Resources and Inspiration for Women Surgeons and Future Women Surgeons
Ana Violeta Cervantes Nuño is a first-year resident of surgery at a public hospital in Aguascalientes, Mexico. OnSurg thanks Dr Nuño for participating in our Q&A several months ago.
Did you have an inspirational figure, someone who inspired to you go into surgery?
I’ve always looked up to my dad because he knows a lot. He is a high school teacher. Growing up I could ask him anything (eg, why is the sky blue?) and he would always give me a scientific explanation. His brother is a doctor, and when they got together their conversations were infinitely interesting, so I wanted to be someone as wise as them.
When I had my surgical rotation I found it really cool to be in an operating room, taking part in its routines. There was a vascular surgeon, Dr. Rafael Castañeda, who allowed me to assist him in surgery. That’s when I realized I liked it very much. I also have to mention a dear friend of mine; I was indecisive about applying for surgery or pediatrics because surgery required a higher score in the national exam for medical residencies and I didn’t know if I could make it. He told me that if I wanted to do great things I had to shoot for them, I could not base my decision out of fear… so I applied for surgery and got in.
There is also a cardiovascular surgeon that I met when I began my residency, a few months ago, Dr. Marmolejo, and she told me all of these terrible stories about how she was the only woman during her residency and how the attendings were mean to her and didn’t let her operate with them because she was a woman. I admire how she stood through all that, tough as a rock, went to the stairs to cry and then come back again, as strong as ever.
What is the best thing about being a surgery resident? Tell us about your favorite case or favorite moment during residency?
Surgical residents are different from all the others, there’s a lot more competition going on. My favorite moments in residency are the ones when I did something right and felt proud about myself, even though no one thanked me or even noticed.
Tell us about your greatest triumph ever, as a surgeon.
I was very excited the first time I did a laparoscopic cholecystectomy all by myself, it felt great finally getting the instruments to do what I wanted them to do.
Do you have a favorite patient?
Max is my favorite patient, he’s a boy suffering from infantile cerebral paralysis. When I assisted in his Nissen fundoplication and gastrostomy he was very thin. I’ve seen him about 4 times in 6 months and it makes me very happy to see that he has gained weight, his mother knows that she can call me if she has any trouble and that I’ll rush to the hospital to meet her in the pediatric ER anytime.
Imagine you’re talking to a college student or medical student. Why is surgery better than any other job in the world?
Surgery gives you the opportunity to try to cure someone’s disease, as simple as an appendectomy and as complex as cancer. It’s a highly challenging job, you have to study but you also have to learn how to operate, it is both theoretical and practical. You have to earn the patient’s trust as well, because you will be cutting them open. The practice of medicine and surgery comes with a huge responsibility (just like Spider Man’s powers).
What do you do when not operating?
I’m not a very organized person so I’ve had a hard time scheduling my time. I have a wonderful boyfriend, he’s a urologist and the great thing about us is that we can both understand what it’s like to get caught up in surgery. I’ve been going to the gym for a few weeks but I miss tae kwon do (all that weight lifting is boring). I miss very much reading non-medical stuff, since I was a little girl I spent hours a day reading all kinds of books, lately I became a big fan of Isaac Asimov and I would like to read everything he ever wrote… but there’s so much to learn about medicine and surgery that Isaac will have to wait.
@lindabrodskymd, @DrMarthaCastro, @Dr_Amy, @rlbates, @DrCris, @DrCarolynA, @paulinechen, @MtnMD, @traumaAddict, @VerranDeborah, @DrJenGunter, @drmlb, @drval, @DrAttai, @DraDianePerez, @WomenSurgeons, @AnaViole, @dianeradfordmd, @jilltomlinson
Descriptions of General Surgery Subspecialties – from the Association of Women Surgeons
More Female US Medical School Grads Picking General Surgery – Article from Medscape
Why Doctors Should be Allowed to Work Part-Time – Carolyn Anderson in HuffPost
Association of Women Surgeons
WomenMDresources - WMDR combines our years of healthcare experience with a comprehensive approach to maximizing career success and life satisfaction among women physicians.
American Medical Women’s Association Association of Women in Science
Drs Goldberg and Mayglothling are academic surgical intensivists in Richmond, Virginia. They both work and teach at Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center (on the Medical College of Virginia campus) and at the Richmond Veterans Administration Medical Center. OnSurg profiles them here to demonstrate the different training pathways which led to their shared practice, and because I know them as role models to future women in surgery. - Chris Porter MD
Your training background?
MCV/VCU med school 1999-2003. MCV/VCU gen surg residency with 2 years research in wound healing under Dr David Lanning and Dr Robert Diegelmann 2003-2010. MCV/VCU surgical critical care fellowship 2010-2011. Now assistant professor of trauma surgery, general surgery and critical care at MCV/VCU.
Why did you choose this path?
I loved the excitement of the field and wanted to continue to grow and challenge myself intellectually and surgically; trauma gave me all of that. Also, it works for my family – when I’m home, I’m home. When I’m on call, I’m on call. My kids understand. My practice is especially convenient while my daughters are young – there’s no home call in which I might have to go in.
I went to MCP-Hahnemann (now Drexel) for med school. All
through med school I planned to go into surgery. I changed my mind in October of 4th year, mostly because I realized I really liked taking care of surgical patients but wasn’t sure that I loved the OR.
I matched at NYU/Bellevue for emergency medicine residency where I met a trauma surgeon who was just out of fellowship. He mentioned that there were emergency medicine (EM) docs in his trauma/critical care fellowship. So I did a trauma/critical care fellowship at University of Maryland Shock Trauma in 2005 to 2006. There were 8 surgeons and 4 emergency medicine folks in my fellowship. It was exactly what I was looking for – I get to take care of the medical management of surgical patients, all the time, before and after they go to the operating room. I also get to practice emergency medicine half time.
I am always walking the tight rope of the perfect work-life balance. I love work, but I love my free time, food, travel, family and sleeping in. I just completed my first triathlon, and I have a 130-lb dog named Monroe.
First-year surgery resident Dr Katie has been sharing her educational experience online since undergraduate school. OnSurg is grateful for her participation in our Q & A:
What’s your story?
I first knew I wanted to be a doctor my senior year of high school (was going to go into Forensics from 7th-12th), and was told I’d never make it and that I’d change my mind. I knew what I wanted and wanted to prove people wrong at the same time. It wasn’t until the summer after my junior year that I actually had the chance to be in the hospital. When that time came, I knew that medicine was right for me.
I took a year off in between undergraduate school and medical school and lived in Thailand. During that year I taught high school biology and really learned to love teaching. I also grew a lot and began to learn about myself more (the “outside of the classroom” me). It was a great experience, and I’d recommend it to anyone!
Featured surgeon, early summer 2011
Dr Linda Brodsky is a pediatric surgeon and self-described accidental crusader for equal rights and mentor for the next generation of female surgeons.
See her video about her aha moment, realizing she was paid half what her male colleagues made.
Dr Brodsky’s response to New York Times piece Don’t Quit this Day Job by Karen Sibert:
Dr. Sibert contends that women physicians working part time are to blame for a looming physician shortage. Her argument fails on many levels. Changes in work styles and habits are not championed by women alone. Research has shown that the desire for an alteration in work/life integration is generational and not gender based. It is sought by Gen X and Y, and crosses gender lines.