Opening Doors for the Next Generation of Female Plastic Surgeons

Mims-Opening Doors October 28, 2021 By: Kendra Y. Mims-Applewhite

Creating a space for women plastic surgeons to network, engage, and support each other is helping to shape new leaders and narrow a marked gender gap in the specialty’s field.

Women comprise 92 percent of all plastic surgery patients, yet fewer than 20 percent of plastic surgeons are female. Though gender diversity in plastic surgery has slowly improved over the past decade, there is more work to be done to close the gender gap.

In an effort to advance female surgeons in the field and create more leadership opportunities, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) formed the Women Plastic Surgeons Forum  to empower female plastic surgeons within the society through networking, education, advocacy, and mentoring.

WPS advocates for the interests and concerns of women plastic surgeons and works to increase their involvement within organized medicine, while simultaneously advancing the mission of ASPS and championing diversity within the specialty.

ASPS member Katerina Gallus, M.D., leads the WPS Forum as its program chair. After a successful 12-year career as a U.S. Navy plastic surgeon, Dr. Gallus pursued her dream of opening a private practice and founded Restore SD Plastic Surgery in 2017.

In her position as a naval officer and surgeon, she served as program director for the Transitional Year Residency, training nearly 100 young Navy physicians. As a leader in her field,  Gallus is passionate about mentoring young female plastic surgeons and hopes to see more women surgeons in leadership positions.

“WPS is a resource for female plastic surgeons in terms of managing your day-to-day life, practice management, and addressing clinical questions,” Gallus said. “Our goal is to advocate for all women surgeons, and we do that through clinical education and our annual retreat, where women plastic surgeons are able to network and meet in small groups to learn from one another.”

WPS looks to the future and on shaping new leaders. It does that by engaging female surgeons and encouraging them to become more active leaders within ASPS. The group also mentors its female residents and offers them opportunities to be active participants in leadership within the field. “They are the future of our specialty, so we want to make sure they have the tools they need to succeed,” Gallus said.

Our goal is to advocate for all women surgeons, and we do that through clinical education and our annual retreat, where women plastic surgeons are able to network and meet in small groups to learn from one another.

The core objectives of WPS include facilitating networking and communication between women plastic surgeons throughout the year and developing programs and opportunities designed to improve leadership competencies. The annual WPS Enrichment Retreat provides clinical education, lively discussions, and opportunities for attendees to connect, collaborate, and network with their female peers in an intimate setting. Attendees learn from experts in aesthetic and reconstructive plastic surgery, as well as practice management, leadership, and other skills. The popular event, which has grown exponentially in recent years, continues to offer female plastic surgeons a safe space of growth and support.

“During our last conference, we looked at present-day topics and addressed clinical questions regarding breast surgery; practice management; and scheduling your office, clinic, and OR,” Gallus said. The group also strategically looked to the future and discussed ways to grow leadership opportunities within ASPS. “We really facilitate women working together and collaboration among women surgeons,” Gallus said. “The retreat is a positive experience because we are collaborative in nature, and we need that space to connect and come together.”

Collaborative Efforts

The WPS Forum currently supports the following women-led diversity initiatives to increase female representation in the field and leadership opportunities for women of color:

  • Time’s Up PRS, a virtual community founded by Wendy Chen, M.D., shares the stories of underrepresented plastic surgeons on Instagram and addresses harassment, workplace sexism, discrimination, and sexual misconduct in training.
  • Women of Color in Plastic Surgery, launched in 2020 by Wilmina Landford, M.D.,  is committed to engaging, connecting, and empowering plastic surgeons and plastic surgery trainees who identify as women of color through discussion and mentorship.
  • The LIMITLESS docuseries, led by plastic surgery resident Shuting Zhong, M.D., features inspiring stories from women plastic surgeons who broke barriers and made history within their field as society presidents. The ongoing initiative inspires women to join the healthcare, science, and medical fields and to seek leadership positions within them.

“We strongly support these movements, and the credit goes to the women who lead them,” Gallus said. These initiatives represent hard-earned progress. Thirty-eight percent of plastic surgery residents are female, and that number continues to grow. More women have stepped into leadership positions over the last decade. “That has been a concerted effort on our part. All of these initiatives are stronger because they have the full support of WPS. It becomes synergistic,” Gallus said. 

This article is part of a series that features associations with active programs focused on supporting, enabling, and empowering women in their professional field, presented by ASAE’s Diversity + Inclusion Committee.


Kendra Y. Mims-Applewhite

Kendra Y. Mims-Applewhite is an associate editor at the American Society of Plastic Surgeons in Arlington Heights, Illinois.