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Women in Healthcare

University President Discusses Why Women Are Necessary to the Surgical Field

Dr. Gabriel wants young women, and in particular young prospective female surgeons, that, though there will be plenty of challenges, the struggle is worth it.

Sherine E. Gabriel, MD, MSc

President, Rush University

As a woman in a high-ranking leadership position, what values are most important to you?

Passion, vision, and integrity are the most important values that guide my decisions as a leader.

What are some goals you’re looking to accomplish during your time as president?

We’re planning to create new educational programs for the next generation of healthcare leaders that focus on advancing knowledge to improve health, health equity, and social justice.

Do you believe it’s vital and beneficial to have women in leadership and other roles?

There is a large body of evidence in support of the fact that gender equity strengthens organizations and is crucial to community health and the wellbeing of society at large; yet, we do not have an equal voice in healthcare leadership. Companies with higher levels of gender diversity show lower levels of turnover, and inclusive workplaces maximize talent and productivity. Different mindsets, perspectives, and experiences are crucial to fostering new ideas; diverse teams are critical for innovation.

Are there any obstacles you’ve had to overcome in order to get to where you are professionally?

Of course — too many to count! Even as a leader today, there are daily obstacles to maneuver. My approach is to find ways to be part of the solution to make things better.

Why do you believe it’s important to foster support and mentorship for women in medicine (and in the surgical space specifically)?

Without their voices, without the perspective of our best and brightest women at the highest levels of decision making, an institution and its leaders perpetuate the same views — views that may stand in the way of progress. We must energize and inspire women who are on the path to leadership.

In what ways do you think universities can encourage and empower prospective female students to pursue a career in surgery?

Universities must advocate to have women at the table, wherever healthcare leaders are making decisions. At Rush, the director of our cancer center is a woman, and our board of governors and board of trustees are both chaired by women. We must show how women can be critical members of leadership teams while bringing unique skills, perspectives, and knowledge.

Do you have any words of wisdom for women interested in becoming surgeons?

Remain focused on your goals and stay the course. Don’t allow the naysayers to take you off track. And, most importantly, seek out mentors and become a mentor yourself to pay it forward.

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