It started over a cup of coffee. Two of the department’s recent recruits were discussing issues as they relate to the education of women in the field of surgery. Claire Sanger, DO and Deborah Kozik, DO both rose through the educational ranks in surgery surrounded by men. Sanger studied plastic surgery at Wake Forest University and Kozik concluded her surgery training in thoracic surgery at the Medical College of Wisconsin, finishing with a fellowship at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Kozik is a highly specialized pediatric cardiac surgeon while Sanger’s practice includes pediatric reconstructive surgery as well as aesthetic surgery for adults.
Now Assistant Professors of Surgery at UK, the two women have come together to support and mentor women residents in surgery through a program they have dubbed “Chicks with Knives.” They ultimately plan to expand the program to include third and fourth year medical students, but it’s smart to start with a small group and grow.
“Chicks with Knives” is primarily a social mentoring program. The program, which will hold its first meeting on June 1, 2009, will include women surgeons and trainees in general surgery, ENT, CT, urology, pediatric and plastic surgery, transplantation, orthopaedics, and neurology.
“Guys go out and play golf,” said Sanger. “We need our own forum to discuss issues as they relate to women.”
Being a woman in a career path dominated by men isn’t a trivial pursuit. The issues can run deep and it’s easy to feel isolated. “Chicks with Knives” intends to provide friendship and mentoring in a casual setting where a sense of community is possible. Common issues can include family planning during residency and operating room politics. While this is an original concept at UK, both Sanger and Kozik were beneficiaries of similar programs during their training. At Wake Forest, there was one female attending surgeon, so this group of women was very tight. Kozik benefited from the Association of Women in Thoracic Surgery which was started by Cynthia Herrington at the University of Minnesota.
“Chicks with Knives” is bound to be productive and inspiring for trainees and professors alike. You go, Girls!