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Group of woman break new ground for transplant surgery

Published: Apr. 30, 2021 at 2:36 PM CDT
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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - In the healthcare field, transplant surgery is a highly specialized practice. At north Texas’ Baylor Scott and White Health, the abdominal transplant team is unique as well.

“Transplant patients come from all backgrounds. Historically that has not been the case for transplant surgeons,” said Dr. Anji Wall, the vice-chair of research for the Baylor abdominal transplant team.

“In comparison to men, there are few women in transplant and so to have a single program with five women is pretty unique.”

The ‘Fab 5’ is how they are known at Baylor Scott and White - the largest team of female abdominal transplant surgeons in the country.

In a male dominated field, they add new voices.

“We do have a greater chance of understanding and meeting the specific needs of each unique patient that we are facing,” said Dr. Liza Johannesson, the medical director of the Baylor uterus transplant program. “So I think gender is a big part of that.”

Dr. Hoylan Fernandez, chief of hepatobiliary surgery, adds: “Not only females, but also minority populations that are generally under served. It’s extremely helpful for all of our transplant patients.”

The ‘Fab 5’ are part of a culture shift in the operating room.

“Yeah, so I didn’t have many female transplant surgeon mentors, but it never never deterred me,” said Dr. Wall.

“I think society will recognize this is not an either or decision,” said surgical director of transplantation, Dr. Johanna Baylor. “I think you can be a surgeon, you can be a transplant surgeon, and you can have a family.”

Women make up more than half of medical students, but only one quarter of surgical staffs, and fewer still are transplant surgeons.

“As a surgical trainee, it really inspired me to watch the organs go from cold and gray on ice, then we plug them in they fill with blood and it’s alive,” said Dr. Suzie Lee, a abdominal transplant surgeon.

When asked what they hope young girls and women in medical school right now would see in the ‘Fab 5′, Dr. Johannesson summed it up for the group.

“I hope that they see that they belong here.”

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