Surgical Resident at Elisabeth TweeSteden Hospital (Tilburg) and ESCP Education Committee member, Tina van Loon, fills us in on what she learned from this year's Women in Surgery (WIS) Career Symposium which took place in Tampa, Florida from 14-16th February.

Tina van Loon at WIS career symposium 1WIS is an annual professional and academic event dedicated to encouraging more women to pursue a career in surgery and to foster the careers of women in surgery. It promotes both personal and professional growth and is designed to foster mentorship as well as a peer network.

This year women from 25 different US states, Canada, the UK and the Netherlands all attended for three days full of panel discussions, workshop sessions, networking - and even yoga.

Reflecting on the event, Tina said:

"There was a lot of focus on personal growth throughout the symposium with accomplished female surgeons from all different specialties (vascular, trauma, neurosurgery, HPB, bariatric) sharing and listening to each other's inspiring stories. The sessions were split so that there were some tailored for students and residents and others specifically for fellows and surgeons, which made sure that each day was relevant to all attendees. There was plenty of time between the different sessions for networking so that we could all get to know each other and gain insight into how other education systems work outside of Europe, which was incredibly interesting.

"As a Surgical Resident, the sessions that I attended were focused on CV building and interview skills, networking, how to build your social media brand and the importance of it, and how to succeed in your medical school or residency.

"I found the plenary sessions quite inspirational. They focused on how to manage your career, how to break through stereotypes, how to grow as mentee or mentor and the power of resiliency, perseverance and flexibility.

Audience member speaking at WIS symposium"Something that stands out to me as I look back on the event was the opportunity to hear accomplished female surgeons tell us all about how they have struggled and had to fight for their careers before finally realising their dream job. Those talks were quite extraordinary and unlike anything I’ve ever heard or experienced before from other symposia.

"I left feeling as though I had picked up some pearls of wisdom which I'm keen to share with my fellow female surgeons - interested medical students and residents alike. Their stories were motivational, inspirational and cemented my ambition to complete my residency to become a colorectal surgeon.

"There were compelling and strong talks that didn't just not only highlight the success stories, though. There were also powerful women, strong enough to be vulnerable and not shy away from the downside of being a female surgeon who spoke about issues of infertility, loneliness and making the wrong choices in life and in their careers.

"Overall I found the WIS Career Symposium to be incredibly valuable and meaningful. Not only did it inspire and motivate me, but it also made me think about my own career choices, priorities, wishes and aspirations for the future and helped me think more clearly about how I want to spend my remaining time in residency. I learned a lot about how important flexibility, networking and the ability to adapt and change is for a female within the world of surgery and have taken plenty of tips and tricks back to the Netherlands with me.

"I’d like to thank ESCP for this unforgettable opportunity to attend this year’s WIS career symposium. I'd recommend that any woman who is interested in surgery goes along to the next one to get inspired, motivated and gain real insights into being a woman in surgery."

Tina joined ESCP’s Education Committee in 2017 and her main clinical and research interests include high output ileostomy and the quality of care and quality of life in new ostomy patients.

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