December 17, 2018

#MWSC18 Leading from Your Best Self: How A Vision Became a Reality

On November 30th- December 1st, 2018, over 200 women (and men!) convened in Ann Arbor for the second annual Michigan Women’s Surgical Collaborative Leadership Conference.

The Michigan Promise Blog
#MWSC18 Blog Post by Dr. Telem Visual Abstract

The energy was palpable. On November 30th- December 1st, over 200 women (and men!) convened in Ann Arbor for the second annual Michigan Women’s Surgical Collaborative Leadership Conference. Women from all over the country and Canada came to learn from and network with leaders in the field of surgery as well as each other. For 2 days, attendees were immersed in skill development, finding their “why”, and translating their why into action. To sum the meeting up in one word: Purpose.

Why was the conference important?

While many conferences center on women in surgery, the Michigan Women’s Surgical Collaborative identified a specific need to engage early and mid-career faculty at a potentially vulnerable time in their career. The conference serves as a platform both for national dissemination of “best practices” for advancement and promotion, and an opportunity to engage attendees with experts in leadership and career building approaches. This year attendees gained experiential and evidence based pearls of wisdom from accomplished leaders in surgery including:

  • Reshma Jagsi, MD, DPhil, Professor, Deputy Chair, and Residency Program Director, Department of Radiation Oncology, University of Michigan
  • Mary Hawn MD, Professor of Surgery and Chair Department of Surgery, Stanford University
  • Julie Ann Sosa MD, Professor and Chair Department of Surgery, University of California, San Francisco
  • Barbara Bass ,MD, Distinguished Chair, Department of Surgery, Houston Methodist
  • Julie Freischlag, MD, Chief Executive Officer, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center
  • Andrea Hayes-Jordan MD, Chief, Division of Pediatric Surgery, University of North Carolina
  • Rebecca Minter MD, Professor and Chair Department of Surgery, University of Wisconsin
  • Sandra Wong MD, MS, Professor and Chair, Department of Surgery, Senior Vice President, Surgical Service Line, Dartmouth-Hitchcock
Scenes from the 2018 MWSC Conference
Scenes from the 2018 MWSC Conference

What did we learn?

The conference was comprised of 3 themes: The art of negotiation, building your best self and overcoming adversity. Chelsea Harris MD surmised the content for dissemination in brilliantly crafted visual abstracts which were live tweeted during the conference.

New this year, two tracks were also held preceding the meeting. The Resident Leadership Track: ”Breaking the Mold” was led by Karin Hardiman MD, PhD and Lynn Frydrych MD. Here, residents had the opportunity to learn how to make their uniqueness into an asset as well as be comfortable with the path to success of their choosing.

The HeForShe track, led by Justin Dimick, MD, MPH and Michael Mulholland MD, PhD, represented our first gender inclusive session where topics addressing the critical importance of diversity as a leadership competency were discussed.

What did we take away?

The express goal of the conference was to tailor the “take away” to each attendees needs. The lectures served as the substrate attendees could internalize and extract the pearls needed for their success. This personalization took form in the crafting of personal statements and elevator pitches. Most importantly, it compelled attendees to identify their “why” or their “purpose” and build out from there. In attendees own words:

"This year's MWSC was a transformative experience. The sessions were filled with practical advice relevant to me as junior faculty, but more importantly, it was a great opportunity to hear from women leaders in surgery who openly shared inspirational stories of success as well as how to manage challenges and rise from them. I left the conference feeling empowered, inspired and supported. Can't wait until next year!"

Hope Jackson, MD on her overall experience at MWSC18

“People, especially women, think we need to be seen as “perfect” all the time.  We think we always need to be “on” and that it is a weakness to show faults, mistakes, failures, and emotions.  Listening to these incredible women’s stories helped me realize that is ok, maybe it is even good, to stumble along the way and not be perfect.  When we are always and only putting our best foot forward, it makes others think that they are not allowed to fail or make mistakes.   I will be forever grateful to these amazing women for sharing their stories and vulnerabilities with us.  It was so special to experience in person and I hope these stories help other young women navigating their surgical careers.”

Andrea Merrill, MD commenting on the “making lemonade” story-telling session dedicated to overcoming adversity.

“The HeForShe session and the rest of the MWSC conference blew me away. They moved beyond the worn-out ideas of diversity as a "checkbox" and pushed us all to think about how we can create a profession in which everyone contributes their unique strengths and their whole, best selves to our field. Even for those of us already passionate about gender and equity, the conference gave us the concrete set of tools and behaviors we need to truly push our culture forward.”

Karan Chhabra, MD on his experience at the HeForShe session.

Scenes from the 2018 MWSC Conference
Scenes from the 2018 MWSC Conference


The MWSC is greatly appreciative to all of the faculty, local and national, who dedicated their time and effort to the conference. We would also specifically like to acknowledge Michael Mullholland MD, PhD, Professor and Chair, Department of Surgery at the University of Michigan for sponsoring the conference as well as thank the Institute for Health Policy and Innovation as well as the Institute for Research on Women and Gender for their generous contributions.

We look forward to MWSC 2019!

Conference Speakers & Moderators

  • John Ayanian, MD, MPP
  • Meredith Barrett, MD
  • Barbara Bass, MD
  • Carol Bradford, MD, MS
  • David J. Brown, MD
  • Clifford Cho, MD
  • Justin Dimick, MD, MPH
  • Janet Dombrowski, BSN, MHSA
  • Lesly Dossett, MD, MPH
  • Dee Fenner, MD
  • Julie Freschlag, MD
  • Lynn Frydrych, MD
  • Christa Grant, MD
  • Karin Hardiman, MD, PhD
  • Mary Hawn, MD, MPH
  • Andrea Hayes-Jordan, MD
  • Ronald Hirschl, MD
  • Jack Iwashyna, MD, PhD
  • Reshma Jagsi, MD, DPhil
  • Melina Kibbe, MD
  • Karen Kim, MD
  • Anna Kirkland, PhD, JD
  • Kate Kraft, MD
  • Lily Maguire, MD
  • Kelly Malloy, MD
  • Barb Miller, MD
  • Rebecca Minter, MD
  • Michelle Moniz, MD, MSc
  • Michael Mulholland, MD, PhD
  • Erika Newman, MD
  • Andrea Obi, MD
  • Pauline Park, MD
  • Gurjit Sandhu, PhD
  • Chris Sonnenday, MD, MHS
  • Julie Ann Sosa, MD, MA
  • Dana Telem, MD, MPH
  • Joceline Vu, MD
  • Tom Wakefield, MD
  • Jennifer Waljee, MD, MPH, MS
  • Matthew Wixson, MD
  • Sarah Wixson, JD
  • Sandra Wong, MD, MS


Article by Dana Telem, MD, MPH (Twitter: @DanaTelem)

Dana Telem, MD

Dana A. Telem, MD, MPH

Interim Section Chief, General Surgery
Lazar J. Greenfield Professor of Surgery
Associate Professor, General Surgery
Vice Chair of Clinical Operations, Surgery
Director, Michigan Comprehensive Hernia Program

Contact Us

Reach out to join the conversation or to learn more about how to implement the Michigan Promise. Connect with the Department of Surgery or our faculty on Twitter to share your ideas or get in touch with the Office of Faculty & Resident Life to schedule a Michigan Promise presentation at your institution. You can also fill out our Michigan Promise Inquiry Form with any questions or comments.

Department of Surgery
2210F Taubman Center
1500 E. Medical Center Dr.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109 

Phone: 734-232-5528 


Twitter: @UMichSurgery

Hashtag: #MichiganPromise

Related Media: