August 11, 2022

Women empowering women: UAB chapter of AWS volunteers with First Light serving breakfast

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Resized.AWSAWS members at First Light ShelterThe UAB Heersink School of Medicine strives to empower women through its programs, education, training, and patient care.

The UAB student chapter of the Association of Women Surgeons (AWS)—an organization committed to supporting women surgeons at various stages of their career—embodies the same spirit of empowering women and creating opportunities for their advancement in career and life. Their goal is to inspire and empower female medical students interested in surgical careers, which they accomplish through events and promoting career advancement opportunities.

Recently, members of UAB AWS volunteered at First Light where they cooked breakfast for the 30-40 residents of the First Light Shelter.

The Heersink communications team spoke with leadership from the UAB chapter of AWS to learn more about their experience. We sat down with President Kelly Chandler, Vice President Katie Glasgow, Director of Outreach Sellers Swann, and Public Relations Director Anna Jones to learn more.

A morning of service

First Light, a non-profit organization that works to create hospitality in a safe and nurturing community, was the top choice to volunteer for AWS because “it is a center specifically for homeless women and their children,” AWS leadership said.

In the same way, First Light’s mission aligns with the goals of AWS, which strives to empower and encourage women both in the medical field and outside of it.

“Our mission aligns with theirs very well,” the student leaders said. “First Light strives to provide a safe community and opportunity for homeless women. This mission drew us in as a great way to support women in the Birmingham community outside of the hospital or medical school.”

On their service day this year, volunteers comprising of 18 Heersink medical students and two high school students with their faculty mentors from Chelsea High School Healthcare Academy Program brought breakfast items like bacon, eggs, and pancakes and worked together to prepare and serve the meal using the shelter’s kitchen. Students also used this opportunity to mentor the high schoolers.

“It was a great opportunity to mentor these young women interested in medical careers while volunteering,” the volunteers said.

Power in numbers

AWS recently redefined organizational goals which includes increasing outreach and volunteer work in the community. The organization members decided to volunteer as a group because it gives them the opportunity to serve in ways that can be difficult for one individual to do on their own.

“There is power in numbers, and we believe that we can give back in bigger ways when we unite our efforts!” they said. “We are also able to represent our organization through service work. AWS is dedicated to supporting women pursuing surgical careers, but we also want to support women in general. It’s also a wonderful opportunity to foster relationships with fellow students that we have not had the chance to work with in the past.”

Being a large organization within the Heersink School of Medicine, the students involved with AWS believe that it is important to lead by example and be actively involved within the Birmingham community.

Lifting women up

AWS has found purpose in volunteering with the First Light and has made it one of its goals this year to continue volunteering on a regular basis. “We have plans to volunteer again with First Light and with the Girl Scouts of Birmingham this Fall,” AWS leadership said.

The UAB chapter of the AWS has grown to be a productive and impactful student organization on campus. AWS also provides unbiased information to undecided students so that they can have a clear picture of what it is like being a female in surgery without all the stereotypes clouding their view. Other than this, AWS is a community for female students pursuing surgery so that they can encourage each other to be successful.

“We believe that AWS helps to propel women interested in surgery to be successful leaders and surgeons in whatever specialty they choose,” the leadership said.