Making history in the Department of Surgery

On July 1, 2020, Drs. Muriel Brackstone, Division of General Surgery, Andreana Bütter, Division of Paediatric Surgery, and Ruby Grewal, Division of Orthopaedic Surgery, became the first women to be promoted to the rank of Full Professor in the Department of Surgery at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Western University. They, along, with Dr. Audra Duncan, Division of Vascular Surgery – who joined the Department of Surgery in 2015 as Full Professor – are the only women in the Department to hold this rank.

Full Professor is the highest rank that can be reached at Western University, and distinguishes the high level of achievement and international recognition of each members’ record of performance and expertise.

Dr. Brackstone is actively involved in community and fundraising events in support of breast cancer research. She founded the London Tumour Biobank in 2013 and still serves as its Director, led in the development of Oncoplastic Breast Surgery education in Canada, and serves as the Medical Director of the London Breast Care Clinic. She is a member of the Breast Executive Committee for Cancer Care Ontario’s Program in Evidence-Based Care, a member of the international NRG Breast Executive as well as the Canadian Clinical Trials Group, and is first author of a number of national and international clinical guidelines on the treatment of breast cancer.

Dr. Bütter is Chair of the Canadian Undergraduate Surgical Education Committee (CUSEC) and Vice-Chair of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada’s Paediatric Surgery Board Examinations. As the Associate Director of Surgical Education since 2014, she is actively involved in undergraduate education and is the faculty lead for numerous Schlulich groups (Women in Surgery, FrancoDocs etc). Dr. Bütter helped to develop the first Canadian Robotic Paediatric Surgery Program, and is a member of the Pediatric Surgical Oncology Research Collaborative (PSORC). PSORC is a group of Canadian and American paediatric surgeons from more than 30 hospitals, working together to advance research and treatment of rare childhood cancer.

Dr. Grewal was recently awarded the prestigious American-BritishCanadian Orthopaedic Travelling Fellowship, where she was one of two selected surgeons to represent the Canadian Orthopaedic Association. She spent five weeks travelling through the UK, Australia, and New Zealand to participate in leadership workshops, research and education seminars, conferences, and journal clubs. She has served as the CoDirector of the Roth McFarlane Hand and Upper Limb Clinic Clinical Research Lab since 2006, and chairs the multi-centre research group for clinical trials related to hand and wrist surgery WECan (Wrist Evaluators of Canada).

Women currently comprise 18 of the of 94 full-time clinical academic faculty in the Department of Surgery. A formal Committee in the Department of Surgery, led by Drs. Muriel Brackstone and Doug Ross, is examining how we can better support the recruitment, mentorship, and promotion of women surgeons across our range of subspecialties. In addition, last year the Department established a formal “Women in Surgery” group led by Dr. Brackstone, with its purpose to create an informal support network and professional development opportunity for women faculty in the Department of Surgery. Several successful events have been well-received and the group had two events planned for 2019- 20, which were unfortunately postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope to reschedule a keynote lecture to be presented by Dr. Susan Moffatt-Bruce, Professor of Surgery and CEO of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, to be held virtually.