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Phoenix Children’s Women’s Surgical Collaborative

Surgery Department

The Women's Surgical Collaborative is a faculty group that was formed to recruit, promote and retain talented women surgeons across all divisions. Women-centered faculty collaboratives are being created at health systems across the nation to foster cultures that actively support female surgeons as they work to achieve their career goals and pursue formidable positions with greater confidence. 

Click here to meet the team.

Our Mission

For many years, women have been underrepresented in the field of surgery, however, at Phoenix Children’s, we are proud of the fact that our number of female surgeons is steadily increasing. Nationwide, as of 2016, there were only 20 female chairs of departments of surgery in the United States. Across the United States, women accounted for 8% of professors, 13% of associate professors, and 26% of assistant professors of surgery1. Here at Phoenix Children’s, 53% of our physicians are women and women comprise 32% of all division chiefs and 27% of surgical division chiefs. We need to continue to offer women the opportunities for advancement to meet the current and future needs in health care and academic medicine. 

In an effort to combat the ongoing need for gender parity in medicine, in 2021, women surgeons from across the surgical department created the Phoenix Children’s Women’s Surgical Collaborative (WSC) modeled after several other successful programs in the nation with a mission to:

  • Endorse and encourage the building of an inclusive, diverse workforce by advancing women surgeons' professional careers
  • Prepare each surgeon to achieve the highest level of excellence in clinical practice, research, leadership, and education
  • Advance women surgeons' careers through mentorship, advocacy, professional development, and networking
  • Promote women by creating opportunity, equality, and education
  • Recruit and retain motivated and talented women surgeons, physicians and scientists who will contribute to building a collaborative, nationally recognized physician team at Phoenix Children's
  • Develop skills and strategies to be progressive leaders in academic medicine on regional, national, and international levels
  • Collaborate with all physicians, as well as hospital leadership and special interest groups on local, regional, and national levels

Phoenix Children’s Women’s Surgical Collaborative places an emphasis on advancing female surgeons and creating a culture where female surgeons feel heard and supported and have the same opportunities for advancement as their male counterparts. The WSC was developed to disseminate and implement strategies that promote the academic advancement of female surgeons to achieve diversity, equity and inclusion across all surgical disciplines. 

Having diverse teams makes a difference for patients and hospitals. According to a 2019 review from the National Medical Association1, healthcare studies showed patients generally fare better when care was provided by more diverse teams, and financial performance also improved with increased diversity.2  A 2022 JAMA study in adults showed better outcomes for female patients when they were cared for by female surgeons compared to male surgeons.3

Why is this important?

While institutions may not intend for their cultures or policies to inhibit the career development of women, studies have shown that the traditional male surgical culture and unconscious biases negatively affect the experiences of female surgeons. 

According to a July 2018 study in the International Journal of Surgery: Global Health1, gendered stereotypes and social perceptions about women’s abilities play a role in pushing women away from surgical specialties  including: 

  • The difficulty of balancing family caregiving with a demanding career
  • Lack of adequate female role models 
  • Inequality including a significant pay gap and lack of promotion as compared to male counterparts  
  • Not fitting the typical surgeon profile in personality, physical stature or strength 

At Phoenix Children’s, it is our mission to break down these barriers. The unification of women surgeons in groups like the Women’s Surgical Collaborative is a step in the right direction to promote the positive perception of women surgeons throughout society. . Our goal is to actively address unconscious bias and help identify strategies and programs that further the mission of diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

What has been accomplished?

Phoenix Children’s Women's Surgical Collaborative has already made notable progress. Since its inception in 2021, the team has been involved in general recruitment efforts for the department and is also playing a role in the recruitment of a DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) chair. Furthermore, the WSC is working with HR on incorporating gender-related questions in the employee satisfaction survey that is conducted each year. Lastly, the WSC is excited for the future and plans on developing and offering mentorship programs for early career faculty and trainees. 

The Women’s Surgical Collaborative will have an annual speaker event and the members are looking forward to welcoming the inaugural speaker, Dr. Diana Farmer, an internationally renowned fetal and neonatal surgeon and chair of the Department of Surgery at UC Davis Health, January 2023. Also, the group has hosted networking events, participated in the Phoenix Pride Run in April 2022, and is actively conducting DEI-associated research. 

How can you support this mission? 

If you are interested in supporting the important mission of the WSC, a Heart Fund has been established called the Women's Surgical Collaborative Fund. To make your tax-deductible donation, please visit our donation page

Employees who wish to donate through the employee giving campaign, please visit the Employee Giving Campaign.  

Events

The members of the collaborative participate in networking events and DEI-associated research. Research includes employee satisfaction, parental leave policies for surgeons, and lactation support nationwide. The Women’s Surgical Collaborative is committed to supporting DEI events at the hospital as well as in the community and enjoyed participating in the Phoenix Pride Run in March 2022.

Lactation Advocacy Champions

The Lactation Advocacy Champions is an initiative born out of collaboration with a multidisciplinary lactation workgroup, the Women’s Surgical Collaborative and the Division Wellbeing Directors at Phoenix Children’s. The goal is to provide resources and support to enable all lactating employees at Phoenix Children’s to meet or exceed their breastfeeding goals. The project began with trainees in mind as Graduate Medical Education passed a Lactation Policy for trainees in the fall of 2022 thanks to the efforts of Dr. Kristi Samaddar, the Associate Program Director for the Pediatrics Residency.

The Lactation Advocacy Champions (LACs) are familiar with the four-page GME Lactation Policy and all of the lactation resources at Phoenix Children’s. The LACs serve as a source of support for the trainees and help them to craft their lactation accommodation plan upon their return from parental leave. Currently, 25 of 36 divisions have a LAC representative to help, not only the trainees in that division, but any employee in the division who needs support with lactation at work. We recognize not all Phoenix Children’s employees are housed within a division, and we are committed to providing our services to everyone within the Phoenix Children’s Family.

Dr. Erin Garvey gave Surgery Grand Rounds about the Lactation Advocacy Champions program on December 5, 2023, to increase awareness about the initiative. The Grand Rounds was very well received. We have also received feedback from several trainees who were so grateful to be connected to their LAC when returning to work and benefited immensely from the resources shared.

Speakers

We will have an annual speaker event and look forward to welcoming our first speaker, Dr. Diana Farmer, an internationally renowned fetal and neonatal surgeon and chair of the Department of Surgery at UC Davis Health, January 2023.  

Click here to learn more about Dr. Diana Farmer. 

Members of the Women’s Surgical Collaborative

Click here to meet the team.

References

  1. de Costa, Josephine BA/LLB; Chen-Xu, José BSc, MD; Bentounsi, Zineb MD; Vervoort, Dominique MD. Women in surgery: challenges and opportunities, International Journal of Surgery: Global Health: July 2018 - Volume 1 - Issue 1 - p e02 doi: 10.1097/GH9.0000000000000002
  2. Gomez LE, Bernet P. Diversity improves performance and outcomes. J Natl Med Assoc. 2019 Aug;111(4):383-392. doi: 10.1016/j.jnma.2019.01.006. Epub 2019 Feb 11. PMID: 30765101.
  3. Wallis CJF, Jerath A, Coburn. Association of Surgeon-Patient Sex Concordance With Postoperative Outcomes. JAMA Surg. 2022;157(2):146-156.
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