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News & Press: eConnections

Committee Spotlight: Member Services Committee

Monday, October 1, 2018  
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The Member Services Committee is in charge of developing and maintaining programs to promote new membership and retention of members. The committee oversees the different membership categories and works with management to launch promotions and incentives for prospective members to join and current members to stay. We meet quarterly and as needed via phone conference. Building out and managing AWS chapters and institutional memberships has become a large part of this year's activity. As well, the committee started the new Ambassador Program where a new surgeon just finishing residency or fellowship is eligible to be matched with a more experienced surgeon, the ambassador, for a yearlong program offering support on issues ranging from day to day office advice, to family advice, to career planning. This is the second year of the program and we will be looking to expand it in the future. We are always brainstorming and looking for new initiatives and creative ways to keep our members engaged.

Committee Chair Spotlight: Simone Betchen

Simone Betchen went to medical school at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, did her internship and neurosurgical residency at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, a Neurosurgical Oncology Fellowship at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

How did you become interested in surgery?

I knew when I was 7 years old that I wanted to be a doctor. In high school, I worked for a general surgeon and saw what was probably one of the last scheduled open cholecystectomies. That's when I got bit by the surgery bug. As a college student, I volunteered in the operating room of the hospital on campus and had the privilege to peek in on a variety of surgeries. My major was in neuroscience and despite looking out for a brain operation, there were none to be seen on my volunteer days. As soon as I got to medical school, I sought out an opportunity to observe a meningioma being removed. When the skull came off and the dura was opened and I first saw the brain pulsating, I knew at that moment that was what I wanted to do.

How did you become involved with AWS?

Somehow I saw something about AWS after I became a fellow of ACS. I was going to the ACS for the induction ceremony and decided to check out this AWS conference while I was there. What was really a pretty last minute move and not really within my usual personality characteristics to go to a conference where I would know no one and not even really understand what AWS was at that time, ended up being a life changing day. I had great conversations all day with women more senior to me and women on the other side that were residents and medical students. While I also heard some great speakers, it was the other women with the comradery and the networking that kept me coming back and participating. After spending a good four plus years on the member services committee, I was ready to take over as Chair. I hope to be able to give back to the organization as much as it has given me.

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

While there are many, I often think about what I try to talk to my children about when they come to me with a problem. I first ask them to reflect back on themselves. The other person may be doing something wrong, but I ask them, are you acting in a way that you want to be treated also? I think that we are sometimes our own worst enemies. We have all seen or heard of other women surgeons treating female trainees just as bad as male surgeons would treat them. In the hospital setting there is plenty of research evidence that it is often the female staff that treat women in non-traditional roles the worst. We all have unconscious biases and pre-conceived notions. I've often caught myself assuming the male person in the room was a doctor and the young female either a nurse or resident. I always try to take a step back and look at name tags or ask what everyone's roles are. I think by starting with ourselves and promoting other women to mentor and sponsor those below us in our career, women are modeling the behavior that we deserve from everyone. AWS does this in many ways but mostly in its mere existence it allows us to see how we can lift one another up.

What are some of the ways you mentor women interested in neurosurgery?

In my practice, there is no neurosurgical residency program. However, the hospital has a very active volunteer program for high school students especially during the summer. Every summer I take on a women who is interested in surgery who shadows me for the month. In addition to taking her to office hours and the operating room, I try to make sure she is on the right track for a successful career in understanding the work behind what we do. We also have students as volunteers in our office and I encourage the female students to come to my office hours if they like, read my books about the diseases we see, and ask questions about the common problems I encounter.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

My imagination is still working on this. Check back in a few years.

What do you do when you're #notsurgeoning?

When #notsurgeoning I'm usually with my husband and my two girls, 12 and 9. Otherwise it is no secret where I am. I am working out at my two favorite NYC's exercise haunts #soulcycle #barrysbootcamp.