Columbia’s Medical Student Interest Group in Neurology and Neurosurgery (SIGNN) organized their first-ever Women in Surgery seminar and they were pleased to have neurosurgeon Grace K. Mandigo, M.D. as a speaker. Forty five Columbia first-year medical students, of which more than half were women, attended the event.
As Co-Presidents of SIGNN, medical students Michael McDowell, Michelle Phan and Liz Asche organized the event. Asche and Phan are first year medical students who both work with McDowell, fourth year medical student and Doris Duke Fellow, in Dr. E. Sander Connolly’s Cerebrovascular lab.
“I’ve been trying to organize this event for several years, as many of our members are women and yet almost all of them drop out prior to applying to residency,” says McDowell. “Fortunately, this year we finally made it happen and we had the pleasure of having Dr. Mandigo and Dr. Charla R. Fischer, orthopaedic spine attending at Columbia, speak to the group.”
Dr. Mandigo is part of the Department of Neurosurgery’s Brain Tumor Center and Cerebrovascular Center. She is our only female attending neurosurgeon on the Columbia University Medical Center campus (something The Department of Neurosurgery at CUMC is trying to change).
Dr. Mandigo is the fourth woman to graduate from Columbia’s neurosurgical residency program (past graduates include Chairwoman, Dr Karin Muraszko, from the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Michigan).
During the Women in Surgery event, Dr. Mandigo spoke about being the one female neurosurgical resident during her time at Columbia due to the very low number of female applicants. With few female role models in neurosurgery, in general, Dr. Mandigo was forced to blaze her own trail.
She spoke about her gratitude to Department Chair Dr. Robert Solomon and the Columbia faculty for supporting her career and providing the flexibility that enabled her to have two children.
Dr. E. Sander Connolly‘s mentorship when she was a medical student, she said, shaped her desire to focus on cerebrovascular disease, and now that she has had two children she is pursuing an endovascular fellowship with Dr. Philip Meyers and Dr. Sean Lavine here at Columbia.
Dr. Mandigo spoke about the creativity required to balance her life as a neurosurgeon with her priority of having children with her husband, fellow Columbia Neurosurgeon Dr. Christopher Mandigo. She discussed the importance of their partnership and the additional advantage of being able to work together (sharing weekend call, for example) to help balance family and work life.
“Dr. Mandigo offered her contact information and was more than willing to be that role model for the next generation of women neurosurgeons here at Columbia,” says McDowell. “Hopefully a number of long term relationships will be started thanks to that and her participation in this seminar.”
Medical students and SIGNN Co-Presidents, Liz Asche and Michelle Phan, may very well be that next generation of female neurosurgeons. Asche will be working with Dr. Meyers this summer on an endovascular project investing neurocognitive decline and Michelle will be working with Dr. Solomon investigating the outcomes of small unruptured aneurysms.
We look forward to seeing a growing generation of women in neurosurgery!