2014 AWS Conference

21 Nov 2014

The annual Association of Women Surgeons Fall Conference was held at the stately Westin St. Francis in San Francisco, California on Sunday, October 26. The 2014 theme was “Transitions: Thriving Amidst Change.” The conference was attended by 124 people, 33 of which were medical students and residents. Presentations were interspersed by opportunities for networking with other attendees and corporate partners.

Celeste Hollands, MD and Lois Killewich, MD moderated the Sunrise Scientific Session. Five abstracts of excellence were presented from among those manuscripts accepted for publication in the American Journal of Surgery:

  • Hillary Braun, MD “Perceptions of Surgeons: Women Surgeons Prefer Female and Communal Surgeons”
  • Courtney Collins, MD “Effect of Pre-Injury Warfarin Use on Outcomes after Head Trauma in Medicare Beneficiaries”
  • Amy Liepert, MD “ Protecting trauma patients from duplicated CT scans: the relevance of integrated care systems”
  • Lisa McElroy, MD “A Meta-Analysis of Complications following Deceased Donor Liver Transplant”
  • Betsy Tuttle-Newhall, MD “Prognostic impact of mechanical ventilation after liver transplantation: A national database study”

Ethicon has supported our Grant program since 1996 – enabling us to award over half a million dollars in research grants to AWS members. Heather Yeo, MD, the 2014 AWS Foundation/Ethicon Endo-Surgery Fellowship winner presented her study: “Clinical trial on the efficacy of sacral neuromodulation (SNM) with Interstim for fecal incontinence following surgery for low rectal cancer with sphincter preservation”.

Simultaneously, the 20 residents and medical students whose posters had been accepted for the 2014 STARR poster competition were being judged. The volunteer judges had a difficult assignment however eventually chose exemplary winners. The overall winner in the resident category was Dr. Fariha Sheikh for her poster entitled “Anesthesia Induced Neurotoxicity” and the overall winner in the medical student category was Martha Henderson from Emory for “Gender Differences in the Correlation of Objective and Subjective Assessments of Surgical Frailty.”

The keynote presentation of the conference was graciously provided by Nancy Ascher MD, FACS, the Professor and Chair, Department of Surgery Division of Transplant Surgery Isis Distinguished Professor in Transplantation, Leon Goldman, MD, Distinguished Professor in Surgery, University of California, San Francisco. Dr. Ascher has devoted her career to organ transplants and transplant research and has had a distinguished career of public service that includes appointments to the Presidential Task Force on Organ Transplantation and the Surgeon General’s Task Force on Increasing Donor Organs. She also served as Chair of the Advisory Committee on Organ Transplantation for the Secretary of Health and Human Services from 2001 – 2005. She was also the 2007 AWS Nina Starr Braunwald Award recipient. Dr. Ascher’s presentation focused on women in leadership roles in surgery. She described the influential role artistic works in Detroit had on her while growing up, statistics of women in all leadership roles and the work yet to be done to achieve position and pay parity for women in surgery. She discussed the roadblocks to success-patients, employers and ourselves. Evaluation of our performance can be stilted due to the “abrasiveness trap”: high-achieving men and women are described differently in reviews. How we are perceived matters, and issues of family concerns, pregnancy and work-life balance need attention at every level of training. View Dr. Ascher’s presentation here.

Attendees next heard “The Changing Face of US Healthcare: How to Optimize Your Career” presented by Patrick Bailey, MD, Medical Director for Advocacy, American College of Surgeons. An Arkansas native, Dr. Bailey is Chief of Pediatric Surgery at Maricopa Medical Center in Phoenix, AZ. He is completing work towards a Master of Legal Studies degree at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and is a Captain in the U.S. Navy Reserve. Dr. Bailey’s presentation focused on several topics of interest to the practicing surgeon. He discussed the implementation of regulations under the ACA, funding proposals for GME and the important role of advocacy in ensuring patient access to quality care. Dr. Bailey inspired many attendees to pay attention when opportunities for their expertise arise.

As a surgeon, balancing personal and professional demands while maintaining some semblance of personal wellness can seem impossible. The next speaker, Dr. Carol Scott–Conner MD, PhD, MBA, Professor of Surgery, University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine is armed with a wealth of both personal experience and unique insight into success as a female surgeon. Dr. Scott-Connor, whose clinical focus is Surgical Oncology and Endocrine surgery, is the consummate surgical educator, the author of innumerable papers and texts and the recipient of many awards. She was named a “local Legend” by the National Library of Medicine and will be awarded the Honored Member Award from the American Association of Clinical Anatomists (AACA) in June 2015. In her spare time she serves as a Governor of the ACS.

Dr. Scott-Connor’s inspiring and grounding presentation “The Challenge: Transition to a Healthier You” focused on the oft-neglected areas that require attention in order for women to be personally successful and enjoy it! She discussed organizational skills, ergonomics, mindfulness, exercise, companionship, reflective writing, burn-out and many other topics. Her addition of personal anecdotes gently drove home her bottom line- that many areas of our lives need tending if we are to be healthy. View Dr. Scott-Conner’s presentation here.

The final formal presentation of the morning was by Janet Bickel, MA a nationally recognized expert in faculty, career and leadership development with 40 years of experience in academic medicine and science. In addition to a wide-range of individual coaching clients, organizational clients have included United American Nurses, US Department of Commerce, and US Department of Health and Human Services. She is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Medical Education at George Washington University School of Medicine and has also taught Leadership and Innovation at the CIA and the National Reconnaissance Office. During the Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine [ELAM] Fellowship Program’s first 15 years, she served on its Advisory and Selection Committees; among her many other roles she continues to serve as faculty and is a Principal Member of its Executive Development Council. AWS recognized her contributions and support of the goals of AWS by awarding her the AWS Honorary Member Award in 1992.

Janet’s presentation “Transitions and Resilience: Growing and Thriving throughout your life and career” focused on how women professionals are inequitably evaluated, the challenge of balancing short-term benefit with long-term satisfaction, success traps and important decision criteria for taking on something new. Multiple small group breakout sessions inspired discussion about the challenges facing women professionals as they advance through their careers. Issues discussed included: How aligned are your professional goals with your current roles and your vision of “success”? How do you effectively communicate your goals and accomplishments in a 30-second “elevator speech”? How can you increase your influence in ways important to you? What is standing in your way? What interferes with adaptability? How can you become more agile?

Janet emphasized preparing for success, transitioning, sustaining success, and then transitioning again all the while interweaving self-efficacy, political savvy, personal/professional growth and “communities of practice”. She emphasized that attendees needed to identify what resilience-promoting practice they were willing to commit to-and what supports were needed for this to work. View Ms. Bickel’s presentation here.

After the AWS Business Luncheon, including election of 2014-2015 AWS officers, attendees reconvened in the Ballroom for directed networking sessions. Table topics included:

  • Financial management: Meredith Duke, MD
  • Work-Life Balance: Joyce Majure, MD and Lauren Paton, MD
  • Private Practice: Yvette LaClaustra, MD and Shirin Towfigh, MD
  • Alternate Career Pathways: Liz Robertson, MD
  • Family Planning: Sharon Stein, MD and Stephanie Bonne, MD
  • Social Media: Erin Gilbert, MD
  • Contract Negotiation: Jennifer Rosen, MD
  • Mentorship: Emina Huang, MD and Nancy Gantt, MD

Discussion and networking at each table was lively-the session moderators found that once settled none of the attendees wanted to move!

Overall the 2014 AWS conference was fun, informative and provided attendees with valuable skills to achieve personal and professional success. Please join us in Chicago for our 2015 Fall Conference on Saturday October 3, 2015.

Respectfully submitted by Nancy L. Gantt, MD FACS

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