Your ACS benefits: Women in Surgery Committee: Advancing opportunities for women surgeons

Initially formed as the Committee on Women’s Issues in 2000, the American College of Surgeons (ACS) Women in Surgery Committee (WiSC) is a vital component and active committee of the College. The committee’s mission is to enable women surgeons of all ages and practice types to develop their individual potential as professionals; promote an environment that fosters inclusion, respect, and success; develop, encourage, and advance women surgeons as leaders; and provide a forum and networking opportunities to enhance women’s surgical career satisfaction.

Committee composition and subcommittees

WiSC has 26 members, including liaisons from the Board of Governors, Young Fellows Association, Resident and Associate Society, the Association of Women Surgeons, and Women in Neurosurgery. It also has medical student, consultant, and international surgeon members.

In the last five years, the committee’s activities have grown exponentially. Under the leadership of Susan Pories, MD, FACS, Chair, and Nancy Baxter, MD, FACS, Vice-Chair, the committee conducts its work through the efforts of six subcommittees: Structure, Mission & Communications; Awards; Program; Mentorship; Personal Empowerment; and International.

The Structure, Mission & Communications Subcommittee reviews applications for new members and administers the online Women in Surgery Community, which has more than 5,300 members.

The Awards Subcommittee works tirelessly to nominate worthy female surgeons for leadership roles in the College and for Honorary Fellowships and other awards annually. This subcommittee also administers the Dr. Mary Edwards Walker Inspiring Women in Surgery Award, first presented in 2016. The award is named in honor of Mary Edwards Walker, MD (1832–1919), for her inspiration as the first female surgeon employed by the U.S. Army and the only woman to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor—the highest U.S. Armed Forces decoration for bravery. Recipients to date have included Mary Maniscalco-Theberge, MD, FACS (2016), and SreyRam Kuy, MD, FACS (2017). The award recognizes a member of the College who has demonstrated a commitment to the advancement of women in surgery.

The Program Subcommittee manages the committee’s contributions to the Clinical Congress. At Clinical Congress 2018, the committee will sponsor a course on negotiation skills, Meet-the-Expert sessions on scaling back or leaving clinical practice and pregnancy during a surgical career, and two Panel Sessions on improving parity in surgery and recognizing and responding to distress in your colleagues and yourself. The subcommittee also identifies the annual Olga Jonasson Lecturer at the Clinical Congress. This lecture began in 2007 to honor the memory of Olga Jonasson, MD, FACS—a true pioneer and trailblazer. The 2018 lecturer is Joan Y. Reede, MD, MS, MPH, MBA, who will speak on A Path Toward Diversity, Inclusion, and Excellence.

The Mentorship Subcommittee has been active since 2013, pairing women surgeons for one-year relationships to address topics such as career development, research goals, work-life balance, practice development, and leadership. The program includes 21 pairs who meet at the Clinical Congress and work together throughout the year.

The Personal Empowerment Subcommittee has worked with the Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) Task Force to develop a College statement on IPV and will be collaborating with the task force on the development and dissemination of resources to assist surgeon members with managing IPV. They also will be working on a sexual harassment statement.

The International Subcommittee is developing a survey of international surgical societies to learn about roles for women surgeons to identify best practices that could be more broadly disseminated. They have created a slide presentation for ACS leaders and volunteers to use when traveling to international surgical meetings to speak with women surgeons about becoming more engaged in their organization(s) and the profession. The subcommittee members will be connecting with international women surgeons at this year’s Clinical Congress.

Other WiSC initiatives

The committee has developed statements on the importance of parental leave, issued in 2016, and gender salary equity, issued in 2017, which have been disseminated broadly. Lastly, the committee continues to develop programming to support women surgeons in their leadership journey through an annual seminar for women presented at the ACS Leadership & Advocacy Summit. The subcommittee also is working to develop a more comprehensive leadership program for women surgeons that could be held in conjunction with chapter meetings.

The committee encourages members to access the statements on parental leave and gender salary equity and share them within their institutions, join the Women in Surgery Community and participate in the discussions, nominate esteemed colleagues for the Dr. Mary Edwards Walker Award, and share ideas and suggestions for other projects the committee could undertake on behalf of ACS members. Read more information about the Women in Surgery Committee on the ACS website.

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