‘Graceful Self Promotion’ workshop a boost of confidence for women in medicine

Luanne Thorndyke, American Medical Women’s Association host mentoring events

By Dinah Gorelik, SOM '17

UMass Medical School Communications

October 09, 2014
  Luanne Thorndyke, MD
  Luanne Thorndyke, MD, led the Graceful Self Promotion workshop.

For female medical students looking to improve networking skills, the “Graceful Self Promotion” workshop, followed by the “Women in Medicine Mentoring Reception” were opportunities to become familiar with the finer points of recognizing their own achievements and celebrating them.

The self-promotion event, held Sept. 30 and led by Luanne Thorndyke, MD, through the American Medical Women’s Association, featured interactivity, practice and constructive feedback among the group of 40 participants. The AMWA’s mission is to promote women in medicine and improve women’s health.

“I found that the ability to speak ‘gracefully’ with others about one’s achievements is a skill needed by many women and men, students, residents and faculty, academics and non-academics,” said Dr. Thorndyke, professor of medicine and vice provost for faculty affairs. “My favorite part of the workshop is seeing participants leave with a stronger, more confident sense of themselves, and a plan for how to communicate that to others.”

“It was a nice opportunity to gather with female peers and faculty. There was a refreshing level of candor infused into the conversations,” said Emily Yuan, a first-year medical student. “For me, the workshop's value lies in its ability to foster an instant community among female aspiring physicians, and it provided us with the foundational skills to become active agents in directing our own professional trajectories.”

While some may worry that self-promotion can come off as bragging, Thorndyke assured students that if done properly, it is an effective communication skill, allowing women to connect with others and communicate their passions.

Gender stereotypes, cultural differences and unconscious bias are some of the challenges to self-promotion. Discussion during the workshop included the importance of acknowledging such obstacles yet not conforming to the labels that make self-promotion difficult, which can be accomplished through learning, practice, and perfection. Thorndyke’s message: Recognize your accomplishments and celebrate them.

Students also had the opportunity to practice “elevator speeches,” a few sentences encompassing what one would say in a chance encounter.

The event was coordinated by second-year students Elizabeth Yuan, Geneva DeGregorio, Kristen Richard and Amarilys Rojas.

“This year, we were really aiming to create an intimate and interactive experience,” said Elizabeth Yuan, who is AMWA co-leader. “Our goal was to get the students comfortable with introducing themselves, discussing their accomplishments and asking questions in a graceful manner. Although the forum for discussion was centered on self-promotion in the medical field, the skills are applicable in any networking situation.”

“The workshop was a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the experiences that have shaped us and the direction that we would like our careers in medicine to take,” said Brittany Novak, a first-year medical student.

The following day, the American Medical Women’s Association Student Branch hosted a mentoring night where students and faculty had the opportunity to introduce one another, learn about various fields, discuss work-life balance and practice self-promotion skills.

The event was sponsored by the Women’s Faculty Committee and the Office of Faculty Affairs. There were more than 70 students and 40 faculty members in attendance.

“Creating a network is valuable for medical students as they continue to learn and grow their career interests,” said DeGregorio, a co-leader of AMWA. “The networking connections will provide opportunities for joining research, community outreach and other types of projects. At UMMS, we do this by fostering connections between female student colleagues and between female students and faculty.”

Future AMWA events include a lunchtime panel discussion entitled “Women in Male Dominated Fields” in March, breast cancer screenings at free clinics in May, and a series of “Dinners with Doctors” that run throughout the fall semester.

Dinah Gorelik is a second-year medical student at UMMS.  
Dinah Gorelik  
For the Media
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