Women in Surgery at Cedars-Sinai
Mar 24, 2021 Katie Rosenblum
Surgery has long been thought of as a men's specialty. Historically, women have been dissuaded from surgery for a variety of reasons—including gender bias, lack of mentorship and the lingering perception that having families could interfere.
According to 2017 data from the Association of American Medical Colleges, women make up less than one-fourth of surgeons in 10 specialties and are the least represented in orthopaedic surgery, at just 5.3%. The only surgical specialty in which women outnumber men is obstetrics and gynecology.
"I've had amazing surgical and scientific mentorship at Cedars-Sinai that has helped develop my career."
Healthcare experts widely agree that patient care and outcomes improve when the surgical workforce draws from the greatest pool of talent. This is why efforts are being made at Cedars-Sinai and around the country to shift this dynamic and increase the number of women in the operating room. In this third installment of our Women's History Month series, we meet five surgeons making waves at Cedars-Sinai.
Irina and George Schaeffer Distinguished Chair in Cardiac Surgery in honor of Alfredo Trento, MD
Professor and Chair, Cardiac Surgery, Smidt Heart Institute
Dr. Joanna Chikwe is an internationally recognized leader in cardiovascular surgery. She is most known for her expertise in the field of robotic mitral valve repair. She hails from England and joined the Smidt Heart Institute in 2019, after over a decade as a cardiac surgeon in New York. She has published three textbooks and more than 170 peer-reviewed papers.
Of her many accomplishments, she is most proud of the team she works with now.
"It's a privilege and a joy to lead one of the nation's best cardiac surgery teams, delivering exceptional care to patients—many of whom could not be treated anywhere else," she says.
Assistant Professor, Surgery
Dr. Catherine Dang has been with Cedars-Sinai for 16 years. In her role as a breast surgeon, she helps cancer patients get back to living their lives. She also acts as a mentor for other female medical students and residents who are interested in pursuing surgery.
Like many female surgeons, Dr. Dang faced several obstacles during her career, including being told she would never make it and feeling pressure to decide between a career and a family.
"These things made me determined to prove people wrong," she says. "I love what I do, and currently the biggest hurdle is balancing work and family. I have three kids and a husband who is also a busy surgeon, but we make it work and I have no regrets about choosing a career in surgery."
Co-Director, Comprehensive Transplant Center
Surgical Director, Kidney Transplantation
Dr. Irene Kim joined the transplant team nine years ago. Since then, she has done important research examining transplant rejection and inflammation. She is also the first woman to perform a liver and kidney double transplant at Cedars-Sinai. She says the biggest hurdle she's faced in her pursuit of a surgical career has been finding balance.
"The biggest hurdle was believing that I could be a successful academic transplant surgeon and also have a 'normal' family life," she says. "I've had amazing surgical and scientific mentorship at Cedars-Sinai that has helped develop my career. I also have wonderful parents and a supportive husband, who all pitch in to help raise our two beautiful children."
Assistant Professor, Neurosurgery
When Dr. Tiffany Perry was hired in 2015, she became the first female neurosurgeon on staff at Cedars-Sinai. She has been a trailblazer in her field for many years and loves what she does. She is most proud of creating an annual surgery mission trip to Uganda.
"We are able to provide spine care, both surgical and nonsurgical, to patients who otherwise would never receive it," she says. "As healthcare providers, we should all strive to close the socioeconomic gaps in access to medicine close to home and abroad."
Dr. Lindsey Ross has been in the Cedars-Sinai family since she was a child, when her mom also worked at the medical center. Dr. Ross joined the team herself in 2008 as a research assistant and has since completed the decade-long training to become a neurosurgeon. She is committed to serving underserved populations, mentoring minority students and working toward policy change to address the health needs of the community.
Although her career is still in its early stages, she has already made a big impact. In 2016, she was chosen to serve as a White House Fellow for the Obama administration. In this capacity, she served as a science and health policy counselor for the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Her work led to an important research report outlining the best community and statewide strategies to combat the opioid crisis.