SVS creates membership section for women

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Audra Duncan

Women make up a growing percentage of vascular surgeons. And they now have a new professional membership home within the Society for Vascular Surgery (SVS)—the SVS Women’s Section. 

SVS leadership approved the new membership section in 2021. It is intended as a partnership with the growing women’s vascular surgery membership of SVS and the larger Society to develop a centralized home to discuss specific gender-based issues, support women in practice, research and networking, and organize a grassroots social media campaign to be available to the larger SVS membership. 

Goals are to strengthen the communication and collaboration of women in vascular surgery and enhance development and leadership skills that will permit a more robust presence for women who will be able to engage in the SVS, including in leadership roles. 

Beyond the benefits available to all SVS members, those joining the new section will enjoy dedicated educational programming at the Vascular Annual Meeting (VAM). A special women’s community section on the online SVSConnect community is coming soon. 

Audra Duncan, MD, and Palma Shaw, MD, co-chair this new section. 

Its roots go back decades, said Duncan, with women vascular surgeons meeting informally for coffee, lunch or dinner at VAM and other meetings, “back when Palma and I were junior staff.” While acknowledging strong efforts by the SVS to support recruiting women vascular trainees, “there was a gap in the support of practicing women vascular surgeons, and especially those moving into senior and leadership roles. Therefore, although the percentage of women in SVS is constantly increasing, the face of SVS leadership has remained stagnant in terms of diversity.” 

A WhatsApp chat for vascular surgeons that began shortly before the pandemic hit also played a part. Amid the isolation, more women surgeons joined and found it an important way to connect informally with other women undergoing the same shared experiences, said Shaw. The chat, plus the VAM gatherings over the years and the Women’s Leadership Dinner held at VAM 2021, served as the basis for formation of the Women’s Section, she said. 

One of the first orders of business has been planning the section’s education session at VAM 2022 in Boston. “Supporting Women Vascular Surgeons: From Recruitment Through Senior Leadership” will cover the needs of the youngest generation of women vascular surgeons; radiation, logistics and wellness for pregnant surgeons; optimal practice partnerships; mentors and sponsors; and how senior women surgeons can create a legacy. 

The two-year plan includes promoting involvement; increasing retention of women in vascular surgery; networking and leadership opportunities; programs on female surgeons’ needs; communication via an online network; work-life balance and more. 

Both Shaw and Duncan are pleased with how the section is progressing so far, with female surgeons from other countries also expressing interest. 

“Women have a lot to give back to SVS and we feel like this may be best accomplished when we have a common voice,” said Duncan. “Overall, it’s a win-win for both the women members and the SVS.” 

“We are very grateful to the SVS leadership for supporting this initiative,” said Shaw. “This will help women at many levels achieve their potential and improve work-life satisfaction and wellness for these hard-working, bright and talented women of the SVS.” 

Section membership is open to any SVS member who identifies as she/her. To apply for section membership, email staff liaison Emily Milkes at emilkes@vascularsociety.org. 

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