The Association of Women Surgeons (AWS) was founded in 1981 when Patricia Numann, MD, FACS, invited as many female surgeons as she could identify to breakfast at the October meeting of the American College of Surgeons. Sharing many common experiences, interests, and concerns, these women decided to meet annually on an informal basis. For the next few years, the first significant contact that many female residents or newly practicing female surgeons had with more professionally advanced surgical women was through these Wednesday morning breakfasts at the American College of Surgeons’ fall meeting.

Attendance grew each year until it became apparent that the group needed a more formal structure to address their common professional concerns. AWS was thus incorporated in 1986. In 1988, Tamar Earnest, MD, FACS, led an energetic membership campaign which brought the total number of female surgeons in the organization to nearly one thousand. To increase communication among the members, a quarterly newsletter and an annual professional development program were inaugurated at the fall meeting of the American College of Surgeons in 1989. As a result, it became apparent that the organization needed to consider its future direction within the surgical community. The first strategic planning session was held in 1991, resulting in the mission statement we retain today and strategies relating to four specific goals. Two of these strategies, namely the annual Fall AWS meeting for professional development and a governor position for an AWS representative in the American College of Surgeons, were accomplished in 1989 and 1995, respectively.

History of Women in Surgery

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