Mary E. Maniscalco-Theberge, MD, FACS, Interim Medical Inspector, Veterans Health Administration, Washington, DC, and clinical professor of surgery, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, MD, received the inaugural Mary Edwards Walker Inspiring Women in Surgery Award October 16 at the American College of Surgeons (ACS) Convocation Ceremony at Clinical Congress 2016, in Washington, DC.
The award, established by the ACS Women in Surgery Committee (WiSC), is a tribute to Mary Edwards Walker, MD (1832−1919), the first woman surgeon to serve in the U.S. Army and the only woman to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest U.S. armed forces decoration for valor.
Dr. Maniscalco-Theberge has long championed the advancement of women surgeons. She served as a U.S. Army Colonel and chief, department of surgery; general surgery residency program intern coordinator/advisor; and as program director, surgical critical care fellowship, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, then located in Washington, DC. The U.S. armed forces have honored Dr. Maniscalco-Theberge with several awards, including the Legion of Merit, Order of Military Merit, and the “A” Proficiency Designator, in recognition of the highest level of professional achievement.
Work for change
A Fellow of the College since 1989, Dr. Maniscalco-Theberge has held many leadership positions within the ACS, including President of the Metropolitan Washington, DC, Chapter of the ACS (2003–2004), and the District of Columbia chapter of the Association of Women Surgeons (AWS). In addition, she is a Past-Vice-Chair, ACS Committee on Resident Education (2004–2006), was a member of the ACS Committee on Patient Safety and Quality Improvement (2006–2009), and served on the DC Chapter Credentials Committee (1996−2000, 2002−2014).
A graduate of Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk, she completed her general surgery residency at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center, Augusta, GA (1981−1986), a trauma/critical care fellowship at the Medstar Washington (DC) Hospital Center (1989−1990), and a critical care medicine fellowship at Walter Reed Army Medical Center (1990−1991).
Dr. Maniscalco-Theberge often found herself as the first and only woman present during surgical training sessions. As someone who has always excelled academically, Dr. Maniscalco-Theberge has strived to ease the burden for future generations of women surgeons. “You can’t ask for change if you’re not ready to do the work to make it happen,” she said. Her work and achievements have encouraged many women surgeons to get involved in local ACS and AWS chapters.
The inspiring Dr. Walker
Dr. Walker, for whom the award is named, graduated with honors from Syracuse Medical School in 1855, the only woman in her class. Dr. Walker volunteered to serve with the Union Army at the outbreak of the American Civil War. She was a prisoner of war for four months in 1864 after being captured while crossing enemy lines to treat wounded civilians.
Following her service in the Civil War, Dr. Walker worked for women’s suffrage in the U.S. She died one year before the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees women the right to vote. Dr. Walker, who displayed an unwavering commitment to surgery, continues to serve as a role model for women surgeons.
The ACS will present the Mary Edwards Walker Inspiring Women in Surgery Award annually at the Clinical Congress in recognition of one individual’s contributions to the advancement of women in the field of surgery.