AWS BLOG

Building resilience in the wake of Sutherland Springs – How will we survive another mass casualty event?

By Lillian Liao, MD, MPH

For years now, our regional trauma system has performed scheduled drills of potential mass casualty events: an airplane crash, a stadium event, a nightclub shooting, etc. Our team is prepared to care for the injured patients “if” it ever hit us. Then came the dreaded text message on a beautiful Sunday morning: “Mass casualty incident – Sutherland Springs. Not a drill. More to come.” By Divine intervention or organized chaos, our trauma program had a meeting there that morning. In additional to the usual team of two trauma surgeons and the complement of residents, we had an additional five trauma surgeons in the building. Our most senior surgeon took the role of the triage officer. The teams of people required to care for the injured patients gathered like sections of a symphony orchestra. By the time the first patient came, everyone [the ER to the OR to the Adult and Pediatric Intensive Care Unit] was ready for what was to come.

Trauma clinical staff anticipating the arrival of patients.

A strong regional trauma system and a dedicated trauma program had prepared us to care for the injured patients. What it had not prepared us for is the sadness; the anger; and the helplessness felt when people die or become injured senselessly. These emotions are difficult to overcome. The nationwide outpouring of support from other healthcare providers certainly helped. Miami, Las Vegas, and Aurora all sent words of encouragement. How sad is it that we now belong to this sacred league of health care providers? However, surgeons are doers; we do not sit around and feel sorry for our plight. We find solutions! Moreover, we can recover from this tragedy by leaning on the resilience we have built up through years of surgical training to overcome all things difficult and seemingly impossible.

There are three major lessons I took away from the horrible tragedy. First, a strong trauma system is key to saving lives. Triage and transport of critically injured patients to the highest level of care is paramount, as there is really “no time to bleed!” Second, tourniquets save lives. When I look at the survivors and focus on the adults and children who came in with tourniquets in place, tourniquets saved their lives and limb! This should re-energize our commitment for regional STOP THE BLEED efforts. We must work to convert every bystander into a first responder. We must get our community leaders involved and help them to see that tourniquets and bleeding control supplies must be available in all public spaces because if this could happen in a church, it really can happen in just about anywhere. Lastly, we must also not shy away from dialogue about firearm availability and firearm safety. Our nation must build a consensus on how the need for freedom and liberty can coexist with the imminent need to reduce firearm related injuries. A good starting point is the ACS bulletin put forth by Dr. Deborah Kuhls and the Committee on Trauma Injury Prevention Team.

A message from the AWS Blog Team: This is part of a series of blog posts from surgeons who wish to share their experience during these trying times. If you wish to share your story, you may email blog@womensurgeons.org.

 

Dr. Liao completed her undergraduate training in Economics with Honors from the University of Texas Austin where she was a member of the Dean’s Scholars Program. Dr. Liao completed her medical training at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center in San Antonio in 2004 and her surgical residency in 2010. She pursued additional fellowship training in Trauma and Critical care and joined the Trauma Faculty at the Health Sciences Center in 2011. Dr. Liao is board certified in General Surgery and Surgical Critical Care. Her primary clinical and research interests are in vascular trauma, pediatric trauma and burn, and injury prevention/patient education. She is currently the Pediatric Trauma and Burn Director at University Hospital’s Level I Pediatric Trauma center. Follow Dr. Liao on Twitter.


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.

 

ASSOCIATION OF WOMEN SURGEONS “TWEETCHAT” ON THE #IDEALTEAMPLAYER

 

This past Monday, November 27th, the Association of Women Surgeons (AWS) Clinical Practice Committee carried out a very insightful Tweetchat discussing The Ideal Team Player, a book by Patrick Lencioni (@patricklencioni). The Tweetchat was moderated by Dr. Sasha Adams (@SashaTrauma), current AWS CPC Chair, and Dr. Jean Miner (@Jfminermd), past CPC Co-Chair.

For those who were not present or missed any parts during the chat, you can find some of the highlights of the discussion in the Tweetchat storify.

Also, make sure to check out Dr. Jean Miner’s previous post on the AWS blog summarizing main ideas of the book that were discussed during the chat.

Thank you for everyone who participated and look out for the next AWS Tweetchat taking place in December!

 

Hurricane Season: A Family Affair

By Dr Christine Laronga

My nephew helping rescue people from floods caused by Hurricane Harvey.

News of hurricane Irma came on the heels of witnessing the heroism and devastation of hurricane Harvey in Texas. Yes heroism. Natural disasters do not discriminate and we have witnessed people of all walks of life coming together to help one another in the face of tragedy. 2017 has certainly had its share of devastation. Even though I wasn’t in Houston, I lived it through my family and social media who live just outside of Houston. I watched people, like my own nephew, rescuing stranded men and women in areas of flooding and delivering food & water to those unable to get out of their houses.

So when word came from the hurricane center that Irma was headed to Florida, Floridians prepared. Food, water, and supplies disappeared from grocery store shelves days before the storm hit. Gas lines became long as people filled up everything they could for car travel and backup generators. College students were evacuated and sent home two days before the storm arrived and were told not to return for a week. Schools and offices closed to make ready. The government sprung into action and orchestrated the largest evacuation plan in the state’s history.

Now Floridians are used to hurricanes. We have Miami Dade grade windows, hurricane shutters, back-up generators, and sandbags galore. This time was different. Floridians found themselves in an arcade pinball machine. The eye of the hurricane and where it would hit landfall kept moving.  People would evacuate from one area only to learn that new area was now in the path of the hurricane. Some managed to get out of the state via jam-packed highways or airplanes until roads and airports closed. Shelters opened at a fierce pace for those fearful to stay home alone whilst other joined forces and supplies in the safest house in the neighborhood.

Mine was one of those houses with Miami Dade grade windows, extra hurricane curtains, a household generator running off the public gas line, and a walk in closet that was emptied to convert to a safe room. Outpouring of texts and emails from concerned friends and colleagues across the nation keeping me connected with the outside world. Newscasters kept us abreast moment by moment of the storm’s progress. The entire state of Florida was hit by hurricane Irma without exception. Some lost their houses, many lost power for days (some for over a week), and many had no drinking water or usable water as their house supply comes from a well. Grocery store shelves lacked refrigerated products and water for days after the storm. Gas stations remained closed as the ports took days to re-open to receive tankers of gas. The government and public servants worked tirelessly to get the state up and running.  Like hurricane Harvey and the other tragedies, Floridians banded together. Households with water and power opened their doors to those without (Florida this time of year is still hot and humid). Cleanup and repairs are still under way.

As for me, eventually I will unpack my house and take down the hurricane curtains. In the grand scheme of things, it is just not a priority. What is a priority are efforts to help our Puerto Rican neighbors (many of which have family members in Florida). Our schools are taking on their students. Our hospitals are taking their sick. I am proud of how we all put our differences aside, rose to the occasion, and are helping one another. We have seen such resolve time and again this year for other tragedies.

A message from the AWS Blog Team: This is part of a series of blog posts from surgeons who wish to share their experience during these trying times. If you wish to share your story, you may email blog@womensurgeons.org.

Christine Laronga is a Senior Member at Moffitt Cancer Center and a Professor of Surgery at the University of South Florida and specializes in disease of the breast. She joined the Association of Women Surgeons as a resident and has been an active member for over a decade. She is also the Immediate Past President. Follow her on Twitter @clarongamd.


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.

When the Storm Clears: A New Perspective

By Dr. Ainhoa Costas-Chavarri

For 14 days after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, I had no way of knowing if my parents were dead or alive. They’re fine, I told myself. Our house is not in a flood-prone area. The roof and walls are solid, and won’t blow away. I’m sure they’re ok, I replied to the rising tide of emails, texts, and phone calls from concerned friends and colleagues – there’s just no lines of communication. I’m sure they’re fine, they have to be, I reassured myself, resting my hand on my second trimester and growing belly.

I grew up in Puerto Rico. Every summer my mother would unearth the free NOAA hurricane tracking map and place it on the bulletin board we had hanging in our kitchen. She’d catch the coordinates on TV or the radio and my brother and I would fight over who got to place the pushpins on the map. Pin by pin, every morning we followed the hurricane’s trajectory, and then went about our school day.

As surgeons, we live with similar daily acknowledgements of looming potential complications. We learn anatomical variations and control for risk factors, following the steps that will hopefully see the twin storms of morbidity and mortality veer off course. When I last heard my mother’s voice, we were going down a checklist: batteries? Check. Electronics charged? Check. Radio? Canned food? Water? Check. Candles? Mama? Mama?

For the next two weeks the only things I could pretend to control were the news and my Facebook feed. It was devastating to watch: 3.4 million Americans living on the island without water, electricity, and telecommunications. The images of massive destruction and flooding filtering through unable to fully capture the scale of this humanitarian disaster. Even after 40 days, the statistics are mind-numbing: less than 30% of all people have electricity and ~70% have access to drinking water. More heartbreaking, however, is the reality down at the individual level –  stories of families that are still without food, of people washing their clothes in and drinking from polluted water sources, and in hospitals, surgeries compromised as the power goes out in the OR. On Facebook, there was a new-found sense of community: my Puerto Rican friends and I ranted over government officials placing politics above human lives, commiserated over losses, and celebrated whenever any of us had good news.

Finally, it was my turn: 14 days after we’d lost contact, my mother called to say she was in the hospital. A small inflamed area had morphed into an angry abscess, necessitating an I&D and IV antibiotics. “It’s like being at a spa,” she proclaimed, ecstatic, “they have light here and clean water and wifi…that’s how I was able to call you.” She had been seriously considering, she also revealed, traveling to Colombia. Colombia? Para que? Well, she explained, I’ve always wanted to go – and your father and I, we have worked so hard, we did all these things to prepare for the hurricane, for the worst, and still we suffered all these unforeseen problems. Y sabes que? I think we need to put in just as much effort into living.

A message from the AWS Blog Team: This is part of a series of blog posts from surgeons who wish to share their experience during these trying times. If you wish to share your story, you may email blog@womensurgeons.org.


Dr. Ainhoa Costas Chavarri is a General Surgeon and Hand Surgeon who does full-time academic #globalsurgery. She has been living and working in Rwanda for the past four and half years, teaching Rwandan surgery residents and medical students as part of the Human Resources for Health Program. Her focus is on surgical oncology, especially breast and gastric cancer. She enjoys foreign films, modern art, poetry and now more than ever, the beaches of her home island of Puerto Rico. You can follow her on twitter: @ainhoac63

 

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.

 

Why I Joined AWS

By Dr. Tom Varghese

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

I have been incredibly blessed in my life. My parents have been, and continue to be amazing role models. One of my Mom’s favorite sayings was, “Always seek and surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. They will stretch your viewpoints of the world.” My dad on the other hand had colorful proverbs and parables to emphasize learning points (I continue to joke with him about writing a book entitled, ‘My Father the Philosopher’). One of his favorites, loosely translated from our local Indian language of Malayalam, was “Beware of continuing to climb up the same coconut tree behind a baboon. Your view will always remain the same.”

Diversity is a buzzword these days. There are numerous examples of the power of diversity in multiple fields of work. Heck, the United States is a testament to the power of immigrant diversity (or at least it has been till date). The conversations traditionally have centered on ethnicity and only recently, gender. This of course is important. But, can we have true diversity when we only pay attention to how we look? What about diversity in thought? This has been difficult to do in healthcare.

In the field of Medicine, it starts with the admission process. High Board Scores – Check. Volunteering to work in clinics – Check. Recommendation letters from those in the field – Check. Straight A’s, Honor Rolls, and Dean’s Lists – Check, Check, Check. Admission committees, overwhelmed with an ever increasing volume of applicants, have to make difficult cut-offs for admission. With the knowledge that certain types of students have succeeded in the past, this knowledge flavors the admission criteria of today. And we as students embrace this mission and mantra. Study hard, deep dive into our books, relentlessly try and figure out the the various signs and symptoms of disease. Along the way we are influenced by various specialties, which ultimately lead to our final paths of training and establishment as Attendings. But where’s the time to diversify our thoughts?

In Medicine, the world around us was historically encountered one patient at a time, one workplace environment at a time, one organization at a time. Experience was solely a personal journey. And this worked in a world that succeeded (and made lots of money) by homogenization, decreasing variation, and converting aspects of healthcare into assembly lines. Departments in Academia prided themselves on success in the form of traditional metrics – papers published, grants received, Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research (BRIMR) rankings and clinical reputation as publicized in traditional media reports. Past success influenced the current metrics, all of which are important, but should they be the only ones?

Social Media has turned the learning experience on its head. There is no longer a need for your views and experiences to be confined to the walls of your institution. You can connect with anyone in the world at any time. However, there is a downside. Though you can find differing opinions, it is so easy to confine your experiences and thoughts to like-minded individuals or groups. Finding your tribes of course is reassuring and empowering. But the same traps of ‘homogenization of thought’ can occur on social media due to evolving algorithms aimed at user-targeted ads and personalized experience. If your timelines are filled with those who echo your same thoughts, who don’t offer differing opinions, are you truly diversifying?

My journey to AWS came predominantly from social media. I was able to connect with many thought leaders who shared their wisdom with the world at large. They opened my eyes to the struggles they had in their work environments. Many of these struggles transcend boundaries – whether they be gender, ethnicity, or social backgrounds. Several took the step of forming groups, and transforming existing organizations to more pragmatic and powerful instruments of change. I was able to learn at a distance of the efforts of AWS, including their work on gender pay inequity, work-life balance, and how to empower others. I was thus inspired to learn more about their work up close. I had live-tweeted their conference last year, and hence thought, why not?

I turned to one of my close friends, who I first met on social media – Dr. Amalia Cochran (@AmaliaCochranMD ). Amalia and I had first connected when we were at different institutions. Our first in-person meeting was when I had the opportunity to give Grand Rounds in Salt Lake City. One thing led to another, and now I’m on faculty at the same institution. I brought up how I had admired AWS from afar, and admitted that I only had a superficial knowledge about several issues such as inequity. Amalia, in classic Amalia fashion, had a mischievous grin on her face while she asked, “So why don’t you become a member?” My response – “I can be a member of AWS?” Hers – “Why not?”

Image of #HeForShe support at the AATS annual meeting 2017

My only prior experience with issues on inequity had been with the #HeForShe movement. The speech that Emma Watson gave is inspiring. This past year, the department of surgery at the University of Michigan embraced #HeForShe and challenged others to follow. Quickly, other organizations such as SAGES, ASE and APDS followed suit. In Thoracic Surgery, our national AATS meeting was about to take place in May, and hence I turned to the Women in Thoracic Surgery organization to ask about interest. With overwhelming support and the help of then president Dr. Jessica Donington and the leadership team, we were able to pledge our support for the movement by our specialty. Awareness is of course the first step. But what happens next?

I joined AWS. Their creed – Engage, Empower, Excel – is something that all of us can benefit from. Engaging with those who have lived and overcome barriers is uplifting. Learning the skills to empower those around you to reach for greater heights is inspiring. And relentlessly applying the skills you learn to excel in your environments can change the world. We’re assembling a #HeForShe task force within AWS, with the goals of teaching the skills for men to effectively mentor and sponsor women surgeons. I personally am still learning, and in my heart believe that many men want to help. They just need to be taught how to do so effectively.

I want to close with some quotes from those I admire:

Reminder to us all in healthcare. We do not do this alone. Ever. I love having a team of superheroes to work with.” – Dr. Amalia Cochran @AmaliaCochranMD

Even those above you have knowledge deficits.” – Dr. Julie Silver @JulieSilverMD

If you want to know the secret of success, it is not being better than everyone else. It is showing up more than everyone else.
– Dr. Sasha Shillcutt @SashaShillcutt

Embrace diversity at all levels. Connect with those who come from different backgrounds. Constantly seek to diversify your thought. And of course, join us in the work ahead.

Dr. Thomas Varghese Jr. is the Head of the Section of General Thoracic Surgery, Co-Director of Thoracic Oncology, and Program Director of the Cardiothoracic Surgery Residency at the University of Utah. Dr. Varghese holds leadership positions in the Society of Thoracic Surgeons, Thoracic Surgery Directors Association, American College of Surgeons and the Surgical Outcomes Club. Views expressed in this post are personal, and do not represent official positions of these organizations. You can follow on Twitter @tomvarghesejr.

 


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.

 

United We Are Stronger

By Dr. Rocio Carrera

#FuerzaMéxico  #19S

Thirty-two years ago, Mexico City was hit by a devastating earthquake that left thousands dead, hundreds of buildings collapsed and became uninhabitable. It was an event that united us as a society and helped to implement a culture of prevention. The regulations for the construction of buildings in the city were modified and since childhood we were taught how to act and protect ourselves during an earthquake. Earthquakes cannot be predicted, but we can prevent many of their terrible consequences.

On September 19th, a new earthquake struck the country on the anniversary of the 1985 earthquake. Two weeks after another strong earthquake shook the coasts of Chiapas and Oaxaca. What a terrible coincidence! That morning the City had participated in acts that commemorate the events of 1985. At the time of the earthquake (13:14 CMT), I was in the emergency room with several surgery residents when we felt a strong shake. Just at that moment the seismic alarm sounded and we tried to quickly go to the security areas together with some patients and their families. It was a matter of seconds but it felt like an eternity.

Rescuers search for survivors and victims in a home destroyed by the earthquake.
Photograph by Yuri Cortez, AFP/Getty

When it was over, and after the initial shock, we all tried to get in touch with our families. Internet and telephone lines had collapsed. When the communication lines were reestablished, the terrible news began to arrive. Offices, buildings, houses, schools had collapsed all over the city, people trapped in the rubble, children lost. What to do, what to think in those moments of despair? During those first hours of fear and uncertainty, when we all tried to know if our loved ones were safe, if our homes were ok, I witnessed the vocation and professionalism of the hospital staff, especially the surgery service, to which I am proud to belong to. Those who were in the operating room at the time of the quake only left during the tremor and returned to finish the procedures and put the patients in safe areas despite the risk of damage or gas leaks. Some could not step away. The residents voluntarily stayed to see what they could help with, organizing tasks, relocating patients who had to be evacuated from certain areas. Many of them, like hundreds of people in the country could not return to their homes for days, and many basic services failed. In these instances I saw how, despite the shortcomings, people kept going on.

Volunteers picked up rubble from a building that collapsed in Condesa. Credit Rebecca Blackwell/Associated Press

The people of Mexico City responded by taking to the streets to help. Young people raising debris to rescue trapped people, doctors organizing brigades, people preparing food for those affected, and volunteers, donations in unexpected quantities. Help came from everywhere and in all forms. The solidarity, strength and unity that the country showed in those days will be something I will remember forever. In the midst of chaos, despair and death, I confirmed that Mexico is still one of the most friendly, vibrant, and resilient countries in the world. The reconstruction work and help for those affected will continue for months and years to come. The important thing is that we do not allow us to forget that even during those terrible days there was hope and that all of Mexico was one.

A message from the AWS Blog Team: This is part of a series of blog posts from surgeons who wish to share their experience during these trying times. If you wish to share your story, you may email blog@womensurgeons.org.

Dr. Rocío E. Carrera Cerón is a thoracoscopic surgery fellow at the Instituto Nacional de Ciencias Médicas y Nutrición Salvador Zubirán (INCMNSZ) in Mexico City, where she also  completed her residency in general surgery. She received her medical degree from Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) in 2012. Her interests include general thoracic surgery, particularly tracheal surgery, and lung transplantation. She is engaged in clinical research studies and actively participates in several local associations of women surgeons trying to establish mentorship and sponsorship programs for young residents. A native of Mexico City, she is passionate about sports, cinema, and historical novels.


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.

AWS 2017: A Few Ships By The Bay

By Natalie Tully

The AWS Conference on October 21st was a full day with a scientific session, professional development panels, and a broad range of networking opportunities that originated as a simple sign for a breakfast with women surgeons 36 years ago.

This year we took mindfulness and self-care from the abstract into practice with a yoga session and run along the San Diego Embarcadero. With the excitement buzzing around the day’s events, I deeply appreciated having a moment to appreciate the sunrise and to sync breaths with other attendees.

This past year we accomplished new milestones and new trends on social media. We had the opportunity to realize how much better we truly are together. The conference made broad use of multimedia, including an introductory video by student member Emily Chen.

 

Members’ academic endeavors were highlighted in the Starr Research forum, AWS/AJS Best Manuscript Session, and a presentation from AWS Foundation Fellowship Awardee, Dr. Nasreen Vohra. Projects from a broad range of topics were presented, including “SOX9 in irradiated rectal cancer: a potential marker for tumor regression?, and Evaluation of TRB-N0224”, by Lindsay Nowak, “Improving Outcomes with Minimally Invasive Aortic Valve Replacements” by Anna Olds, and “A Chemically Modified Curcumin for Osteoarthritis Treatment” by Josephine Coury. Likewise, the resident forum featured excellent projects from a variety of surgical research areas. To complete the scientific session, Dr. Nasreen Vohra spoke about the project she’ll be working on with the AWSF Ethicon Fellowship “Relationship between the transcriptional profile of the sentinel lymph node and outcomes in triple negative breast cancer”.

The keynote speaker, Lara Hogan, Vice President of Engineering at Kickstarter, challenged us to “Be a Mentor, Find a Sponsor”. She encouraged all in attendance to critically evaluate how we seek out and provide professional guidance and support. She spoke to the value and crucial need for senior surgeons to sponsor their trainees and more junior surgeons for leadership positions. While the seat women earn at often unfriendly tables, she underscored She highlighted that for surgery to move toward gender equity, there must be increased sponsorship but also self-assertion that women belong at the table based on merit.

There is a reason why we are the Association of Women Surgeons, why we are not tied to a country or geographic region. It is because our international collective of members experience the same themes globally as women in medicine. The global panel on women in surgery highlighted the social exclusion, implicit bias, challenges in mentorship, and pathways to promotion we all inevitably encounter in the spectrum of medical training. Featured speakers included: Dr. Suad Abdul (Kuwait), Dr. Ainhoa Costas-Chavarri (Rwanda), Dr. Vikisha Fripp (USA), Dr. Avril Hutch (Ireland), Dr. Kazumi Kawase (Japan), Dr. Sherry Wren (USA), and Dr. Cheng Har Yi (Malaysia).

The official conference activities ended with a networking event in the new-for-2017 “Surgeon’s Lounge”- with a ribbon cutting ceremony by AWS President Celeste Hollands. The event offered a unique opportunity for all attendees to relax and network with each other and with our generous corporate sponsors. Following the conclusion of the conference, residents and medical students headed to a local restaurant for a taco-infused mixer. Medical Student and Resident Committee Chairs Shree Agrawal and Andrea Merrill spoke to the group to welcome all to San Diego and to encourage anyone interested in becoming more involved with AWS to take take the leap in becoming a member and make their mark on AWS.

As the day ended and American College of Surgeons Clinical Congress (ACSCC) began, AWS members continued to show the incredible work they are doing in advancing the surgical field, having myriad presentations, panel discussions, and leadership positions given by members. To highlight this and make use of the “Amplification” strategy used by other groups of women, appearances by AWS members were posted with #AWSatACS. This allowed for an extra level of visibility of the number of women speaking at ACSCC, and as a result, greater visibility both of each individual’s message and of women as leaders in surgery overall. Another trend that began during the Congress was a surgical #HeForShe– which started by Tom Varghese joining AWS subsequently followed by many other male surgical colleagues. The AWS conference’s close temporal and spatial relationship to ACSCC provided opportunities to engage with our biggest allies in our plans moving forward.

As the Clinical Congress continued on, there were myriad wonderful moments for women in surgery-Dr. Barbara Bass being installed as the 3rd female President of the College, Dr. Eileen Bulger installed as the first female chair of the Committee on Trauma, and Drs. Leigh Neumayer and Diana Farmer installed as the Chairs of the Board of Regents and the Board of Governors, respectively, just to name a few. On the evening of October 23rd, AWS held it’s AWS Foundation awards dinner, recognizing remarkable accomplishments by members at the medical student, resident, and attending level, as well as non-member allies. It was a truly spectacular evening celebrating how far we’ve come as women in surgery and reaffirming our commitment to the AWS mission. The next morning, AWS activities wrapped up with our annual Stryker Networking Breakfast, in honor of the origins of AWS and Dr. Pat Numann’s original breakfast meetings. The morning gave those still in town one last chance to come together in an informal setting and network…or be gently encouraged to take on one more AWS committee project.

This was my second ACSCC and my first of what I hope to be many AWS conferences, and for all of the things I imagined the experience would be, somehow it exceeded them. AWS seeks to inspire, encourage and enable women to realize their professional and personal goals. For at least this n=1, I left San Diego inspired by the accomplishments and ongoing work of #Sheroes I was surrounded by, encouraged by friends new and old, and enabled by new opportunities to lead and to pursue a career in this field, so that someday I may have the joy and privilege of being a surgeon.


Natalie Tully is a 3rd year MD/MPH student at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Lubbock, TX. She plans to pursue a career in surgery, and has particular interest in applying her dual degree in Surgical Research, Pediatric, and Trauma Surgery. In her free time, she enjoys running, cooking, and playing with her 4-legged study buddy, Sadie.

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.

Lessons About Healing After Hurricane Harvey

By Jackie Olive

I hail from the foothills of Los Angeles County, where natural disaster comes in the form of forest fires and droughts. Having lived in Houston for over four years for college and now medical school, I’ve learned that disaster here comes in practically the opposite form. Hurricane Harvey was the first significant tropical storm that I have experienced.

Initially, my colleagues and I hadn’t predicted the magnitude of the devastation that our city and neighboring Texas coastline would ultimately face. I remember we first became worried when we heard of friends who were leaving town and grocery stores that had completely empty shelves. We later became shocked when we couldn’t leave our homes because the water levels had dangerously risen and cars had been deserted in the middle of streets.

The immediate aftermath of the hurricane was devastating, as homes were destroyed, families relocated, and stress levels rose high. However, the road to recovery appeared bright, as the volunteer response was overwhelming, even to the point of being in excess at times. Temporary shelters at George R. Brown Convention Center and NRG Stadium actually had to send potential volunteers away. The positive energy and generous spirit of the Houston community were palpable, and it was absolutely vital to cultivate such camaraderie in these most trying of circumstances.

We may think that the biggest hurdle has been overcome. After all, months have passed since the hurricane wreaked immense physical damage on our city. Yet, I’ve learned to appreciate that healing is a dynamic and lengthy process. Sustainable recovery of this kind requires months, even years.

As members of a service-oriented profession like medicine, we anticipate the days when we can discharge our patients after witnessing their labs return to normal or wounds fade. And as surgeons and surgical trainees, we, in particular, feel encouraged when the procedure goes well and we are able to acknowledge the immediate fix and patient’s relief of symptoms. Subsequently, however, what happens after he or she is discharged? Where is home? How will he get there? Who will take care of her if there is a complication? I observe a parallel between post-operative care at some public hospitals and post-Harvey relief efforts: those with fewer resources, including various indigent groups, have a longer road to recovery. Houston’s diversity is one of its strengths, but we must also recognize that it comes with a heightened responsibility to maintain the health of this community.

We are continuing to rebuild homes on the ground in Houston, but I would like to offer the opportunity for others to help in a variety of ways. Most charities prefer monetary donations, as these are more flexible to accommodate changing needs. Please visit this site for specific references to organizations that are supporting the post-Harvey relief effort. I am personally also raising funds for the hurricane relief efforts as I train for the Houston Marathon in January 2018. Any form of support is dearly appreciated and will make a positive long-term impact on our community!

Ultimately, while donations of this kind are always welcomed and productive, it is also important to care for one another on a daily basis. It shouldn’t take a tragedy to build compassion and empower generous acts. I’m humbled by what’s already been done to rebuild our amazing city, and I hope that we may all stay engaged in the future stages of healing from Harvey and other natural disasters throughout the world.

A message from the AWS Blog Team: This is part of a series of blog posts from surgeons who wish to share their experience during these trying times. If you wish to share your story, you may email blog@womensurgeons.org.

 

Jackie K. Olive is a first-year medical student at Baylor College of Medicine. She graduated from Rice University in May 2017 with degrees in biological sciences and policy studies. Jackie is an aspiring surgeon and researches surgical outcomes and therapies in cardiac regeneration. She is also passionate about healthcare and public health advocacy initiatives.

Twitter: @JackieKOlive

Blog: jackiekolive.com


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.

The Ideal Team Player

By Jean Miner, MD

In all aspects of our lives, we are members of a “team”. We are members of our family “team” first and then head to school at a young age and are paired off on the playground. Many of us joined teams throughout our lives for sports, debate, math, dance, etc… As we get older, we start to value the importance of teamwork to accomplish goals or projects. Think about the college chemistry lab partners or the members of a committee who helped (or hindered) meet deadlines or complete tasks. As surgeons, we are always members of a team- in the operating room, clinic, and patient wards. Ultimately, in life we belong to numerous teams.Recently, the members of the AWS Clinical Practice Committee (CPC) held a book club discussion using The Ideal Team Player by Patrick Lencioni. Our lively discussion quickly turned into a focus on leadership and building the ideal team. Based on the importance of this topic, we will be hosting a tweetchat on November 27th focused on Leadership and The Ideal Team Player. Three virtues, humility, hunger, and people smarts, are what we look for in those alongside of us taking care of patients, in our office, on a committee and even at home.

  • Humility: Characterized by lack of excessive ego or concerns about status. Humble team players share credit and emphasize team over self.
  • Hunger: Defined by self motivation and diligence. Hungry team players are always looking for more things to do and learn.
  • People Smarts: Depicted by possessing common sense about people. Smart team players are intuitive around the subtleties of group dynamics and the impact of their words and actions.

What do we do when we lead a team with members deficient in one, two or maybe all three areas? Should we give up on them? Are we able to teach these qualities or is it nature vs nurture? If we want to be good and effective leaders, we need to try and help our team members before kicking them to the curb. First, we should assess our colleagues to establish where they rank on the three traits. As both team leaders and members, we should do this ourselves. Other key members of the team can (and should) also be included. Next, we meet with the teammate to discuss our findings and develop a game plan. Often when there are deficiencies identified, people are unaware and improvements can be made just by bringing it to their attention. For more challenging situations, we need to set small achievable goals paired with frequent feedback. Finally, after a set period of time, we must reassess the situation and determine if we now have a set of ideal team players. If not, just like in professional sports, we must consider trading members to other teams where they would be a better fit and acquiring new players that fit the project.

Most importantly, we also need to turn the microscope on ourselves. Are we good team players? Most of us would like to think we are, but it is definitely worth a few minutes of self-reflection or use of a self-assessment tool in determining if we are indeed good team members. Or just like we did with our own team, we can ask a leader or mentor to evaluate us. After identifying areas to improve, we need to set our own goals based on the three virtues. If humility or people smarts are issues, we need to make a point to listen and learn more about our team members. This allows us to exercise humility but also gain insight into our counterparts as we take the time to hear their opinions. Hunger can be more difficult to achieve without an interest in the project. If this is a deficient area, we must consider alternative methods for achieving the same outcomes with a process that will motivate us. Or we may need to request off of a project in exchange for one which inspires us to do our best work.

Ultimately, for the development of a high performing team ALL members should embody the virtues of humility, hunger and people smarts and the process of building our team can be as enlightening as what we accomplish together.

Please join the CPC on November 27 at 8pm EST for a tweetchat on “The Ideal Team Player” to discuss your own strategies and experience as a leader and ideal team player.

https://www.tablegroup.com/books/ideal-team-player


Jean Miner is Assistant DIO at Guthrie Hospital in Sayre, PA and a Surgical Attending with Guthrie’s General Surgery Residency. She also has a Masters in Medical Education Leadership from the University of New England. Her work life is in equilibrium with her personal life as a mother of three girls who loves spending time with her husband and family traveling the country and world. In her “spare time” she loves to cook, be outdoors and read as many books as she can.

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.

When Disaster Strikes

By Dr. Minerva Romero Arenas

#HoustonStrong #HurricaneIrma #FuerzaMéxico #PRstrong #VegasStrong

Our world has been in the midst of what seems like an endless series of tragedies. This blog started out as an idea to write about how I was inspired and proud of the goodwill shown by my fellow Houstonians (and other Texans and neighbors) in the aftermath of hurricane Harvey. Much like this love letter. Much like my colleague’s reminder to look for the helpers when disaster strikes. However, it quickly became a seemingly insurmountable task. Just as I was trying to pen a few lines, another disaster was brewing in the Atlantic. Then the earthquakes hit México. Another set of hurricanes. Yet another mass shooting.

Staying safe. Trying to help. Then trying to keep up with everyone’s safety and figuring out how to help in the aftermath. Donate. Volunteer. Meteorological maps seemed like something that could only have come out of a Hollywood blockbuster. I can’t imagine that I would find it essential to follow @NWSNHC, @SismologicoMX, or @weatherchannel? And if I never have to sleep with an eye open for flash flood warnings or tornado warnings… it may be too soon.

To be quite honest, there were a lot of days the past 6 weeks that seem like a blur.

Thankfully, I had my work to help keep my mind (and hands) occupied! I am thankful for the teamwork shown at our hospital, where 1 in 3 employees were affected. Colleagues swam to work, camped out for days unable to assess the safety of their own families or homes, and everyone who boldly came back to offer relief as soon as it was reasonable to do so. It was amazing to see the “good neighbor” spirit that was showcased from Houston to the world – an example to be seen again in tragedy after tragedy.

On a personal note, I have found a way to turn these events into a positive by taking time to reflect on everything. I have made more time than before to actually consider important questions like, am I okay? Am I putting my best effort to live a meaningful life? How can I be part of the solution? Have I done everything I can to help others?

I am thankful for the human spirit and solidarity that continues to shine through disaster after disaster. I am thankful more of our ACS leadership continues to engage in meaningful discussion about firearm injuries. Most of all I am thankful for my colleagues, friends, and *my family* – their compassion, determination, and strength is truly inspiring and figuratively and literally helped me “weather the storm.”

A message from the AWS Blog Team: This is the first in a series of blogs from surgeons who wish to share their experience during these trying times. If you wish to share your story, you may email blog@womensurgeons.org.

Minerva A. Romero Arenas is an Endocrine & General Surgeon joining the faculty at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. She completed a fellowship in Oncologic Surgical Endocrinology at the UT MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX. She completed her General Surgery Residency at Sinai Hospital of Baltimore. She received her MD and her MPH from The University of Arizona College of Medicine and the Zuckerman College of Public Health in 2009. She studied Cell Biology and French at Arizona State University as an undergraduate.
Her interests include surgical oncology & endocrinology, global health, health disparities, quality improvement, and genomics. A native of Mexico City, Mexico, Dr. Romero Arenas is passionate about recruiting the next generation of surgeons and is involved in mentoring through various organizations.
She enjoys fine arts, films, gastronomy, and sports. She enjoys jogging, swimming, and kickboxing. Most importantly, Dr. Romero Arenas treasures spending time with her family and loved ones.


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.