By: Shree Agrawal, BS, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine
The hardest part of being a female medical student was not deciding to pursue a career in surgery. Instead, it was and still is difficult to reconcile my gender and passion. Fortunately, the merging of both materialized right in front of me, or more appropriately, on my smartphone in the form of #ILookLikeASurgeon.
The tag #ILookLikeASurgeon has evolved from a social media movement of surgeon selfies, several blog posts, and countless tweets to a New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) forum titled, “#ILookLikeASurgeon-What It Means and Why It Is Important for Women Surgeons.” I had the opportunity to serve as a moderator to a collection of voices behind the surgical mask. Women from across the country, representing different races, ages, and stages of training, confidently offered their honest reflections on issues surrounding “leaning in” to surgery. When I try to understand what it means to be a female and pursue a future in surgery, a few lessons from these inspiring women will stay with me.
On trying to have it all and missing the mark sometimes, Dr. Dzifa Kpodzo, MD, MPH wisely encourages, “Rather than berating yourself for not being superwoman, congratulate yourself on your organization, efficiency and ability to problem solve.” To address the complex and elusive theory of “work-life balance,” Dr. Kathryn Hughes, MD, offers a modern concept of work-life integration. “…The term work-life balance misses the mark. I have used work-life integration, because balance is not realistic; work is a part of our lives, and the rest of our lives do not disappear when at work.” Dr. Stephanie Bonne, MD, insightfully penned a new personal mantra, “I think we can celebrate these [our] differences and support one another as a unique group who are, together, having a unique human experience-that of being a woman surgeon.”
This forum lasts beyond one week of online conversations. It prompts an ever-evolving individual definition to #ILookLikeASurgeon empowered by this rich network of women willing to cultivate leaders, support students, and embrace the diversity we each bring to medicine and surgery.