical Residents and Fellows”

  1. Dear Pat, I’m a 3rd year general surgery resident outside US and wish to get a fellowship spot in US after I finish here. I have approximately 16 months left. Please help me with the procedure and specialties I may take some that I can start to prepare for it. Regards. Eager resident.

  2. If you are currently residing outside the USA you will need to take the USMLE Examinations in order to secure ECFMG certification. This is an absolute requirement and can take up to 18 months to complete the requirements. The fellowships that lead to additional American Board Certification (e.g. Colorectal, Pediatric surgery etc. ) are managed by ACGME & usually through a match. Other Fellowships (e.g. Transplant or Minimally Invasive ) have their own process for selecting candidates. You did not indicate a specialty so I am not sure which would apply to you.

    When it comes to selecting a program I would look for institutions that have faculty on staff from your part of the world or better still from your school. That way they will be able to evaluate the quality of your general surgery training & experience.

    Good Luck!

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