42, 84, 168, 336 … the number of participants on the Zoom screen multiplied with each passing minute. Cameras were being turned on and microphones muted; the excitement was virtually palpable — pun intended.
“Welcome to the third annual Women in Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery Symposium,” announced Dr. Justine Moe, lead organizer of the symposium and program director for the University of Michigan’s OMFS department. I had been looking forward to the symposium since the beginning of the year when the registration link was posted on the women in oral surgery Instagram page (@women_in_omfs). My anticipation for the conference only grew as speakers and topics were announced leading up to the event. I thought, “Wow, so there are this many female oral surgeons around the world? This many surgeons shattering glass ceilings and inspiring the next generation of women surgeons?”
Only 19% of surgeons in the United States are women, while the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS) is made up of only 8% of active female members. During the 2021 virtual conference, the theme of the symposium was amplifying these underrepresented voices in surgery while addressing leadership, mentoring, work-life balance, negotiating contracts and many other topics. Through large group discussions and breakout small groups, we navigated personal experiences of conflict management and identified examples and potential solutions to implicit bias and discrimination in an oral surgery setting. The conversations were inclusive and relatable to seasoned attendings, residents in training, and dental students alike. By the end of the conference day, it was clear that every attendee felt a stronger bond with one another and a new vigor to tackle the challenges present beyond the Zoom screen.
This year, the Women in Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery Symposium will return the weekend of March 12-13. Various “Pathways to Leadership” will be explored this year as more than 15 women surgeons from across the country share their journeys to become leaders in this profession. The goal of this conference is to identify potential pitfalls that may occur on the path of oral surgery and for attendees to gain actionable strategies and skills to overcome them.
I will be attending, and I’m excited to develop connections with other like-minded dental students, foster mentorship opportunities with current residents, and learn from the experiences of attendings. As a future OMFS applicant, I look forward to gaining insights and further exploring my interest in pursuing the field. I am confident that I will be able to overcome any challenges oral surgery may bring because I have now seen and heard from other women who have remained resilient in the profession in and out of the operating rooms.
~Meghana Nadella, Case Western ‘22