The day began at 8 am with registration of participants. Each participant was encouraged to sign up for a mentor /mentee position. At 9a.m the opening ceremony kicked off with a brief overview of KAWS , the vision, mission and key core objectives of KAWS from Dr. Elizabeth Mwachiro. She also gave a brief on the previous year’s Activities (2017 -2018 )
Thereafter, 2 of the key addresses were given by the two organizations that have been fundamental in the formation of KAWS :Surgical Society of Kenya(SSK) and COSECSA. SSK president Dr.Nthumba in his speech, focused on the supportive role that SSK played. He emphasized that the aforementioned societies were all interdependent and needed to grow together within the surgical space. He encouraged KAWS members to pledge to make KAWS a safe space where all female surgeons and trainees could seek and offer encouragement to fellow sisters. In so doing, the newly formed organization would lead the way in showing other surgeons that a mentoring environment can be created and nurtured even within the country.
Prof Jani, President of COSECSA , followed with his speech on the role of COSECSA and KAWS in improving Surgery in Kenya and Africa. He iterated that the focus should be on the need for improved surgical quality training and education at large and the need for more surgeons to step up into the role of champions . In a span of less than 10 years ,COSECSA has managed to increase the number of training sites to 237 training sites .He bestowed upon KAWS to take up Surgical Quality Improvement as its champion and help bring this to surgical training.
Prof. Jana MacLeod FACS, Patron of KAWS, gave the Keynote address. She gave a riveting presentation on the pioneer medical doctor in Kenya and some of the pioneer female surgeons in Kenya. She highlighted the large gender disparity that still remains a challenge. This has led to a lower representation of the woman in surgical leadership.
A colorful gifting ceremony of all the male supporters of the event then followed. The men present(5 in total) were all presented with colourful khangas and shoulder bags. As the wrapping of the khanga is a preserve of the Kenyan woman, it was hilarious to see the men valiantly attempt recreate this art!
A wonderful group photo ensued. This was a superb shot from all the scrub colours worn on the day!
The second session delved into different aspects of the profession. Dr.Connie Keung steered this off. She talked about the 21st Century Female Surgeon requirements. She very aptly summarized this by stating that a 21st century surgeon will require collaboration, mentorship and sponsorship to overcome failures and keep moving forward. This talk then led to plenary sessions. The first Panel explored was titled ‘Reflections on a career in surgery” Local surgeons Drs.Neema Mbaruk ,Karen Mbaabu,Susan Karanja and Marilyn Omondi discussed pertinent issues ,starting their individual journeys into surgery; challenges that they faced during residency and what it takes to be a surgeon. The common themes that emerged from this rich discussion were: passion, dedication, teamwork and resilience.
A second plenary session then followed that focused living a wholesome life and work life balance. This was covered by Drs.Negesa, Sylvia Shitsama, Maryam Badawy,Damaris Mbalu. Some of the key issues discussed were :how they handled pregnancy within residency. They all shared tips on what worked for each of them and their recommendations. From this weighty discussions , the members identified key areas that KAWS would work on. Setting up standardized maternity and paternity leave duration for the residents and consultants as well as ensuring that training institutions adhere to this. Provision of lactation rooms and crèches; enforcement of sexual harassment policies in residency were also touched as topics that KAWS needed to work on.
Prof. MacLeod closed of the mid day session with an overview of how to prepare yourself for the oral examinations for those in training.
A sumptuous lunch was enjoyed by all, with plenty of networking and catching up with friends and colleagues
The afternoon session was started off by Dr.Daniel Ojuka discussing “Mentorship across generations” His talk covered what it takes to be a Mentee and a Mentor and how the two parties relate. Dr.Michael Mwachiro then discussed surgical excellence, surgical leadership as well as research and surgery. There followed a discussion on finance management and the benefits of approaching your finances strategically.
Dr. Margeret Kagwe(PhD) led a discussion on self advocacy . This talk was a resounding success as she spoke in depth about issues common to all professionals: mainly communication, work life balance and burnout. She also highlighted key issues around sexual harassment at the workplace, offering practical tips on what to do if in that unfortunate situation. Her talk left the participants clamoring for more. The leadership agreed to provide her with a slot in the annual SSK conference in April 2019
Dr. Karen Mbaabu gave a discussion on surgical leadership and whether there was a gender divide. The final talk was given by the Presidents of WISA( Women in Surgery Africa) and PAWAS (Pan African Women Association of Surgery )to give highlights. Drs Agneta Odera and Miriam Mutebi introduced their societies. All the societies present were in agreement that cohesion was required to move the gender equitability in surgery agenda forward. .The day ended with a vote of thanks from Dr. Wandera who emphasized on the need to work as a team and not to forget the men in surgery!
The gala dinner marked the highlight of the day: with exciting activities and delicious food. Surgical Olympics pitted trainers against their trainees, and institutions against each other. We had an Olympic quality commentator, Dr Annie Onishi, visiting from Columbia University USA, who kept all spectators on their toes! A poignant close to the day was the candle-lighting ceremony in recognition of all the work that we do as surgical health care providers.
In summary, the event was a resounding success and we look forward to an even bigger event next year!