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News & Press: eConnections

Member Spotlight: Sasha Adams

Friday, June 1, 2018  
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This month's member spotlight is on Sasha Adams, who went to medical school at the Medical University of South Carolina, did her residency at UTHealth in Houston for Trauma and Surgical Critical Care, and is currently Assistant Professor of Acute Care Surgery at UT Health in Houston. She will be promoted to an Associate Professor this September.

How did you become interested in surgery?

Surgery was not something I always knew I wanted to do. Before starting medical school, I thought I would want to be a primary care physician so I could develop long term and meaningful relationships with my patients. I enjoyed almost every topic during the pre-clinical years, however was known by my small groups for "cutting to the essentials" for every topic and being decisive about an action plan. Surgery was my first rotation of third year, and I felt completely at home, loving every minute despite the long hours. Worried about my future lifestyle, I spent the rest of third year trying to find something I liked better with no success. I couldn't imagine a career in which I couldn't fix the problems I diagnosed, or experience the wonder at seeing bowel peristalsis, or lung re-inflation.

Did you have any key mentors along the way? If so, how did they help?

Cathy Pickar, a musician, composer, and my college mentor who saw the doctor in me, encouraged my application to medical school. She gave me the push to expand my horizons and opened my eyes to the specialty of medicine. During my years as her work-study student, I assisted her in running the Association of Women Composers, which promoted works of modern day women musicians.

My (now) husband, who pushed me to follow my heart and apply for surgery residency, knowing that the only way our relationship would succeed was if it was not based on the sacrifice of my career.

Drs. Rosemary Kozar and Christine Cocanour, both faculty I met as an intern. They are both strong, confident women surgeons, who were not only great teachers, but became close friends. Dr. Kozar as a wife and mother of two also was a living demonstration of the possibility of life balance of both career and family.

Drs. John Potts and David Mercer, my residency program director and lab mentor respectively, always pushed me to succeed, while opening doors of opportunity for me along the way. Dr. Andrassy, my chairman during residency and in my current position, who is a continuous source of support and encouragement.

Dr James "Red" Duke, with whom I had the privilege of training with during residency.

How did you become involved with AWS?

I first became a member through our Department's institutional membership when I started as an intern. However, I distinctly remember the first time I was able to attend a meeting and had the feeling of incredible kinship with everyone in the room. In what other meeting was I sitting between medical students and department chairs, having conversations about our similar experiences and challenges. Since then, I've made as many meetings as I can, and now serve on the Clinical Practice Committee because it continues to broaden my perspective and understanding of the wide variety of experiences and practices.

What do you think are particular challenges for women surgeons? How has AWS helped or how can we help in the future?

I think the challenges for women surgeons change throughout their careers. Since I work a lot with students, I often address one of the earliest challenges, which is when friends and family assume that going into surgery means you cannot have a family because your life will be consumed by the job. Similarly along their journey, women pursuing careers in surgery often face these assumptions that their choice makes them unable to have happiness in other areas of life. AWS and all our members serve as powerful role models against these uninformed and outdated prejudices.

Women surgeons also face a number of leadership challenges during their careers, some of which may be internally created or perpetuated. We must be strong and authoritative, a perceived strength in men but is sometimes thought of as a negative quality in women (and reinforced with words I won't repeat here). Women are often overlooked for promotion or advancement, or don't seek out additional responsibility. AWS again is a source of some amazing role models, and we actively address issues like leadership skills, negotiation techniques, and "leaning in" with (I think) great success.

AWS provides a resource in many areas for both current and future women surgeons, whether it be role modeling or skill development.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In 10 years, I want to still be involved heavily in education. I love my current role working with students, but I could see myself progressing to resident education and potentially being a Program Director.

What do you do when you're #notsurgeoning?

While #notsurgeoning I keep myself maybe a bit too busy. Professionally, I also am the Surgical Clerkship director for McGovern Medical School, coordinating the curriculum for the 240 students that rotate through our department each year. I also take on eight students each year that I mentor throughout their four years of medical school. When not at work, most of my time is devoted to my children who are currently 12 and 7. They play multiple sports, and always have social activities planned with friends. Every Sunday is "Experimental Dinner" where we and our close friends challenge our chef skills by cooking a new recipe for dinner. This tradition has continued for 12 years so far, with no repeated recipes! I also love to craft, although there isn't usually much time left – needlework, sewing, beading, handmade cards, scrapbooks.