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.

 

May We Never Forget

15 years later it still seems as vivid as yesterday. I woke up to my daily radio show hosts speaking with panic and confusion. A plane had accidentally crashed into one of the twin towers. As my family and I gathered around the TV, newscasters around the country struggled to get information out. The American public watched in terror as a second airplane struck WTC.

unnamedIn that moment it became clear this was no accident. President Bush was reading to a group of school children, then we heard about flight 93, and witnessed the attack on the Pentagon. The world changed that day.

I wish I could unsee some of those images, which still bring tears to my eyes. I think of the hatred, hopelessness, and pain inflicted upon us that day. When I recently visited the 9/11 memorial for the first time, I was pulled back into the memories of that day. I was struck by the juxtaposition of the emotions evoked in my memories with the beauty and calm of the memorial. No matter what nationality, religion, ethnicity any human could feel indignation at the attacks of 9/11. May we never forget.

minerva-romero-bio-pic1

Minerva A. Romero Arenas is a Fellow in 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.

 

Entering the Surgical Profession

By Rogette Esteve

Recently, I found myself in Danbury, CT searching for a new apartment.  It made me pause for a moment and reflect on the fact that I will be starting general surgery residency in just a few short months at Danbury Hospital.  If you had asked me back in college, when I was still a pre-med freshman, what I thought of surgery, I would have quickly answered, “Oh no, I want a life!  I want a family!”  

downloadThank God I was introduced to the AWS Pocket Mentor toward the end of college!t forever changed my perspective on becoming a surgeon.  I was amazed there was an established organization for female surgeons – by female surgeons.  As a medical student, I am fortunate to have attended a number of AWS Conferences . Each time, I have been floored by the outstanding surgeons I have met.  The women I met were able to not only “have a life” but also excel in their respective fields, despite the inherent challenges female surgeons face.  

I know that my own journey will not be easy; in fact, I have no idea  how challenging it will be.  My current view of surgery is the one seen through the eyes of a medical student.  I know thet steep surgical learning curve is ahead.  However, I have an incredible support system behind me.  Furthermore, revisiting excellent resources like the AWS Pocket Mentor will be immensely important to me, as I progress through residency and beyond.  So Danbury, here I come.

Rogette EsteveRogette Esteve is a 4th year medical student at The Ohio State University College of Medicine who enjoys salsa dancing and dodgeball.  She will be entering a general surgery residency at Danbury Hospital in CT this June.

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 Start of a New AWS Chapter

By Sarah Armenia

One of the best aspects of AWS is the amazing support its members in training and practice and committees show medical student members. I have experienced this support firsthand at the annual conference and as a member of the national medical student committee. This year, I also had the opportunity to join with other women at my medical school to start a new AWS chapter at New Jersey Medical School.

Many people frequently asked me why AWS was a necessary addition, given that our school already had several surgery interest groups. This was the perfect opportunity to show my peers, who were unfamiliar with AWS, just how instrumental the organization can be in nurturing the interests of female medical students interested in surgery. The members of AWS span all levels of training and each individual uses their experience to help others about to encounter similar milestones along the way. We captured the essence of this continuing mentorship at our chapter’s first event, “Debunking Myths about Surgery.” We hosted a question and answer panel where third and fourth year medical students spoke about their experiences on surgery rotations and applying to residency programs. We also co-sponsored a dinner with the American Medical Women’s Association to introduce female medical students to the faculty in a forum where they could ask questions about different specialties and their experiences while in training.

As we planned our first events as a new chapter, it was immediately obvious how dedicated AWS faculty members are to providing mentorship and guidance to medical students. We were fortunate to have Dr. Stephanie Bonne become our faculty advisor, who is incredibly invested in the organization and its promotion on social media. In addition, our Chair of Surgery, Dr. Anne Mosenthal, is one of 16 female Chairs of Surgery throughout the country and also supports the mission of AWS. Their direct support of the chapter showed how approachable AWS members can be in establishing mentorship relationships and guiding the direction of the chapter.

Being a member of AWS has been instrumental in connecting me with inspiring women surgeons and I look forward to building this new AWS chapter along with my peers. For more information about starting your own AWS chapter at your medical school, please follow this link.  

UntitledSarah Armenia is a member of the AWS Medical Student Committee and is a first year medical student at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. She is passionate about transplant surgery and surgical disparities research.

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.

#SurgStory(ies): Why do we do it?

By Joel Adler (with special guests Niraj Gusani and Heather Yeo)

Rise of Twitter in Surgery: It’s no secret that there is a growing community of medical students, surgeons-in-training, and surgeons on Twitter. Many use Twitter and other social media to keep up on news, connect with colleagues, and access the latest medical innovations and data, or promote their own research. But Twitter can also be a source of inspiration and a fantastic way to share ideas and stories (140 characters at a time).

#SurgStory: This past week, in the midst of a normal exchange, a discussion about being inspired by mentors to choose surgery as a career led to the beginning of the #SurgStory hashtag.

The idea quickly caught on as surgeons contributed their own stories about a moment when it all clicked and they knew they had to become a surgeon or about a key role model whose behavior they wanted to emulate. More and more surgeons joined in, shared their stories, and asked others to share theirs. The flood of #SurgStory(ies) that followed was inspiring.

SurgStory Themes: A number of consistent themes emerged, some predictable and some not.

Not surprisingly, many identified particularly formative moments. Most of these were great moments in the operating room, often as a medical student or well before (a particularly memorable operation, the beauty of anatomy, or participating in the procedure), but many came from interactions with surgeons outside of the operating room or personal encounters with surgical disease.

A remarkable number volunteered that they never intended to become surgeons and “saved surgery for last” or did it early to “get it out of the way”, but soon fell in love with it and changed career plans.

Of course, plenty of participants just always knew that they would be surgeons:

Perhaps the best part of #SurgStory was the thread of mentorship. Through this conversation on Twitter, many were able to share their experience with mentors and how they shared their craft:

Many senior surgeons (often not on Twitter) were mentioned and thanked by name for being great role models. But these mentorship relationships were most certainly not limited to interactions with attending surgeons. Many spoke to the profound impact that residents and fellows have on medical student education and career choice.

And, of course, there were some who didn’t fall in love during the first try, but stuck around long enough to figure out that surgery was the right thing for them.

#SurgStory has been well received because it provides a short, concise avenue to share our collective experience and explain why we love what we do. It is an honor and a privilege to be a surgeon. Through these tweets, we have been able to share our experiences, and our love of the job not only with each other, but also, we hope, with future surgeons. It is wonderful to see why so many people #ChooseSurgery as a career.

We hope that people will continue to share their inspiration with us and with others.

Submit your own #SurgStory! To see the accumulated tweets, either search for #SurgStory or view the Storify

Joel_Adler_1576Joel T. Adler, MD, MPH, is a resident in general surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. He plans to complete a fellowship in transplant surgery. His research focuses on disparities, decision making, and quality metrics in solid organ transplantation. He can be found on Twitter @joeladler.

 

 

 
GusaniNiraj_ppNiraj J. Gusani, MD is Associate Professor in the Departments of Surgery, Medicine, and Public Health Sciences at the Penn State College of Medicine and serves as Director of the multidisciplinary Program for Liver, Pancreas, and Foregut Tumors in the Penn State Cancer Institute.  He is active on Twitter (@NirajGusani), with over 5000 followers.

 

 

 

 

Heather YeoHeather Yeo, MD, MHS, is Assistant Professor of Surgery and Assistant Professor of Public Health at Weill Cornell Medical College – NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. She is board-certified in general surgery, colon and rectal surgery and complex general surgical oncology. Dr. Yeo has a Master’s in Health Services Research and is focused on surgical outcomes and quality improvement in Gastrointestinal Cancer Surgery. She tweets. You can follow her @heatheryeomd.

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.

Greening the OR

By Abigail Forbes

As a medical student I have learned to seek out opportunities that will foster my journey through medical school and facilitate my goal of  becoming a surgeon.  The Go Green Contest is one of those many opportunities I came across through AWS. I gained an invaluable mentor and was able to promote a great cause: benefitting our environment. Students and residents should take advantage of this opportunity!

When I was formulating a ‘green solution’ to submit, I benefitted from my surgeon mentor’s knowledge.  Additionally, I was able to communicate my commitment and wide interests in the medical field.  I found this unique interaction with faculty that allowed me to stand out as a medical student and to explore the possibilities and process of improving healthcare in my community. Together, we were able to outline an educational plan to train medical students about operating room procedures by saving unused opened gloves, suture, gowns, and drapes, further promoting environmental conscientiousness in the operating room.

I would recommend contacting a surgeon at your institution and sharing your interest in submitting an idea for this competition.  They will undoubtedly be willing to collaborate with you by offering suggestions from their professional experience and feedback for your ideas.  

Should you win, you will be recognized at the AWS national conference, and gain yet another opportunity to learn and grow as a future surgeon. Plus a 200$ prize is a great bonus! Submissions can be sent to abbyforbes826@gmail.com by 5:00 PM EST Friday, April 3rd.

You can start by looking here for inspiration:  

 AF postAbigail Forbes is a third year medical student at University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas. She completed her undergraduate degree at Baylor University where shediscovered her passion for anatomy and went directly into medical school wanting to pursue surgery.  She is active in her Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery Interest Group and helped found the UTMB Association of Women Surgeons student chapter.  Her research interests involve improving patient distress and hypertrophic scarring after burn injuries.

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.

 

Beautiful Girl, You Can Do Hard Things

By Brittany Bankhead-Kendall

I saw that quote on my favorite Facebook group recently, called “Physician Moms Group” (or “PMG”). This is a group of women who, like all of us, are just trying to “do” life every day. Because of our integrity and intellect, we are trying to do it better than anyone else. I think that’s from a “Type A” personality, combined with leadership & wanting to be perfect at absolutely everything.  Make sure the kids are happy,  our finances are in order, our trip to Disney World is fun, the house is clean,  the co-workers aren’t mad we’re on maternity leave, ensure we are the go-to specialist, the spouse feels loved, and the list goes on. But don’t let any one of these Jenga pieces fall!

As women in medicine, and especially as women in surgery, our formidable years in training teach us how to be strong and courageous. For some reason, we occasionally feel as if we should lose parts of ourselves. That maybe, we lose our soft approach to speaking with families. Or that we should be brash in the trauma bay to make people to listen to us. Maybe it is that we feel obligated to look on new interns with disgust when they say a wrong answer. Perhaps, we feel we should only dress in the frumpiest (yes, that’s a word) of clothes in order to not  draw attention to anything besides our intellect. Do not ever cry! Do not wear cute shoes! Do not let “them” see you cower!

But since when did being beautiful, and being a woman, and being all the beautiful things about being a woman, become a bad thing? Since when did things like kindness, and generosity, and the ability to multitask like a BOSS,  become perceived as less important attributes of our profession? I think if we consider  the mentors that have come before us, the ones that we truly respect and admire, they are all of these attractive qualities AND they are phenomenal surgeons.

There is a trauma/acute care woman surgeon at a community teaching hospital. During a trauma activation with a teenager whose Glasgow Coma Scale is rapidly deteriorating as fast as his blood pressure is, she is calm, cool, and collected while she firmly but kindly tells everyone in the room what to do. And we listen. The next day, she does a robotic case in the operating room in the morning, and then takes her boys to the zoo in the afternoon, regardless of the talk that may happen as she walks out of the hospital. She tells me, “This is the perfect kind of day.” And I listen.

The hard, complex cases and the hard, crashing traumas? No doubt we can do THOSE hard things. But the mean co-workers? The eye-rolling staff? The judging administration? The sometimes annoyed-with-us family at home? We can do that, too. And we can do it with kindness, and with joy. We can do it with a woman’s touch, together. Because beautiful girl, you CAN do hard things.

IMG_2650Brittany Bankhead-Kendall, M.Sc., M.D.  is a PGY2 general surgery resident at St. Joseph Mercy Oakland in Pontiac, Michigan. She obtained her M.D. from Ross University School of Medicine, her M.Sc. from Barry University in Biomedical Science, and studied Biomedical Science and Spanish at Texas A&M University. She is currently completing a fellowship with the “Association of Surgical Education Surgical Education Research Fellowship” program and is the General Surgery representative for her local Graduate Medical Education Council. She plans to pursue a career in trauma/critical care, and acute care surgery. She enjoys clinical research in trauma and surgical education, and has presented her work at multiple regional & national conferences. In her personal time she enjoys spending time with her family and church, interior design, financial planning, and international travel.

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 Breath Becomes Air: Lessons Learned

By Jane Zhao

Join us for a tweetchat tonight, Sunday evening, March 13, at 8 PM Eastern Time and follow @WomenSurgeons, @jzhao3, @ShreeAgrawal21, @minervies and the #AWSFood4Thought!

        It is only when confronted with our own mortality that some start to embrace life.  In part two of his memoir, Dr. Paul Kalanithi takes us on a journey from the time of his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer to his last few days and shows us just how alive he is throughout the time he is actively dying. Rather than summing up his narrative, I have highlighted certain passages from Part Two in chronological order to give an accurate depiction of his transformation from doctor to patient back to doctor, all the while juggling various roles as husband, son, and finally as a new father.

Warning: There are spoilers ahead!

~~~Excerpts from “Part Two: Cease Not till Death”~~~

“’I’m never coming back to this hospital as a doctor.’”

        Kalanithi tells his coresident this immediately after he is diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. He later reneges and returns to work, but initially, it was inconceivable to think any other way. Surgery, particularly neurosurgery, as he states “is really hard work, and no one would have faulted me for not going back.” It is not only physically taxing but it can be emotionally and mentally draining. Kalanithi always describes neurosurgery as a calling because there is absolutely no incentive to pursue neurosurgery as a job. As a job, “it is one of the absolute worst.”

“Death, so familiar to me in my work, was now paying a personal visit. Here we were, finally face-to-face, and yet nothing about it seemed recognizable. Standing at the crossroads where I should have been able to see and follow the footprints of the countless patients I had treated over the years, I saw instead only a blank, a harsh, vacant, gleaming white desert, as if a sandstorm had erased all trace of familiarity.”

        It does not matter how many patients we treat or how many times we walk through the process of death and dying. At most, we can be there for our patients, as they come to terms with their own mortality, but the experience is otherwise a solitary one. As a neurosurgery chief resident, Kalanithi is a seasoned veteran when it comes to the topic of broaching poor prognoses, but he only truly began to understand the scope of loneliness that comes with terminal diagnoses after his own experiences with lung cancer.

“…without that duty to care for the ill pushing me forward, I became an invalid.”

        How do any of us identify ourselves? Our profession shapes the way we are viewed by those around us. When we find ourselves stripped of the ability to perform our sense of duty, our world turns upside down. We face an existential crisis. Who am I now?  

What defines you beyond surgery? Did Kalanithi’s memoir create a sense of gratefulness because you can still do the job you are passionate about?

“Grand illnesses are supposed to be life-clarifying. Instead… my ability to make lunch plans had been shot to hell.”

There is no science to knowing when death will happen, even when it is certain. What are you supposed to do when you do not know how much time you have left? This is the struggle Kalanithi faces, when his chemotherapy regimen stalls his cancer just enough for him to perform full speed at back at work.  

He was in his final year of training,  when everyone else was actively job hunting.  He knew his time was limited. He knew his values. Given one year, he could write a book. Given ten years, he could return full force to his clinical practice. The trouble, though, is he has no idea where he falls in that spectrum.

“Human knowledge is never contained in one person. It grows from the relationships we create between each other and the world, and still it is never complete.”

Kalanithi discovered the power of having faith, whether it was in God, people, or some higher force controlling destiny and fate. When the answers to why and how were not found in science, he found his comfort in God, returning to the faith of his childhood. Where do you find the answers to why and how? Where do you seek comfort in the journeys your patients and loved ones travel?  

“There we were, doctor and patient, in a relationship that sometimes carries a magisterial air and other times, like now, was no more, and no less, than two people huddled together, as one faces the abyss.”

        The patient-physician relationship is a two way street. When patients die, physicians are not immune to mourning. We grieve.  We need hope. In the care of our other patients, we bury this vulnerability. However, even as a patient, Kalanithi recognized when the end is near, by the sadness his oncologist cannot hide.   

“’I can’t go on. I’ll go on.’”

This is a message to all of us. We keep moving even when we cannot. In life we have no other option. Time does not stand still for anyone. In our darkest moments, Kalanithi is encouraging us all to go on.

~~~

Part Two of Kalanithi’s work ends relatively abruptly, with him describing the joy his new daughter brings to his life. His health deteriorates before he has a chance to finish the great work he began. His wife, Lucy, helps us follow him to the end of his journey in the epilogue. My eyes stayed surprisingly dry throughout Part One and Part Two, but tears started flowing once I reached the epilogue. The love between both of them was—is—obvious. His dream of becoming published was fulfilled  by her, and together they show us the best way to live is to “cease not till death.”

Previous posts about When Breath Becomes Air can be found by Minerva Romero Arenas and Shree Agrawal.

JZhao

Jane Zhao is a general surgery resident at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York. She obtained her medical degree with a scholarly concentration in Clinical Quality, Safety, and Evidence-based Medicine from McGovern Medical School, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and completed her undergraduate studies in Medicine, Health, & Society at Vanderbilt University. She was the 2012 recipient of the Shohrae Hajibashi Memorial Leadership Award and chaired the AWS Blog Subcommittee from 2013 to 2014.

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 Breath Becomes Air: Understanding Mortality

Tweet chat (follow @WomenSurgeons) and additional blog post to come on March 13th 8 PM EST!

By Shree Agrawal

Dr. Paul Kalanithi’s memoir, When Breath Becomes Air, as Dr. Abraham Varghese promised in his foreword, confronted me with the truth of mortality.  The kind that lies beyond textbooks, evidence-based medicine, and clinical research.

Prior to reading his work, I perceived statistics about patient populations experiencing difficult diagnoses to exist in a world detached from my reality.  I likened data surrounding diseases to Dr. Kalanithi’s perspective of “country facts”, his term for theoretical old wives’ tales about dangers in his hometown. The probabilities of human vulnerabilities, especially those that could apply to my loved ones and me, are ones I avoided and discreetly hoped to be untrue.

When I read about his evolution from pre-medical years to those as a neurosurgery resident, there is a surprisingly relatable quality.  I am with Dr. Kalanithi in his gross anatomy lab and clinical experiences as a medical student and then resident. My experiences are tangibly similar in the context of his own.

I can only wonder what separates us, any of us—the cadavers we see in medical school, Dr. Kalanithi, patients (past and future), and me? Was their organized chaos of simultaneous life-sustaining and death-promoting cells, electrical synapses, buzzing hormones and chemicals, any different from that of my own?

There are many things I am left with, only midway through his posthumous work; but most indelibly, “When there’s no place for the scalpel, words are the surgeon’s only tool.” He echoes the values in this blog, and more importantly, in the humanities and ethics of medicine: the doctor-patient relationship, taking time to listen and discuss diagnoses, developing responsibility and ownership of mistakes, and guiding the patient-centered decision making processes.   

As I pause away from the gravitas of Dr. Kalanithi’s memoir and see my email ping with a new message, it becomes grossly irrelevant, now miniscule, in recognition of his existence.

Please share your thoughts in the comments below or on Twitter with #AWSFood4Thought for this month’s February Book Club featuring When Breath Becomes Air.  

Shree Agrawal

Shree Agrawal is a second year medical student at Case Western Reserve University and an active member of AWS on the national medical student committee and within her Northeast Ohio region.  She is passionate about patient-centered decision-making, clinical research, and academic medicine.  In her free time, she enjoys practicing yoga, boxing, and cooking.

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.

Food for Thought: Progressive Advice for Mentees

By Gabrielle Rieth

I recently encountered an instance in which a mentor suggested that I and other female medical students rely on antiquated gender stereotypes to succeed in our upcoming clinical clerkship rotations. This advice was dispensed without any accompanying professional recommendations, such as pre-rounding on patients, recalling the patient’s medications and allergies, understanding the patient’s medical history, or practicing patient presentations prior to reporting to her residents or attending physicians.

There is nothing amiss with possessing or utilizing “feminine” characteristics to enhance or improve one’s work environment. I personally felt the recommendation was inappropriate for the setting in which it was dispensed. It seemed, to me, to neglect other vital assets we as future physicians and surgeons will contribute to our clinical teams.

I am soft-spoken and often characterized as “nice,” “sweet,” or “adorable.” I express my gender identity in a way that is traditionally ascribed to females. This combination of characteristics allows me to be perceived as non-threatening, accessible, and approachable – all of which have benefitted me when working with new colleagues and with patients.

What advice do you provide your mentees regarding gender norms in the hospital? How do you, as an attending, stay progressive?

Profile photo

 

Gabrielle Rieth, MS, is an M2 at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. She is originally from the Albany, New York area and completed her undergraduate work at Cornell University before migrating to the midwest.

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.