In honor of Women's History Month, this March we'll be showcasing Envision female speakers and role models who have and continue to make history. Women throughout the past have worked hard and sacrificed to do great things. Join us this month in celebrating them! Please share our posts through out the month and use #WomenWednesday to commemorate the amazing strides these women have taken!
This week's highlight is Julie Ann Sosa, MD MA FACS, the Leon Goldman MD Distinguished Professor of Surgery and Chair of the Department of Surgery at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF). She is also a Professor at UCSF in the Department of Medicine and affiliated faculty for the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies. Dr. Sosa came to UCSF in 2018 from Duke. Her clinical interest is in endocrine surgery, with a focus in thyroid cancer. She is an NIH-funded investigator and author of more than 300 peer-reviewed publications, 2 books, and 57 book chapters, largely focused on outcomes research, health care delivery, hyperparathyroidism, and thyroid cancer, with a focus on clinical trials. Dr. Sosa is Treasurer of the American Thyroid Association (ATA) and serves on the Board of Directors/Executive Council of the ATA and International Thyroid Oncology Group, as well as practice guidelines committees for the ATA, NCCN, and the American Association of Endocrine Surgeons; for the ATA, she is chairing the committee responsible for writing the next iteration of differentiated thyroid cancer guidelines. She is the Editor-in-Chief of the World Journal of Surgery and is an editor of Greenfield’s Surgery: Scientific Principles and Practice. She has mentored more than 90 students, residents, and fellows, for which she was recognized with the Lewis E. Braverman Distinguished Lectureship Award from the ATA. Dr Sosa was born in Montreal and raised in upstate New York. She received her AB at Princeton, MA at Oxford, and MD at Johns Hopkins, where she completed the Halsted residency and a fellowship.
Dr. Sosa speaks to future doctors and health practitioners at NYLF Medicine in Berkeley, California.
Did you always know what you wanted to do in your professional life? If not, how did you find yourself pursuing this career? If so, what made you so set on your pathway?
Most definitely not! In college, I majored in public and international affairs, and then spent two years after graduation writing a book studying the labor market anticipated for PhDs in the arts and sciences; it was relevant, as I was contemplating a career as a PhD economist. Our projects suggested that I wouldn’t have a job, so I changed course and decided to pursue medicine! In medical school, I was anticipating a career in internal medicine until September of my fourth year, when I did a sub-internship in general surgery and discovered my love for being in the OR. Within a week, I knew that I had found the right specialty for me! So, a lot of course corrections along the way, but in the end, I got to the right finish line for me. I think having an open mind and allowing life experiences to guide your path forward is important; it might take longer to get there, but serendipity is important.
What obstacles have you faced as a woman (particularly in male-dominated fields)?
Surgery is definitely a male-dominated field. That is changing, and change seems to be accelerating, but it remains slow overall, and too slow in the opinion of many (including me!). When I became Chair of the Department of Surgery at UCSF, I was just the 22nd woman chair of a department of surgery in the U.S. That is too small a number. The path at times has been a lonely one, and there have been many instances of micro-aggressions along the way. The playing field is still not level, and the inequities become more pronounced as you become more senior. But it is important that we persevere, pushing those ahead of us and pulling those behind via active mentorship and sponsorship. Increasingly, women surgeons are working together to effect change and demand equity and inclusivity, and our collaboration with male colleagues who understand the importance of these issues is critical! Sisterhood is powerful.
What’s your favorite piece of career advice you’ve ever received?
If you love what you do, you won’t work a day in your life. That was said by John Cameron, who was Chair of the Department of Surgery at Johns Hopkins when I was a medical student and resident. I couldn’t agree more; fortunately, I LOVE MY JOB!
What advice would you give to young women interested in a similar career path, which might help prepare them for the barriers they may face along the way?
Be constant in your values, and be courageous. Authenticity is critically important. In the end, live your own life, not someone else’s.
What are your future career goals, and what steps do you plan to take to reach them?
I have my dream job, so my current goal is to be happy and live in the moment!
What woman in history is your biggest inspiration and why?
Sojourner Truth (born Isabella (Belle) Baumfree), a former slave and outspoken advocate for abolition, temperance, and civil and women’s rights in in the 19th century. Her extemporaneous ‘Ain’t I a Woman’ speech argued that women, black or white, should be treated as equal to men. We are still fighting to make this a reality today.
If our scholars are interested in knowing more about you and your career, where else can they learn about you?