A Superstar in Surgery - Lessons Learned

Ever since I opened up my website for anonymous feedback submission, there has been one practitioner that I've featured that has received more submissions about her outstanding performance than any others - Dr. Stephanie Katz - a Cardiothoracic Surgery Anesthesiologist at BUMC in Dallas. The feedback has been so defined and distinct, and although anonymous, has clearly come from various aspects of her world:

  • Colleagues (surgeons, nurses, etc.)
  • Former Colleagues
  • Patients

I've tried to understand some of the common threads in the feedback and there clearly are some. The one that I think is most important is that Dr. Katz shows respect for ALL of her colleagues, no matter what they do or what role they play, Dr. Katz understands that a healthy ecosystem is made up of respectful behavior. There certainly is a technical aspect to it as well - Dr. Katz trained with some of the foremost cardiothoracic surgeons doing some of the highest risk cases in the world at the Texas Heart Institute in Houston. Many have commented about her ability to control chaotic situations - a poise that only those who have been in Operating Rooms where patients say on that slim line between life and death would understand.

There's something else to it as well though. There is a genuine respect and admiration for everything Dr. Katz is outside of the Operating Room - a loving wife and a mother of two young children. There's a youthfulness to her that makes her technical expertise that much more impressive. I've found that superstars are rarely just superstars in one facet of their life. The ones that are most respected and admired are those that are able to find some semblance of 'cadence' to juggle 10,000 things in their mind all at once, without actually losing it. Surgery is extremely technical and there are many that are truly superstars in the field of play (the Operating Room). We are grateful to them. However, the ones that people write in about do find a way to be a superstar outside of that world too, in this greater field we call 'life' - it's not always pretty and it isn't without sacrifice, but it does provide a glimpse into the term 'superstar'. 

We all have unique circumstances and we all have our own issues to deal with, but we can learn from those that we respect and admire. Many times, its taking a little bit of the best from many. In the case of Dr. Katz, it's taking a lot from one.

The Anatomy of Social Media - 'The Role of Women in Reinforcing the Glass'

A few people recently pointed out the proliferation of the 'split image' concept on various social media sites (Instagram, Facebook, etc.). Somebody once asked me, "Do you care?". I thought to myself..."I care about it as much as Michael Jordan cares about head lice".

Prior to building this platform, I was never on social media, BUT I always suspected that it encouraged certain types of behavior:

  1. Narcissism (duh, right?);
  2. Hating on Others (duh x2); and,
  3. Selfish Promotion of Oneself Disguised as Altruism.

After building a platform predicated & dependent, in large part, on social media, I have not only discovered that my 3 suspicions are true, but they're more true than I ever could have imagined. The primary reason I remain anonymous is because you can't be narcissistic if you are unknown; it's hard to hate on others if you are unknown; and, you can't be promoting yourself...if you are unknown. You can agree or disagree on many things, but you cannot argue with anonymity as the purest form of altruism.

I am sure I am not the pioneer of the 'split image' concept - it may not have ever been democratized through women in surgery, but it's most certainly not the first of its kind. Furthermore, it represents something far beyond the aesthetics of its imagery as I wrote about previously in a post called, "There are Two Sides to Every Story".

So, if somebody wants to further promote that message by using a picture to reinforce the idea that women in surgery don't need identities that are fully and completely consumed by surgery, go for it - it's a great message that others need to hear [and see] (IMO).

But, the most disappointing thing that I have found on social media is 'Women Hating on Women'. You'd be shocked at some of the things I have seen and read as it relates to women attacking the achievements of other women. I tell it like it is, and if there is one truth I can tell you from this whole thing it's this..."women have a hand in laying sheets of glass on that ceiling" - I say that in 'present tense' because it's still going on. So we can talk about, write about, and complain about the gender inequities that exist in all aspects of surgery, but I can tell you firsthand that the systemic inequity we are trying to defeat is being fueled (in some part) by women. I know many won't want to hear that, but it's the naked truth. And as someone that has conversed with well over 400 women in surgery, received daily feedback on others (90% of it is positive, btw), and holds a front row seat to peoples' passive aggressive behaviors for well over a year now, I can speak as somewhat of an authoritative source on this subject.

The women who I have selected for 'Restricted Area' are builders & promoters of others' accomplishments, not glass sculptors; they will tell you about many other amazing women before they ever talk about themselves; and, they simply don't have time to engage in petty, unproductive hating that has created more walls than bridges.

It is SO VERY TRUE that when you are great at what you do, you are not threatened by others (men or women).

[Note: There are many women not in 'Restricted Area' that represent the best of what I've described, but that was a criteria for selection].

What is it like?

Dr. Linda Martin is one of the most compassionate and dedicated surgeons I have encountered in building this initiative. Recently, I got to ask her a very simple question...

What is it like to lead a surgical team?

As a second year resident, I am still getting used to being on a surgical team, let alone leading one, so I always wanted to ask someone like Dr. Martin. To no surprise, her answer was focused on that balance between being in-control while allowing others to learn, facilitating a collaborative team approach and ultimately, creating the best outcome for the patient.

It can be quite a challenge - to teach; to get the case done expeditiously; to stay on-schedule; to anticipate where you are and the many steps that follow; to pay attention to every little detail; to maintain control of the room...

...all while trying to enjoy your work and make it enjoyable for others, and maintain a spirit of teamwork. Lots going on, and that is true for the simplest and most complex cases.
— Linda Martin, MD, MPH, Associate Professor (Thoracic & Cardiovascular Surgery)

What is leadership? That's probably a pretty good answer to a simple, yet complex question. But, I loved it because it exemplified the role of a surgeon - technician, facilitator, teacher, mentor, team player and yes, healer.

But that's Dr. Martin for you...nothing more; nothing less. BTW...it was nearly an all-female surgical team - pretty cool.

Dr. Martin's approach to treatment:

Takeaways - Principles of Leadership for the Young Surgeon (Dr. Paula Ferrada)

On Monday, February 13th, the world-renowned Dr. Paula Ferrada, Associate Professor of Trauma & Critical Care Surgery and Director of the Surgical Critical Care Fellowship program at Virginia Commonwealth University hosted a webcast on "The Principles of Leadership for the Young Surgeon", in conjunction with the American College of Surgeons.

A very well-attended session, one of Dr. Ferrada's mentees wrote down some key takeaways:

  • You don't have to be at the top to influence people.

  • Ask Yourself: 'What would I do if I wasn't not afraid?'

  • Find your niche, and become an expert.

  • Confident people carry tools, not weapons. Look at constructive criticism as somebody investing in you, rather than a personal attack. Take it and learn.

  • Sit at the table and take the place you deserve.

  • Find and engage with mentors outside of your institution - get outside your sphere of direct influence.

  • Read and stay current - Find books on leadership and time management - they were written for a reason and well worth the time. Also, stay current on the top academic literature being published - the field is changing so fast that you can't afford to fall behind.

  • You CAN do it.

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The one that resonated with the most with me was the last point - so simple, yet so empowering. Confidence is everything and when I've had it, I tend to stretch myself further, get out of my comfort zone and explore...that's where 90% of my growth (both personally & professionally) has occurred.

Here is a replay of the webcast if you missed it:

'Coaching Trees'

In the spirit of Super Bowl 51 today, I wanted to write a post about a concept that has always fascinated me: "COACHING TREES". In the NFL, there are a number of legendary coaches who have spawned legacies of future head coaches that have worked under them & have gone on to have very successful coaching careers, and many have actually created their own trees.

The head coaches for Super Bowl 51: The New England Patriots head coach (Bill Belechick) is a direct 'decendant' of Bill Parcells; the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons (Dan Quinn) is a 'decendant' of Steve Mariucci, who decended from Mike Holmgren, who ultimately decended from the legendary Bill Walsh. 12 future NFL head coaches worked directly under Bill Walsh, and 32 more future head coaches worked under those 12.

So what does this have to do with ANYTHING? 

Last night, I had an amazing conversation with Dr. Nikki Conkling, a plastic surgery resident at UCSF, and I asked her, 'Nikki - what is your DREAM of dreams?' Her response, "I would love to be a leader in academics...I know so many women in my generation who would make excellent leaders."

It was an inspiring thing to hear. But then I thought about it, and of course, the natural tangent was to the NFL (LOL). I am seeing trees develop all over the place, and it is f*cking amazing.

Case-in-point, Dr. Paula Ferrada has created an amazing tree as the Director of the Surgical Critical Care fellowship program at VCU - I have featured Dr. Aditi Kapil, who trained at VCU under Dr. Ferrada & is now a Critical Care Surgeon and Attending Faculty member. Dr. Sarah Oltmann wrote passionately about the 'coaches' & mentors (3 in-particular) that helped her get to where she is today, & she is passing that on to others now at UTSW. What makes Dr. Tiffany Moon so compelling? The fact that she has received a number of awards voted on by her peers for excellence in teaching.

The women pictured are just a few examples of many that have made teaching a priority. You don't need some fancy academic title to teach, nor do you need the letters M.D. behind your name to infuse your passion for surgery by 'coaching' others who are coming up the ranks. If a surgical team is only as strong as its weakest member, then let's hope there are great coaches for every role.

This is not a gender thing at all, but I am so glad to see women stepping up to create trees that will only continue to grow with time. It's inspiring and amazing - if you don't have a tree today, plant the seed with your time & patience. When all is said-and-done, just like the legendary Bill Walsh, your career legacy will be defined by what you've passed on to others through Teaching, Coaching, and Mentoring.

If what you did yesterday still looks big to you, you haven’t done enough today.
— Coach K (Duke Men's Basketball Coach)

Celebrating National Women Physicians Day (2017)

In honor of National Women Physicians Day (#IAmBlackwell), I am so proud to announce 4 additional female surgeon selections for 'Restricted Area'.

All 4 of these women came HIGHLY recommended by their colleagues (former and current), and represent so many different facets of surgical practice. Picking these women is not an exact science, but knowing when you are inspired is. I am inspired and so pleased to tell the stories of these women and their incredible accomplishments for both the current and next generations of female surgeons to build on.

  1. Patricia Bergen, MD, Professor of Surgery, Trauma & Acute Care, UTSW

  2. Paula Ferrada, MD, FACS, Associate Professor of Surgery, Trauma & Acute Care, VCU

  3. Sepideh Gholami, MD, Fellow, Surgical Oncology, Memorial Sloan Kettering

  4. Linda Martin, MD, MPH, Associate Professor of Surgery, Thoracic Surgery, UVA

Anger solves nothing.

“ANGER DOESN’T SOLVE ANYTHING; IT BUILDS NOTHING, BUT IT CAN DESTROY ‘EVERYTHING’.”

Without getting into political beliefs, which everybody has the right to hold, express, & demonstrate in any form they’d like within the law, I have been frustrated by the amount of rhetoric that floods our feeds every day. Some of it is compelling, but most of it is destructive – destructive in the sense that it takes away the most precious asset we have – our time.

As many know, I’ve had many legit reasons in my life to be angry, & believe me, I held onto anger for a really long time – it nearly destroyed me & everything I wanted to be. But, what pulled me out of that anger was 3 realizations: 1) I cannot change the nexus of my anger; 2) I am moving backwards; & 3) I am disrespecting all of the amazing people who have invested so much in ME.

I got a letter on Friday night from a Muslim-American med student & aspiring surgeon who was planning to participate in the March on Washington the next day. She wanted to say something to the 215 women who I’ve featured: 

Thank you for showing me what is possible with hard work, a bit of luck, and a lot of resilience. While contributing your story to this initiative may have seemed trivial to you, think about people like me - those who need shining examples of what we can achieve, now more than ever. This was never about you - it is about us, and like any community, we need just as much going in as being taken out. All I can say is - ‘thank you, thank you, thank you’ for contributing your version of progress.

I am so proud of the women I’ve featured (all 215) & I entrust in each of you the power you hold for women who need shining examples of the ‘possible’…now more than ever. So express your opinions, take to the streets, but please don’t let ANGER destroy the greatest thing you’ve created for so many women who want to be just like YOU...HOPE & INSPIRATION.

2017 Inspire WIS Resolutions

LOOK FOR SOMETHING POSITIVE IN EACH DAY, EVEN IF SOME DAYS YOU HAVE TO LOOK A LITTLE HARDER

As we all make personal resolutions for the New Year upon us, I think it’s only fitting that I make a resolution for InspireWIS. Initiatives should evolve & improve consistently, not just at the turn of a year, but all the time. In any case, there are 3 main things I would like to focus InspireWIS on in 2017.

[1] DIVERSE: There’s a couple different areas of diversity I would like to focus on in 2017 – one is ethnicity. I will aim to highlight more women of diverse ethnic backgrounds – I think it’s very important to find women in surgery who represent a broader ethnic mix & will strive to do so in 2017; this includes international women in surgery. Part two of diversity is my continuing focus to highlight the accomplishments of all women in surgery – this means more #RNs, #CSTs, #Perfusionists & others. I would love to get an accomplished woman from the medical device world on the site!

[2] HOLISTIC: I would like to continue to tell the stories of women first-and-foremost, & weave in how being a ‘woman in surgery’ enhances that overall identity. It’s easy to only focus on the professional aspects, but we are all more than just our careers & I find it so important to acknowledge the ‘rest of our lives’.

[3] EMOTIVE: Any great story has an emotional component – it doesn’t mean that every person featured needs some tragedy or dramatic event in their lives, but as a storyteller, I need to continue to strive to find the aspects of these incredible women’s lives that tug on the heart – it is what differentiates a ‘story’ from a ‘biography’. I want to tell stories.

Note:
This incredible photo above is courtesy of Elizabeth 'Betsy' Dovec, MD, FACS - a Bariatric Surgeon and Director of the Comprehensive Obesity Management Program at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center. Her personal website can be found here.
 

 

10 Stories for 2016: #4

This was such an amazing tribute to Dr. Shayna Mancuso - it inspires me to read these touching accounts of these amazing women everyday. I love them; I love her.

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"Dr. Mancuso, or 'Doc Shay' as we sometimes call her, is a blessing to have at our institution. I feel tremendously lucky and fortunate to be able to say that I was on her surgical team. From start to finish, Doc Shay is all about the 4 C's: Completeness, Competence, Comfort and Compassion. But there's something else that makes working with her such a pleasure - she is so Down-to-Earth when she has every reason not to be - she's young, beautiful, talented, a master with a scalpel, and a marvel with the patients. She talks to us like we're equals, not like we're 'the help' - and that's a big deal for us. The greatest compliment I can give to Doc Shay is that we absolutely love operating with her. We check the boards, and there is always this inner 'giddiness' that we feel when we see that she's on that day or night.

Outside of the Operating Room, Doc Shay is no different - a mild-mannered person who has incredible poise in tough situations who takes the extra step to preserve the tender moments our patients go through. We see it all from the rough parts of Chicago - traumas, unexpected pregnancies, you name it - Doc Shay never treats anybody like they did anything wrong and most importantly...that they don't have as much reason to enjoy the birth of their child as any other mother from the affluent suburbs. That says everything to me and THAT is why she is a favorite.

As I have followed your platform, I have found so many inspiring women from the top to the bottom, but I can guarantee you that Doc Shay will hold her ground on any measure and with any woman. She is such a blessing to us and I know she is twice the mother that she is the surgeon, and that is saying A LOT. I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Doc Shay - from today to the day we part ways - she is the type that you always will remember and hold in the highest regards. She is brilliant, but she has never allowed her intelligence to affect that magnetism that makes her so special to me, the other surgical staff and most importantly, our beloved patients."

10 Stories for 2016: #5

The amount of time somebody took to write this speaks volumes about Dr. Mara Antonoff on so many levels and makes for one helluva story.

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"I think Dr. Mara Antonoff is a 'once-in-a-generation' surgeon regardless of gender - she is that talented, respected & giving. Yes, she is an active member of our professional societies, but many surgeons are. When you see the way she teaches, guides & mentors the next-generation of surgeons, you see true genius there. It's hard to explain - it's not lecturing; it's not coaching; it's guidance & perspective that enables others to ultimately choose paths that they can own - that is such a simple concept, but when applied in the way Mara does it, I see 'magic' in the way it's received. Being a very very good technical surgeon is not table-stakes, & Mara is one of the best, especially when faced with some of the most invasive & complex surgical oncology cases of the chest. Her ability to navigate critical anatomy where margins mean the difference between curative and palliative, I don't really think there is anybody I have seen do it with the level of skill, compassion, 'best interest of the pt' & on-the-feet thinking that she demonstrates case-in and case-out. She'll have a chest cracked open for 8+ hours and you'll see that patient leave this facility with a renewed lease on life - there are simply no words to describe what that does for our institution's reputation, as a leader in cancer treatment - both the surgical and medical continuity that we pride ourselves on. But more than that...what it does for those families is simply breath-taking (no pun intended).

However, not every patient is lucky enough to leave here with a full life ahead of them - it's easy to deal with the patient who has a very good prognosis; the ones who are truly special know how to bring a special touch to those who leave here with a 'time frame'. Mara has a touch of gold when it comes to those difficult situations - she doesn't hand it off like most surgeons might - she cares and let me tell you, patients know when it's genuine. Mara is genuine in the way she looks these patients in the eyes - there's a spark that she's still able to generate for our patients who Mara fights to spare a little more of the most precious commodity in our world - time - precious time with loved ones to do those things that these families will cherish forever.

Mara is a champion for our profession. She destroys every stereotype (regardless of gender) that the 'prototypical' thoracic surgeon at a top-notch, world-renowned institution has been encumbered with. She's kind, but firm; she's instructive to skill-development without being destructive to one's self-worth; she's beautiful but still approachable. Why does any of this matter? Because she is such a role model for many up-and-coming thoracic surgeons - male and female alike. Whether we like it or not, we tend to emulate our mentors and those we look up to. Many people in our profession look up to Mara, and while some look at that as a burden, Mara has always embraced it as a 'privilege'. It certainly draws extra time from her life, but her children are very lucky. She exhibits behaviors, character qualities, integrity, and an unbelievable work-ethic. Her kids may not appreciate it today, or even tomorrow, but I have no doubt that one day, they will see the tremendous 'sphere of positive influence' that Mara has created on so many dimensions, and only want to carry that on in whatever direction their passions in life take them.

I apologize for the long testimonial here - I usually don't do this, but after seeing what you've created and how many people it reaches, I can't help but 'tell it how it is' - we tend to do that in Texas. It is incredible, magical, nothing short of amazing and, without compromise."

10 Stories for 2016: #6

An unrelenting dedication to her profession and the willingness to take the 'path less traveled'.
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"I am so proud to call Mana Saraghi a friend. She puts her soul into her work & has always had an intense focus on research, safety & patient care. The fact that she is the program director of a residency program now at such a young age is of no surprise to me. She has already fulfilled so much potential and the scary part is…there is so much left – I can’t wait to see where it takes her.

Mana was always one of those people who never settled for the traditional career path - she knew she wouldn't have been happy being a GP, and I am so proud of her for taking the 'path less traveled'. It takes so much more courage than people think. She's always had this insatiable curiosity to find solutions to everyday issues that plague our patients - solutions that make high-risk dental care safer, less scary and really, just more comfortable for these children.

I have many friends who 'settled' for the GP path and they don't have to tell me, but I can see that they're searching for more. What Mana did took some extra time, a little bit of risk, and a lot of passion, but I NEVER worry about her getting bored or 'looking for more'.

I am so happy to see that Mana is in a position now where she can pass on her own passions to others that are still searching for theirs. She is going to do such a great job of guiding others to find the same love that she has. To me - Mana is the personification of INSPIRATION."

10 Stories for 2016: #7

What is the value of a teacher, or a mentor? I have heard so much about what Dr. Sarah Oltmann means to many of the surgical residents at UTSW - story no. 7 is dedicated to this amazing woman.
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"Dr. Sarah Oltmann is so many things – a great surgeon, teacher, mentor, mother, wife & friend. She is a champion ‘of us’ and ‘for us’. Her dedication to teaching and guiding us through this prestigious and rigorous program is a great testament to her values and contributions to the profession and progression of women in surgery.

There have been so many times where I have hit a wall, as all surgical residents do, and Dr. Oltmann has always been there for me - she takes the extra time to listen - and for me, having somebody to 'listen to me' has far outweighed having somebody to 'talk to me'. And I'm certainly not alone when it comes to that - I know for a fact that she has counseled many other surgical residents as we go through this rigorous training program. I feel so lucky to be a part of the UTSW surgical family, and a big part of that I attribute to having mentors like Dr. Oltmann.

Her contributions can never be overstated, and will always be underappreciated - so I only feel it fitting that I write to you and tell you how special and INSPIRING this WOMAN IN SURGERY has been to me. Thank you for providing such an amazing platform with broad reach for us to recognize these incredible influences on our careers...and our lives."

10 Stories for 2016: #8

Nobody wants to break the worst news possible about the outcome of a surgery to the patient's family...but what if that patient happens to be the mother of one of your closest friends?

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"Tracy Geoffrion broke the news to me. She never shied away from her professional obligation but she also never hid her devastation, which somehow made me stronger in the moment and undoubtedly bonded us in a way that is so tragic and Godsent all at the same time. We both got tattoos in memory of my mom after things had calmed down - same studio, same artist. There was something incredibly cathartic about having a physical scar to match and materialize the emotional one.

Tracy has an appreciation for the humanity inherently involved in what she does. And surprisingly, to me anyway, many other doctors, specifically surgeons, don't share that same quality.

I truly believe that this experience shaped us all, and there is a bond and appreciation that I will ALWAYS share with Tracy - a gratitude for all that she did from the day my mom was diagnosed to the day she went into surgery."

10 Stories for 2016: #9

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"Jill - I've enjoyed your platform immensely - I loved the statement you made that great stories are about dreams, not the letters behind your name. Speaking of stories - Cj Hollinshead's story really touched me. I grew up in foster care and never felt like I ever belonged or was even wanted. I was lucky enough to find a mentor in high school who was in the process of becoming a surgical tech. She became 'my hero' and coincidentally, her passion became mine.

There are so many children out there that are 'tossed aside', and my hope is that CJ's story proves to them that life is not defined by where you start, but by where your dreams take you.
I struggled a long time with the idea that I had a mother who never wanted to raise me, but with age has come much wisdom. Growing up the way I did taught me invaluable virtues like independence, taking responsibility and ownership of my actions, and most importantly, the power of dreams. I reached my dream of becoming a surgical tech. I recently became married and now hope to pursue the dream of having a child and being the parent that I never had - it may be trite, but it's my ultimate dream in life - to nurture, guide, comfort, and celebrate a child I can call my own.

Keep telling stories and don't hide the parts that don't fit in fairy tales, because we all have struggles that are worth sharing. Those struggles make up the fiber of who we've become. I am very proud of who I have become and I don't have "MD" behind my name like many of the amazing women on your site, but I take as much pride in what I contribute as anybody else - that's why I read the stories - they give me perspective about this amazing world that we ALL can experience TOGETHER."

10 Stories for 2016: #10

 

10 STORIES: In honor of the holidays, I want to share 10 stories that have really touched my heart & in some cases, brought me to tears. I hope to pull a few of your heart strings too...

Story No. 10:
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"Jill - I read your post from the sister of the surgical resident who committed suicide and it hit me like a brick. I was also a general surgery resident & I was miserable - I felt like I was living somebody else's dream, but it was really a nightmare - I actually went and scouted out places where I was going to jump from - it got that bad. I will never be able to thank the people who cared enough to reach out and let me know it was 'ok' to leave surgery for pediatrics - this is the first holiday where I don't have to pretend I'm happy...because I AM HAPPY.

You wrote a comment that I think is the reason why I follow your platform even though I am no longer in surgery - it was something to the effect of the "fine line between celebrating and glamorizing" surgery - that is so true, and you do an amazing job of it. Surgery is not Grey's Anatomy - the physical and emotional toll that you take as a surgical resident is brutal - you deal with death, physical and mental exhaustion, and a continuous desire to prove to people that you can 'take it'.

I learned that becoming a surgeon didn't matter to the the people who really cared about me. I'm proud to admit that I couldn't take it - I believe I am strong to have been able to do something about it before it was too late.

I am happy with finding another path to my passion for medicine without having to prove anything to anybody but myself. I know I'm not alone and if telling my story enables somebody who is as unhappy as I was to find a way out that doesn't mean taking their own life...then it was well worth the email.

What you're doing is so valuable and I admire the way you celebrate these incredible women.  I am INSPIRED. Happy Holidays!"

The Courage to be 'YOURSELF'

If there is one struggle that nearly all 212 women featured have brought up about being a 'woman in surgery', it's  "the amount of COURAGE it takes to simply...be yourself".

Being 'yourself' sounds so simple, but is it? Is it simple when your attending tells you not to wear your hair down during rounds because it is distracting? Is it simple when your superior tells you that by looking 'kept up', it will automatically discredit your ability to be taken seriously as a surgical professional? Think about it...

It is not simple because if it was, nobody would bring it up. I admire so many of the women who I have featured that do the one simple thing that is so hard in 'this world' - STAY TRUE TO WHO THEY ARE.

We often think of 'FRAUD' as criminal wrongdoing. But, if you look at the definition of the word in its simplest form, fraud is merely the act of 'intentional deception for personal gain'. But, here's the great irony...the actual deception is not of others; it's deception of yourself. After all, it's only you that has to look in the mirror every day...it's only you that has to live with...being you.

So the next time somebody tells you that you should change to be more like 'somebody else', perhaps you'll think about this page & all of the women who had the courage to take a stand by saying, "THANK YOU, BUT I'M ACTUALLY OK WITH BEING MYSELF."

The 'Deluge' of Social Media

I believe that in this life, we have the chance to do good, but also celebrate others who do good. 'Inspiring Women In Surgery' is very self-explanatory. There is so much 'fluff' on social media right now when it comes to 'women in medicine' and in my opinion, it all amounts to very little. Yes, people 'like' posts by the thousands, but what are they really 'liking'? A picture? A picture with a few hashtags? My goal was to create something where people 'liked' the message.

Perhaps I'm old-school, but I actually believe people still read (crazy, I know). The stories I tell are not my own, but they are through my lens. And within each of those stories, I try to personify accomplishment, work-ethic, a 'dare to dream' without ignoring the reality of where we are. But more than anything, I try to give you a sense of what these women stand-for in life through the lens of a career in surgery.

I am an equal-opportunity writer & the stories I choose to tell are based on the merits of the human qualities exhibited - I have rejected plenty of stories of people that believe their titles and academic pedigrees make for compelling reads - I call them 'CV features' - they even created a huge social network for them - it's called LinkedIn.

My Instagram will never have 25,000 followers, nor will my posts ever have 500+ likes, & I couldn't give a sh*t. I'm not going to just post a bunch of crap for the sake of "baiting & hooking" followers & likes. What I care about is that the people who choose to read what I do post find something that speaks to them; I care that the next-generation can find female role models who represent all that is good about surgery; I care about changing mindsets to enable more opportunities for women where historically, there have been few; I care more about the messaging than the hashtags or the numbers...

I care about finding superstars & making sure they know just how extraordinary they are...

Restricted Area (Update)

RESTRICTED AREA: 210 TO 25?

It is hard to believe but it hasn't even been a year since the inception of the Inspire WIS platform and I have already told he stories of 218 amazing women in surgery.

For those of you that have contributed your stories, I know I probably bugged you to annoyance, but just know this...I can never quantify impact, but to see over 12,100 followers on Instagram reading YOUR stories is amazing - that's 56 followers per story! I've read that a good ratio of followers to posts on Instagram is 10:1, so to see 56:1 goes to show that people find value in what you do...and how you do it.

But the qualitative is so much more rich - the emails I get from people around the world that you've touched is quite simply breathtaking - like a young woman who wrote, "I read ____'s story, and I printed it out and pinned it to my bulletin board that I look up when I study to remind me that this IS worth it".

There is absolutely no better feeling in this world than getting an email like that, especially at a time when equity for women in all walks of life has come into question.

SO WHAT'S GOING ON WITH 'RESTRICTED AREA':

So Restricted Area is the title of the book I signed to write in April-2016. It's been a slow process, but making headway with my editor. Unfortunately, I have to pick 25 women I've featured for expanded features in the book. After writing about 210 women, that's like asking a parent to pick her favorite child.

I acknowledge that not all women who have been featured want be featured in the book, or may have issues that preclude them from doing so.

Nonetheless, I am so pleased to have finalized terms with an "advance against royalties on retail basis". The advance has been kept in a trust account and will be distributed equally to all the women featured, and all future royalty payments will also be distributed equally to each person featured.

WHY? I have chosen to take nothing from this because these aren't my stories. I am confident that the women that are featured will find a way to use this income stream in a way that they see fit.

LET THE SELECTION BEGIN:

  • 10 Surgeons / Fellows / Residents
  • 3 Anesthesiologists
  • 3 Dental Surgeons (Perio / Endo / OMFS)
  • 4 Mid-Level Practitioners (CRNAs / RNFAs / PA-Cs / NPs)
  • 3 Registered Nurses
  • 2 Certified Surgical Technologists