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LSU Health New Orleans OB/GYN Women Surgeons Take The New Yorker Cover Challenge.

LSU Health New Orleans women surgeons have joined female surgeons around the world taking The New Yorker Cover Challenge. For the cover of its April Health, Mind and Body issue, The New Yorker chose Malika Favre’s art depicting a team of female surgeons in the operating room from the patient’s point of view. When the issue came out, Dr. Susan Pitt, an endocrine surgeon at the University of Wisconsin, challenged her female colleagues to replicate the cover art in real life as a nod to the women and minorities who work in this traditionally white male-dominated profession. It’s a challenge faculty in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine embrace.

“The response from female surgeons has been phenomenal,” notes Associate Professor Florencia Greer Polite, MD FACOG, OB/GYN Residency Program Director and Director of the Generalist Division. “Female surgeons contribute substantially to the surgical arena, and it was exciting to be part of the Challenge.”Assistant Professor Stacey L. Holman, MD, FACOG, Associate Residency Program Director and Ambulatory Services Director, adds, “The Challenge called attention to the many outstanding female health care providers who are giving care to patients all over the world. In particular, it gives credit to the responsibility we take on as surgeons. I think a visual of us at work speaks volumes to the community.”

So, among the surgical tools Polite and Holman wielded in their operating rooms at University Medical Center and Touro Infirmary this week were their cameras. Dr. Polite’s team included residents Dr. Ashley Van Wormer (PGY4) and Dr. Megan Savage (PGY3). Dr. Holman’s team included residents Dr. Ashley O’Keefe (PGY4), Dr. Monique Sutherland (PGY3) and Dr. Samantha Prats (PGY1).“The Challenge was such a positive and inspiring endeavor,” Polite says. “I loved the idea that photographs can change the opinion of the ‘typical surgeon’ to include both women and minorities. The LSU Health New Orleans OBGYN residency is such an inclusive residency program where we pride ourselves on diversity in every sense of the word. This challenge was in tune with our messaging.”

It is especially significant for this specialty.

“I chose to have my team participate with me to encourage camaraderie and to emphasize the importance of women in medicine,” says Holman. “Particularly in our specialty of OBGYN, we play a very prominent role; more than 75% of the residents in our specialty are female.”Hundreds of female surgeons have participated, sharing their photos online with the hashtag #ILookLikeASurgeon.

As for their hopes for what the Challenge can achieve, both Polite and Holman think it can have real impact.

“I hope that it calls attention to LSU OBGYN as a place to come for exceptional care,” says Holman. “I also hope that it continues to encourage our female physicians to be outstanding surgeons and to fully realize the privilege that it is to be a physician.”

Polite thinks the Challenge has already fulfilled its purpose. “I think it already has achieved what I hoped it would achieve – recognition and acknowledgment that “surgeon” is an inclusive word.”These photos send a powerful message to girls and young women everywhere.

“You can do anything you set your mind to,” exclaims Holman. “To me, this picture depicts the challenges that women face to be successful in medicine and that we can overcome those to be excellent surgeons and providers of health care.”

Concludes Polite, “There are many female surgeons taking care of patients. My mentees – as young as 12 years old – thought our picture and the challenge were inspiring.”