Friday, July 19, 2013

AWS Pocket Mentor Now Available as E-book

Our most popular resource is now available as an e-book.
 Download your free copy on iTunes.


The Association of Women Surgeons Pocket Mentor is a manual for surgical interns and residents. It is based upon the experiences of a number of women surgeons, and is intended to make your passage a bit easier than it was for many of them. This book provides a background of practical information that should make your residency less confusing, and thereby more rewarding.

This version of the AWS Pocket Mentor was made possible by support from Covidien.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Blogger Q & A: Advice passed down from our mentors

Every once in a while, we'll invite our bloggers to answer a question that's either been submitted by one of our readers or is something that a fellow blogger has been burning to have answered. Keep reading to find out our responses to the following question: 

What is the best advice you have been given by a mentor?

Callie: 1. When you are a junior resident, always ask your attendings and senior residents for their expectations at the outset and check in with them regularly to identify areas for improvement. As a senior resident, you will be less frustrated with your team if you let them know your expectations in the beginning. 2. Every bit of feedback will have a kernel of truth in it that you can use to improve yourself, no matter how small it is, take it and get better. Throw out the rest and never take it personally. (I admit this is totally easier said than done but I truly try to remember it every time I receive feedback.)

Jane: When you find yourself in a bind, ask yourself "What is best for my patient?" and you will rarely ever be led astray. Seek help when you need it, but treat each patient encounter as if you are your patient's one and only resource. For example, if your patient needs a scan or labs drawn immediately, stay by the patient's side, and make sure that happens! You can't predict when everything will turn out okay or if something will go awry, so never cut corners. Approach each patient systematically, starting with a broad differential diagnosis. Whatever you do, make sure you have good reasons to back it up. Read up regularly on all of your patients, always be honest, and remember that a little kindness and tact can go a long way.

Lauren: Be fearless. When given the opportunity, talk to everyone and anyone you can. You never know what value the connections you make now may have later on. This way, when you get to the point in your career when you are applying for fellowship or a job, everyone will already know who you are and you will be the obvious candidate for the position.

Minerva: Stay balanced. This is one piece of advice that has come in one way or another from multiple mentors both in and out of medicine/surgery. The truth is that staying balanced requires a lot of insight into yourself and the career we have chosen. Realizing that surgery can consume you 24/7 if you let it is one of the best ways to protect your personal life. The multiple key points to remember range from finding one thing daily that I can do for myself, to keeping up with one hobby, making time for family and loved ones, or just having something to help blow stress away. Ultimately an unhappy surgeon can make others around him/her just as miserable!

Sophia: “Focus on learning, not performance.” As a medical student, it can be easy to feel that you are constantly being scrutinized and evaluated. A mentor once told me to focus on learning instead of performance, meaning that I should act in ways that maximize my own growth rather than minimizing looking stupid. I felt liberated to ask questions that might seem too basic, and it made it easier to ask my superiors for feedback, help, and guidance. Focusing on growth also gave me a more positive attitude towards work: rather than thinking of tasks or notes as chores, I viewed them as opportunities to get better and learn something. I volunteered to take on more responsibilities as a way to learn more. Of course I made mistakes along the way, but instead of feeling like failures, mistakes felt like chances to learn how not to do something or a chance to try something again. Even though it is still difficult to hear criticism, I now make a conscious effort to change and demonstrate that I am responsive to negative feedback. What is so great about this advice is that in the end, my performance actually does improve as I focus on learning because I am constantly striving to increase my abilities and knowledge.

Do you agree with the advice that we've been given? What are some tidbits handed down to you by your mentors that you'd like to add? What questions would you like for our bloggers to address in a similar fashion in the future?

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Policy & Advocacy Corner: A Day on Capitol Hill

Happy Independence Day to our US readers! As a special holiday treat, today's blog post features an article from our members-only newsletter: AWS Connections. Enjoy!

My Day on the Hill

by Leigh Neumayer MD, FACS

In April 2013 I participated for the first time in one of the ACS Advocacy Summits in Washington, DC. Now I will admit, this was not something that was on my bucket list, but as a leader in the ACS, I was strongly encouraged to attend. In retrospect, I wish I would have started attending these summits years ago. Clearly the surgeons who had done this before were way more comfortable and polished in this role than I was. That being said, even if I was the only surgeon from my state there, I am confident the ACS Washington office would have prepared me well to fly solo.

After some prep work, reviewing the issues and with talks from some elected officials and their staff, we headed to Capitol Hill. What struck me initially was the sheer volume of U.S. citizens (usually in groups with nametags identifying the sponsoring organization) who were wandering the hallways of the Senate and Congressional office buildings with us. If we aren't there presenting our concerns and viewpoints, our elected officials' schedules will clearly be completely filled with other groups. Having not voted for several of the Utah delegation, it felt a bit weird visiting their offices. I had to remind myself that despite their party affiliation or who they defeated, these individuals (all men in the case of Utah) are now in Washington representing all of Utah, regardless of party. We had specific issues we were to review in each senator's/congressman's office. The Boston marathon bombings occurred the day before our visit, making funding for trauma systems an easy opening issue. From there we (my colleagues Dr. Amalia Cochran and Dr. Mark Savarise, both veterans in advocacy efforts) were able to cover a couple other issues. For each issue we had talking points and had made a plan about who was going to take the lead for each meeting. 

While we met with staff for the majority of the Utah senators and representatives, one of our senators was able to drop in at the end of the meeting and we were meeting with one of the representative's chief-of-staff in his office when he came by to pick up the rest of his lunch. We were given important tips along the way, like asking the staff of one representative to take us on a tour and the staff of another to deliver us underground from one building to another.

Overall, it was a great experience, one that I hope becomes habit for me. We live in a great country, and should take advantage of the privileges that are afforded us by citizenship, which includes making our voices heard in a constructive manner to those who can make a difference on a national level.

For more great stories like Dr. Neumayer's, join the Association of Women Surgeons today! A subscription to our quarterly newsletter is one of the many perks that our members enjoy. Visit our website to learn more about the Association of Women Surgeons and our membership benefits.