Friday, February 13, 2015

#HonorYourMentor: Let's talk about mentoring

By: Sidrah Khan

Women have made astonishing strides in medicine coming from an enrollment of 6% in 1960 to now forming 50% of the medical school classes nationally.  Women have worked hard to make themselves equally represented in almost all specialties of medicine, including internal medicine, family medicine, and pediatrics. However, one field of medicine still remains unable to rid itself of the gender gap and that is surgery. Even with the female enrollment in medical schools being equal to that of men, women are greatly underrepresented in surgery, making up only 35% of general surgeons, and less than 20% in specialties such as orthopedic, neurologic and thoracic surgery. Women are not only less likely to pursue a career in surgery but they are also less like to attain leadership positions in academia. Women make up only 14% of department chairs, 20% of chief residents, and 12% of medical school deans. As a perspective surgeon, it is concerning to me that I am entering a field dominated by men and one with such a prominent glass ceiling.  It worries me that I am pursing a career in which my gender alone will put me at a disadvantage when applying for leadership positions. It is disturbing that I have the possibility of faceing sexism and bias in my work environment because as a woman my family life will be considered a distraction. It is also concerning to me that I won’t have the right mentorship to learn from with such few women in leadership positions. Not only will I have to face the challenges that come with a rigorous surgical residency, but additionally the challenges that come along with being a female in a male dominant field. 

As a second year medical student, a few months away from starting my third year clerkships, I am looking forward to coming together with the members of the Association of Women Surgeons to discuss these issues and the reasons why surgery is still lagging in ridding itself of the gender gap and its glass ceiling. Being able to learn from experienced female surgeons about the challenges they have faced in their careers while trying to achieve leadership positions, will be of great benefit for my future. I would also like to hear what advice the members have for perspective surgeons on how to handle situations in which sexism arises and discuss the resources available for them. Lastly and most importantly, I am looking forward to discussing how we can increase mentorship for females in medical schools. I believe early and effective mentorship can provide more exposure to surgery, clarify common misconceptions and ultimately decrease the stigma that the field holds. I am hoping that with the combined effort of perspective and experienced female surgeons we can empower more women to not only pursue surgery but also attain top leadership positions in academia.

  1. Jagsi, Reshma. The “Gender Gap” in Authorship of Academic Medical Literature — A 35-Year Perspective
  2. Zhuge, Y. Is there still a glass ceiling for women in academic medicine. April,2005
  3. Women in U.S. Academic Medicine and Science: Statistics and Benchmarking Report 2011-2012  

Sidrah Khan is a first generation Pakistani-American and the first female in her family to pursue a graduate degree. She completed her undergraduate degree with a dual major in Biology and Psychology at SUNY Stony Brook. Soon after matriculating at VCU School of Medicine, Sidrah discovered her passion for surgery in academic medicine. Under the guidance of strong female surgeons, she recognized the need for mentorship, especially for women and underrepresented minorities in Surgery. Sidrah then became involved with the Association of Women Surgeons and was appointed as the student leader of the Virginia chapter. As her first project, Sidrah created a mentorship program to stimulate interest in surgery among female medical students. Currently a third year medical student excelling in clinical clerkships, she continues to balance her time in research in surgical oncology and medical education. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015


Mentor: M. Catherine Lee
Recognized by: Chantal Renya

As the previous breast fellow at H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute, I have had the privilege of working with Dr. M. Catherine Lee from the very beginning of the year. Dr. Lee has provided guidance on clinical and research aspects throughout the year me. I had never written a manuscript before and under her guidance I had three manuscripts accepted for publication. She had the time, patience and dedication to teach me and guide me throughout the process.

She met with me on a weekly basis and more as needed. She even met with me outside of the hospital, including at coffee shops at 8pm and in her home on the weekends. She never once made me feel like an inconvenience. Under her guidance, I had two abstracts and poster presentations accepted, and three manuscripts accepted for publication. A vast improvement from where I started. She also provided me guidance in career decisions. She sparked my interest in an academic career with research, and as a result I have become a breast surgeon at University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Center. 

In addition, she has taught me new surgical techniques and critical thinking. If this were all, she would still be an outstanding mentor; however she has done more. When I first moved to Tampa, I had recently undergone a divorce. It was a hard time for me: moving to a new place, without any family, without any friends and newly divorced after a 12 year relationship. She gave me emotional support and made me feel welcome. She provided me a new home: a place to feel secure and to grow freely. My year would not have been the same without her. She is a strong, intelligent, brilliant surgeon who I would be proud to be half as good as she is. May I someday provide the same intellectual and emotional mentorship to someone else as she has provided for me.  


Do you have a story to share? Tell us about your mentor

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Additional or Alternate Career Paths for Physicians

by: Celeste Hollands, MD, FACS, FAAP

Twenty years ago as I started medical school I focused on graduating and matching into a residency.  The biggest decision was which residency was right for me.  As I progressed through my residency, I addressed the question of general surgery or sub-specialty and then private practice or academics.  That was it.  There always seemed to be two forks in the road.   

I am not sure if it is because I am older and wiser or because times have changed but the career choices now seem to be organized more into a flow chart than two forks in the road.  There are so many more choices and so many more options for additional training and these choices and options are available at many career levels.  The information age has put all of this information at our fingertips much earlier in our career and we can plan for it instead of stumble into or settle for it when we need a change.

The ability to have a blended career consisting of clinical and non-clinical responsibilities is one option.  Another is a non-clinical or alternate career path where you likely will not engage in traditional clinical practice.  Considering these options early and planning for the advanced degrees and additional training they may require is important.  It is also equally important to talk to someone currently working in your area of interest and to seek out mentors in these areas.

This article is intended to introduce these paths to you and provide resources for you to begin to consider these options.  It is by no means an all-inclusive piece on alternate career paths for physicians.

Physician Executive Path

Interest in physician leaders continues to increase.  If you are interested in joining the C-suite (Chief Medical Officer, Chief Operating Officer, etc. - the highest level healthcare executives with titles often starting with “Chief”) you will likely need some training in business.  This training can be on the job training as you rise within your organization or you may choose to seek more formal training that will give you that business credibility you will need to be successful. 

Three advanced degrees to consider are MBA (Masters in Business Administration), MPH (Masters in Public Health), and MMM (Masters in Medical Management).  These are the most popular degrees for this path but not the only ones.  The resources listed at the end of this article discuss additional options or link to them.

The American Association of Physician Leaders (formerly known as ACPE, American College of Physician Executives) is an important organization for physician executives and offers a number of educational programs. 

Additional certification as a Certified Physician Executive (CPE) is also available through the Certifying Commission in Medical Management (CCMM).

Other “Non-Clinical” or Alternative Career Paths

There are a host of other non-clinical or alternative career paths to consider.  When searching for information on this topic the term non-clinical is used though any of these paths could be combined with clinical practice to form a blended career path.

In general non-clinical jobs can be grouped into:  Medical communications/writing/education; Consulting; Health Information Technology (Health IT); Pharma/Biotech; and Medical Law. The specific jobs for medical communications/writing/education can include: medical marketing, medical recruiting, certified medical education, medical publications, and medical blogging.  Consulting jobs are generally for clinical cases or business challenges, medical start-up companies, medical device companies, and medical chart reviews.  Health IT jobs may include electronic health records and medical informatics.  Pharma and Biotech jobs exist in medical research (performing the research or a regulatory position), medical science liaison, medical sales, and medical entrepreneurship.  Finally, medical law is another non-clinical area to consider.

SEAK, Inc. is an ACCME accredited continuing education & publishing firm that hosts an annual conference entitled: SEAK’s Non-Clinical CareersConference that may be of interest for those seriously considering these career paths.

Blended, alternative or non-clinical career paths are certainly not for everyone. However, being informed about them and exploring them may just help you organize your best career path no matter what your current career level. 




Organizations, Conferences and Certifications

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Cold hands, bright eyes, and tuberculosis… Happy New Year!

We asked our Women Surgeons to share with us their Holiday traditions and some of their favorite memories of the holidays.

Please enjoy these delightful stories from fellow AWS members -- and feel free to share your own in the Comments.

Happy Holidays from all of us on the Blog team and the AWS!

Lauren Poindexter
MD Candidate, Class of 2015
Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine

Nearly every child lining the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade route on New Year’s Day in Southern California is bundled up to their noses in oversized parkas, gripping onto their parents hands tightly so as not to get lost in the excitable mass of humanity. Long before the start of the parade at 8:00am, bright-eyed children pull adults this way and that in attempts to touch the vibrant flowers, seeds, and grasses of the floats, stare at the huge costumed parade horses, and say hello to the perfectly-positioned musicians of the marching bands. Fascination and wonder predominates. Families are honored, a community gathers, rival football fans cheer, the nation celebrates a new year. Since the first Rose Parade in 1890 and the first Rose Bowl Game in 1902, the scene has only grown larger and more fantastic. New Year’s Day is my favorite holiday!

However lighthearted the modern festivities appear, few know of the original purpose of the Rose Parade and its roots in medical history: it was a nineteenth century small-town public relations stunt to entice the families of tuberculosis patients to relocate to Pasadena. Their target audience was East Coast citizens trapped in frigid, blustery winters.

The founder of Pasadena’s exclusive society, the Valley Hunt Club, was, himself, an East Coast transplant, former “consumptive,” and mastermind of the first Rose Parade. He established his club in 1888, the same decade when Prussian scientist Robert Koch identified the Mycobacterium tuberculosis organism, and at a time when physician specialists in America espoused the healing benefits of “climatic therapeutics” for tuberculosis sufferers.

Physicians in those days recommended their patients receive modern tuberculosis treatment and rest in temperate locales – ideally ones offering drier climes, mild winters, and warm temperature ranges. Through the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, international medical journals, textbooks, and newspaper articles included the Greater Los Angeles Area in their purported list of ideal regions. The Valley Hunt Club’s goal was to capitalize on this movement.

The 1890 Rose Parade featured a festival atmosphere of many athletic competitions and a parade of floral-bedecked horse-drawn carriages held under a sunny blue sky in the “dead of winter.” Vivid roses draped over horses necks and bundles of bright juicy citrus fruits wowed the 8,000 attendees. Foot races were run, children rode ponies, and visitors gushed in letters to their families.

Amidst the sprawling citrus groves and well-established ranches, newly constructed mansions sprouted in Pasadena. A residential spectacle dubbed “Millionaire’s Row” consisted of an impressive line of winter retreats commissioned by Eastern magnates desperate for a seasonal escape. Famous residents included the Wrigleys of chewing gum fame and the Gamble family of Proctor & Gamble. Average citizens also sought treatment for tuberculosis in this region. Pasadena’s “Ballard Pulmonary Sanitorium” was well-known for its excellent outcomes and its success was complimented by donations of dollars and volunteer time from members of local women’s clubs. By 1910, Pasadena was one of the fastest growing cities in the US.

When the Valley Hunt Club could no longer financially sustain the wild success of the Rose Parade, the non-profit Pasadena Tournament of Roses was created, eventually choosing William Wrigley’s winter mansion as its home base. Today, the parade progresses down the original “Millionaire’s Row” (now Orange Grove Boulevard) and past the Wrigley Estate. As a young child, I, too, was overwhelmed by the fantastic experience of the Rose Parade and fondly remember the years when we would spend New Year’s Eve at my grandfather’s townhouse across from the Wrigley Estate. He had ventured to Southern California as a young man to start his family in this beautiful region and was a strong supporter of the Tournament’s community involvement.

Though I’ve since migrated back east for medical school, and my grandfather has passed away, I look forward to every opportunity to head home to Pasadena for this annual celebration. Spending time with my family on a crisp January morning watching scores of floats, marching bands, and equestrian units, plus a raucous college football competition, is my favorite way to start a new year. Now I know to credit this event to the Valley Hunt Club… and tuberculosis!

* Tradition dictates that no parade will be held on a Sunday, therefore January 2nd is an alternate date.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Happy Holidays from the AWS!

We asked our Women Surgeons to share with us their Holiday traditions and some of their favorite memories of the holidays.

Please enjoy these delightful stories from fellow AWS members -- and feel free to share your own in the Comments.

Happy Holidays from all of us on the Blog team and the AWS!

Minerva Romero Arenas, MD, MPH

What holiday do you celebrate and what is the special meaning of this
holiday to you?

We celebrate Christmas Eve because in the Catholic faith it is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. My family traditionally gave us kids gifts on Día de Los Reyes Magos (The 3 Wise Men), which correlates to the gifts presented to Jesus. In addition to reflecting on the spiritual meaning of the Christmas holidays, I also like to take time to think about the previous and upcoming years and to remind my family and friends how special they are to me.

What are some family traditions you have related to this holiday?
Being Mexican in the US means my family celebrates both cultures. We still celebrate primarily on Christmas Eve, we pray and sing carols, and have a Posada. Dinner varies - traditionally turkey is on the menu for this day- but we change it up according to what everyone wants to eat. One of my favorite memories was when my grandmother showed my cousins and I how to make tamales. Other years we have enjoyed catered Chinese or Indian food. After having lived in the US many years we adopted the tradition of exchanging presents on Christmas morning. On January 6th, we try to continue the tradition of eating King's cake.

Do you have a good memory of patient care during a time you worked during
the holiday?

I've had several years in residency that I could not travel back home for the holidays. I am thankful for technology like FaceTime, which enabled me to share some special moments with my family while away. Nonetheless, during the holidays the patients who are in the hospital are usually very sick & grateful to have us around helping keep an eye on them in their recovery from surgery or trauma injuries. I have to admit that some of my favorite memories are sharing food with nursing, our mid-level providers, attendings & OR staff. In particular, I am thankful for having co-workers and mentors who have invited me to join them for dinner.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Happy Holidays from the AWS!

We asked our Women Surgeons to share with us their Holiday traditions and some of their favorite memories of the holidays.

Please enjoy these delightful stories from fellow AWS members -- and feel free to share your own in the Comments.

Happy Holidays from all of us on the Blog team and the AWS!

Kandace P. McGuire, MD, FACS
Assistant Professor of Surgery
Director Breast Surgical Oncology Fellowship & Premenopausal Breast Services
Magee Womens Hospital of UPMC

What holiday do you celebrate and what is the special meaning of this
holiday to you?

My family and I celebrate Christmas. We have celebrated many ways on many days and on multiple continents over the years! To me, Christmas is about family and giving. I love reconnecting with those I have lost touch with and being able to give to them and others during the holiday season.

What are some family traditions you have related to this holiday?
We have many family traditions, but my favorite is our annual trip to NYC. We take our son to see the tree in Rockefeller Center and to FAO Schwartz. We also take him to a restaurant that wouldn’t normally be “kid-friendly”. Last year we went to Le Cirque. He was such a little gentleman; they invited him into the kitchen to make his own dessert with the pastry chef! The 80 year old owner stopped us on the way out and complimented us on our well-behaved child. Pretty special!

We also have a tradition of giving to a child in need every year. I try to choose a boy who is about the same age as my son, so that he can pick out gifts that he would like and then give them away. Every Christmas morning we try to remember how special this Christmas must be for the little boy to whom we gave.

Do you have a good memory of patient care during a time you worked during
the holiday?

I was on trauma call for Christmas Eve my second year of residency. A funny story is a family of four who came in after a minor motor vehicle collision. They were spread out throughout the trauma bay: mother, father, two boys. Unfortunately, Dad was driving without a license and when the cops came to talk to him, you could hear one of the boys from around the corner yell, “Is Dad getting arrested AGAIN?!?”
Luckily, the cops gave him a summons and let him go home to enjoy Christmas with his family.

A nice memory is later that night, going across the street from the hospital to the only restaurant open, a diner that served the hospital and the local Philly old-timers. The entire trauma team crowded into a booth, ordered black and white milkshakes and burgers and traded war stories. We were blessed by no major traumas that night and no sad endings. It was one of my most memorable nights on call during my residency.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Happy Holidays from the AWS!

We asked our Women Surgeons to share with us their Holiday traditions and some of their favorite memories of the holidays.

Please enjoy these delightful stories from members of the Association of Women Surgeons -- and feel free to share your own in the Comments.

Happy Holidays from all of us on the Blog team and the AWS!

Amalia Cochran, MD, FACS, FCCM
Twitter: @amaliacochranmd

One of my favorite traditions during residency grew up from a tradition back home in Texas. I’ve long believed that tamales are Christmas food, and when I moved to Utah for residency, I started the tradition of a tamale dinner at my house on Christmas night for my co-residents, friends…anyone who wanted to drop by.

At first, quite a few of them thought it was an intriguing and strange tradition, but it was always a fun evening. By Christmas of our PGY-6 year, one of my classmates looked at me as she was eating her tamales and confessed, “I’m going to miss this next year when I’m in Minnesota.” While I got to have my Christmas tamales with my Mom the next year- and was back in Texas for my fellowship - it definitely wasn’t the same.

Brittany Bankhead-Kendall, MD, MSc

This Christmas my family and I will be navigating the waters that the "Match" has bestowed upon us- living on separate sides of the country. My surgery residency is in Michigan, and my husband's emergency medicine residency is in Texas. He and my son decorated our tree while we "FaceTimed." No parent likes to be away from their children, especially during holidays. But I think Christmas is about traditions, making traditions, and yet sometimes breaking them to remember what's really important.