You have had wonderful mentorship along the
way. How has that affected you as you have
become a mentor to others?
I don’t think any of us would be where we are without
the influence of incredibly influential mentors. I reflect
on that a lot; thinking of the people who have really
affected my career and continue to do so. When I think
of my mentees, I feel that same obligation to ensure
they get the skills and support they need, that they get
promoted, and that they are able to take advantage of
opportunities as they arise. I have had the benefit of
really great mentors, which allows me to be a better
You have developed significant leadership roles
through your career. How has that benefited you?
The leadership roles I have held have been critically
important to my career. As I have had different opportunities for leadership, I have reflected and wondered
if it was a good use of my time and in line with my
goals. I would also speak to my mentors and appreciate their perspective. I did not want to sacrifice time
and effort on other aspects of my career, which were
important, and on my family. Having the opportunity
to be a leader, and being successful at it, gives you access
to more leadership roles.
Did you do additional training for leadership?
I attended a course through the Association of
American Medical Colleges for women leaders in medicine. I also attended a mid-career course through the
Society of University Surgeons, and most recently I
attended the Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine course. I have taken advantage of opportunities to
work on my own leadership skills and to understand
the theory behind much of what we do—behind conflict resolution and human resource management, as
well as how to effectively communicate a vision.
Do you think the leadership skill set is applicable
in the OR?
Yes, being an effective leader requires control over
your emotions. In the OR, situations can become very
tense, and having the ability to control your emotions
and respond to events sets the tone of leadership. If you
panic, then everyone else is going to panic. If you can
keep your cool, it helps everyone else stay calm and
effectively solve the problem.
You have had an active clinical, research, and
leadership career. How have you balanced that
with your family life?
It has not always been easy. When I was offered the
chair position at Stanford, my daughter was a rising
senior in high school. To say the least, it wasn’t ideal
for her, but it was not the worst timing either. My son
was between eighth and ninth grade. We had open
communication as a family about the move. We agreed
that we would move to Palo Alto as a family and have
that experience together. After Sarah’s first semester
in her new school in California, she was unhappy, and
we agreed that she could move back to Birmingham to
finish high school. She was back with us in Palo Alto
for the summer before starting college. In the end,
we were able to find a good compromise, and it will
always be an experience that will define our family.
PROFILES IN SURGICAL RESEARCH
Being an effective leader requires control over your
emotions. In the OR, situations can become very tense,
and having the ability to control your emotions and
respond to events sets the tone of leadership.