Navigating Surgical Residency as a Trainee – and a Woman
An upcoming Cleveland Clinic professional development program provides a unique perspective on the opportunities – and challenges – for women general surgery residents.
For the first time, Cleveland Clinic will offer a professional development program geared for women general surgery residents. The day-and-a-half event, to be held Sept. 13 – 14, 2019, is the brainchild of Ajita Prabhu, MD, a staff surgeon in the Digestive Disease & Surgery Institute and assistant professor of surgery at Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine.
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“The program focuses on professional development, acknowledging that skills such as public speaking, networking, time management and the cultivation of leadership traits are learned and practiced,” says Dr. Prabhu. “Most of us aren’t born with these skills. We will give tips to help residents become very skilled professionals.”
The program, Enhancing the General Surgery Resident Experience, goes beyond standard professional development training, however. It offers a unique perspective for women surgical residents, emphasizing challenges that disproportionately affect women trainees and providing strategies for overcoming those challenges.
“This course is not an angry rant about sexism,” stresses Dr. Prabhu. “It acknowledges the unconscious biases in the world we live in and offers insight for skillfully navigating that world.”
Dr. Prabhu cites seven issues facing women surgery residents, many of which will be addressed at the September event:
Despite these historical challenges, Dr. Prabhu is hopeful that the tide is turning. “There is a lot of commitment in many hospital systems to inclusion and diversity, and there are a growing number of educational initiatives around the issue,” she says.
Cleveland Clinic’s upcoming program is one example. “The conversations we are going to have at the course are meaningful and relevant – for both men and women,” says Dr. Prabhu. Sessions by leading surgeons across the nation will cover topics ranging from selecting a surgical specialty and finding a mentor to interacting with other women at work and balancing work/life obligations.
“The goal is to acknowledge that while challenges exist for women surgery residents, they can prepare for them and grow their skill set to navigate those challenges,” says Dr. Prabhu. “If they can do that, they will be successful despite the challenges.”