For outstanding mentorship and a commitment to global trauma care, this year’s recipient of the Dr. Mary Edwards Walker Inspiring Women in Surgery Award is Susan Miller Briggs, MD, MPH, FACS. The award will be presented during the virtual Convocation Sunday, October 4.
The American College of Surgeons (ACS) Women in Surgery Committee established the Dr. Mary Edwards Walker Inspiring Women in Surgery Award in 2016. The award is presented annually at Convocation prior to the Clinical Congress to recognize an individual’s significant contributions to the advancement of women surgeons. The award is named in honor of Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, the first woman surgeon to serve in the U.S. Army, the only female recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, and a tireless crusader for women’s rights.
Dr. Briggs is associate professor of surgery, Harvard Medical School, and affiliate faculty, department of global health and social medicine, program in global surgery, Boston, MA. As the Carmella R. and Steven C. Kletjian Endowed Chair in Global Surgery since 2018, Dr. Briggs has actively helped recruit and hire mid-level women faculty and serves as their academic mentor in achieving the next steps toward promotion. She also strives to advance first-rate patient care, research, and education in global surgery.
According to a letter of nomination submitted by Janey S. A. Pratt, MD, FACS, clinical associate professor of surgery, Stanford, and assistant program director, minimally invasive surgery fellowship, Palo Alto VA, CA, Dr. Briggs “has supported women in surgery since the beginning. She has received numerous teaching awards from the residents and has been instrumental in the careers of at least 100 female surgical residents and medical students over the last 35 years. As a professor of surgery, she has contributed significantly to the recruitment of female residents, postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, and faculty. During her tenure, many of these same residents have gone on to set up their own research laboratories and start their own prestigious careers in general surgery, trauma, critical care, surgical oncology, global surgery, and many other surgical disciplines directly as a result of her mentorship.”
A career in service
With specialization in trauma and acute care surgery, disaster education, and global health, Dr. Briggs also serves as the director of the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) International Trauma and Disaster Institute, Boston, a center of excellence in disaster preparedness and response. Dr. Briggs’s trauma and disaster relief activities involve working with governmental and nongovernmental organizations. She is credited with establishing the International Medical Surgical Response Team, now known as the Trauma and Critical Care Teams (TCCTs), for the U.S. government. The TCCTs are federalized volunteer disaster medical teams of physicians, nurses, and other health care professionals from throughout the U.S. who respond to emergencies around the globe.
During the coronavirus pandemic this year, Dr. Briggs led the U.S. government TCCT to Tuba City, AZ, to one of the few hospitals that serves a remote and poverty-stricken Native American reservation.
As Team Commander of one of the TCCTs, Dr. Briggs has been the Supervising Medical Officer for numerous U.S. disasters, including the World Trade Center and Hurricane Katrina disasters. Internationally, Dr. Briggs has led trauma teams in disaster sites in China, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, Iran, and Russia. Dr. Briggs is a past recipient of the ACS International Volunteerism Award and presented the 2016 Scudder Oration on Trauma, Responding to Crisis: Surgeons as Leaders in Disaster Response.
During the coronavirus pandemic this year, Dr. Briggs led the U.S. government TCCT to Tuba City, AZ, to one of the few hospitals that serves a remote and poverty-stricken Native American reservation. She and 14 other clinicians spent 10 days working in the hospital intensive care units and emergency department to help health care providers better use their personnel and resources to meet the increasing number of patients.
Dr. Pratt added, “I cannot think of a better, more deserving person for this prestigious award. Dr. Briggs is not only an accomplished trauma surgeon, but one whom I believe exemplifies the spirit of Mary Edwards Walker in her perseverance, excellence, and pioneering behavior. She has paved the way for numerous younger women at Harvard Medical School, MGH, and globally.”
Dr. Briggs obtained her bachelor of science in nursing from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville; completed her medical degree at Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine, Maywood, IL; and obtained a master’s of public health in international health from Harvard University. Dr. Briggs was among the first women to complete a surgical residency at MGH and was the hospital’s first woman surgical chief resident.
Before beginning her academic career in surgery, Dr. Briggs completed a National Institutes of Health fellowship in burns and trauma at the University of California San Francisco. Her first surgical appointment was at the University of Louisville, KY, as an assistant professor of general and vascular surgery before returning to MGH as an associate professor of surgery and director of the acute care unit, Shriners Burns Institute. Dr. Briggs is a past-president of the Panamerican Trauma Society and Boston Surgical Society, and former vice-president of the American Association for the Surgery of Trauma.