Department of Surgery Women's Council

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The University of Washington Department of Surgery Women’s Council originated in 2016 with the mission to promote gender equity in surgery. Women’s council initially included members from all practice sites and divisions and was comprised of both faculty and resident members. The council was divided into a faculty and resident council in 2018 to better address the unique issues that impact women at different career levels. A Women’s Council sponsored Association of Women Surgeons UW School of Medicine Student chapter was added in 2019 to foster development of medical students interested in entering a surgical field. Although specifically developed to advise Dr Wood on issues impacting women faculty and trainees within the department, the overarching goal of the council is to improve the working environment for all.

The faculty women’s council has been in existence since 2016 and current members range from assistant to full professors. The University of Washington (UW) Department of Surgery (DOS) Faculty Women's Council empowers and supports faculty with the goal of promoting gender equity in surgery.

One of the first tasks undertaken by the council was a survey to better understand if gender was perceived as a barrier to a surgical career within our own department at either the faculty or resident level. A department wide career barriers survey was administered and results presented at the inaugural annual Women’s Council Grand Rounds in February 2018 by Drs. Kris Calhoun, Sherene Shalhub and Nicole Zern. It was ultimately presented as a podium presentation at the Pacific Coast Surgical Association annual meeting in 2019 and published in JAMA Surgery.


Inaugural Annual Women’s Council Grand Rounds - February 2018

Collage image of the Department of Surgery Faculty Women's Council

Top row: Sarah Atkinson (Assistant Professor, General Surgery/UW Medicine-Montlake), Kathleen Berfield (Associate Professor, Cardiothoracic/Thoracic), Erika Bisgaard (Assistant Professor, Trauma/Harborview Medical Center), Eileen Bulger (Professor, General Surgery/Harborview Medical Center) (Advisory member), Kris Calhoun, Chair (Professor, General Surgery/UW Medicine-Montlake), Judy Chen (Assistant Professor, General Surgery/UW Medicine-Montlake)

Second row: Shannon Colohan (Associate Professor, Plastics/UW Medicine-Montlake), Kirsten Dansey (Assistant Professor, Vascular/UW Medicine-Montlake), Meghan Flanagan (Assistant Professor, General Surgery/UW Medicine-Northwest), Sarah Greenberg (Assistant Professor, Pediatric Surgery/Seattle Children’s Hospital), Sarah Goldsberry-Long (Assistant Professor, Plastics/UW Medicine-Montlake), Sara Javid (Professor, General Surgery/UW Medicine-Montlake) (Advisory member)

Third row: Teresa Kim (Assistant Professor, General Surgery/UW Medicine-Montlake), Catherine Kling (Assistant Professor, Transplant/UW Medicine-Montlake), Lorrie Langdale (Professor, General Surgery/VA Puget Sound Health Care System), Rachel Lentz (Assistant Professor, Plastics/UW Medicine-Montlake), Deb Marquardt (Assistant Professor, General Surgery/VA Puget Sound Health Care System), Emily Palmquist (Assistant Professor, General Surgery/UW Medicine-Northwest)

Fourth row: Zoe Parr (Clinical Associate Professor, GS/UW Medicine-Northwest), Rebecca Petersen (Associate Professor, General Surgery/UW Medicine-Northwest), Lena Sibulesky (Associate Professor, Transplant/UW Medicine-Montlake), Caitlin Smith (Assistant Professor, Pediatrics/Seattle Children’s Hospital), Sara Zettervall (Assistant Professor, Vascular/UW Medicine-Montlake)

The council was also responsible for creating a policy that more clearly defined standards around pregnancy, paternal leave, and lactation issues for both faculty and residents. Issues for the pregnant surgeon such as when call, clinic, and elective surgery scheduling can stop were defined, as were clearer standards regarding leave time for all genders, as well as for those adding children to their families in ways other than directly giving birth to them. The information contained within the policy and the knowledge gained from discussions about it were helpful to Dr. Douglas Wood, The Henry N. Harkins Professor and Chair, during his work as a member of the American College of Surgeons' (ACS) committee that drafted a statement on pregnancy, parental leave and workplace accommodations for surgical trainees in 2020.

Currently, the council is working on the development of a sponsorship program, as well as addressing ongoing issues that impact the success of breast feeding among women surgeons. We also continue our academic pursuits, investigating whether gender-based differences in medical student or resident assessment exist. Our initial work was published a research letter in JAMA Surgery in 2022. We look forward to continuing to work to ensure gender equity in the department.