The September issue of Annals of Vascular Surgery featured 37 original, peer-reviewed scientific papers whose lead authors and researchers are women vascular surgeons. Here, editor Caitlin W. Hicks, MD, discusses the mechanics of getting the publication out, coming amid recent trials and tribulations in the vascular space that saw her come under personal attack.
The work had been more than a year in the making, so to see the final title reach the point of release filled those behind the Annals of Vascular Surgery special issue, “Original Work by Women,” with a sense of accomplishment. Hicks said the mere fact the entire edition is fully open access has attracted positive feedback, but, for her, something else stands out as a particular achievement. “The biggest highlight is just the fact we were able to get so many articles with first and last women authors, which given the number of female vascular surgeons is relatively small, and the articles still underwent standard, strict peer review, is probably the most exciting and impactful component,” she tells Vascular Specialist. Solidifying the point, Hicks reveals that somewhere in the region of about 30% of the articles received for inclusion in the issue were rejected.
Reaching the point where such a dedicated women’s issue is possible didn’t occur in a vacuum, Hicks observes. The Medbikini fiasco that kicked off in 2020 lit a fire, she says. “There was sort of an influx of women stepping up to say ‘We’re here,’” she continues. “I think since then, we’ve seen a real presence of women in all aspects of vascular surgery, which is really exciting. This issue doesn’t really come out of the blue. It feeds off of that progress we have made in recent years.”
Strides toward better representation of women vascular surgeons in leadership positions continue to be made, Hicks says, with vascular surgery currently “bottom heavy in the societies because, out of training, we’re seeing 50/50 men vs. women, but 15 years ago it was not that way.” The Women’s Vascular Summit, started by Linda Harris, MD, out of Buffalo, has also planted roots in recent years. “We continue to push forward and continue to champion the leaders that we have in our women’s group, and then create our own opportunities,” Hicks explains. “What has come out of the [SVS] election findings over the last couple of years has increased focus on the role of women in the vascular surgery space. Linda Harris has had a meeting for a few years now, and that group is going to codify into a women’s vascular society, which I think is exciting.”
Lately, just as the Annals issue was heading for publication, on a personal level Hicks had to confront a backlash to her contributions to the public conversation that followed the NYT exposé on inappropriateness in vascular care. “I have done a lot of research in this space, and the motivation behind my research is to improve patient care, so when you do things for the right reasons and you get personally attacked, it’s always challenging,” she reflects. “There was definitely a component of ageism in the posts,” adding, “It’s always hard to know, but I do believe if I had been a male I wouldn’t have gotten that type of attack.”—Bryan Kay