What would you tell your 20-year-old self about
the trajectory and your experiences with bias and
Well, I used to think that, when you were younger, if
someone wasn’t treating you well, or if they weren’t
listening to you, you really needed to fight for that
position and you really needed to be very proactive;
and I still think that’s somewhat true. So the way I
used to describe it to 20-year-olds was that when a
door was shut, you were supposed to beat down the
door rather than go through a window, because you
could hurt yourself. Now I feel what you need to do
is to go through another door, and it actually does
lead you to a better place.
That said, there still are things done to which you
need to call attention. Now I think leaders really want
to hear about it. Speak up, make sure people under-
stand what you can do and what you want to do, then
learn how to let people know that if they say or do
something that’s offensive, even if there’s a hierarchy,
you have an ability to say, “You offended me and I’m
not feeling comfortable.” And I also tell people, “If
you’re a bystander, you need to speak up and make
sure people realize that what they’re saying or doing
perhaps isn’t the best.”
I believe wherever you’re planted, even if things
didn’t work out, you can end up blooming somewhere
What successful efforts have you seen, and what
recommendations do you give an organization to
continue to grow diversity?
The American College of Surgeons (ACS) has given me
an incredible opportunity. I went to my first meeting in
1983, presenting at the Surgical Forum at Clinical Con-
gress. I was fortunate enough to become a Governor
through the Association of Veterans Affairs Surgeons.
Then I was Secretary of the Board of Governors and
then I became a Regent, which was amazing. I was
the first woman Chair of the Board of Regents. It was
all an incredible opportunity, and through that expe-
rience, I’ve watched the College grow in many ways.
They started a Women in Surgery Committee, the
Young Fellows Association, the Resident and Associ-
ate Society, and the Committee on Diversity Issues.
I’ve seen so much inclusion, whether by gender or race
or by specialty. I’ve been a member of many of the
chapters because I’ve moved around the country, and
they have been so great about including residents in
their programs, as well as young surgeons, and really
promoting diversity in that area.
It’s a very inclusive organization. I’ve seen such
improvement just with having people find it easy to
be part of the society and then also being able to participate on a local level or even on a national level.
It’s really wonderful as we’ve watched it grow. I
can’t even tell you how important it has been to me
to learn leadership skills, meet people, and be able to
talk about all the things that go on in your life through
Going back to the effective tools for managing bias and how we can think about instituting
directives to fight implicit biases: although a lot
of institutions are implementing programs, is
there a false sense that they are actively working
toward reducing bias and that there may be more
effective ways to create cultural change?
When you talk about bias—implicit or not implicit—
people get anxious. They worry that they’re doing
the wrong things. We do worry that some people
may back away from interacting with those individuals unlike themselves out of fear, especially with the
#Me Too movement. Will women surgeons not have
access to training programs, the ability to go to meetings, or have social interaction with other surgeons
who are men? Are we going to be able to negotiate appropriate interactions and behaviors between
I believe wherever you’re planted, even if things didn’t work out,
you can end up blooming somewhere else.