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The Pioneering Women in Reconstructive Surgery (PWRS) Program

There are only three female surgeons for every 1 million people in low-income countries.

The Pioneering Women in Reconstructive Surgery (PWRS) program is a partnership between ReSurge International and SkinCeuticals, a L’Oreal company, to advance first-generation women reconstructive surgeons in low-income countries across the world.

Together, we created the Pioneering Women in Reconstructive Surgery (PWRS) program to support women through surgical training, leadership development, mentorship, and networking. Upon graduation, each PWRS cohort will impact an estimated 162,000 patients over their careers. 

Watch Our Award-Winning Documentary

A Place at the Operating Table is an award-winning documentary short showcasing the inspiring story of Dr. Thandi Munaiwe and the other remarkable women surgeons in the Pioneering Women in Reconstructive Surgery (PWRS) Program. Learn how ReSurge International and SkinCeuticals, are providing these heroes the resources and training they need to continue to break barriers, inspire others, and increase access to surgical care for those who need it most.

2024 Hermes Creative Awards

Documentary and Corporate Image Categories

We Need More Women Surgeons

Less than 1/3 of surgeons globally are female
Women only make up 7% of the surgical workforce in Sub-Saharan Africa
5 billion people around the world lack access to safe, timely, and affordable surgical care
Two surgeons wearing surgical masks and goggles

Meet the Female Reconstructive Surgeons Who are, Quite Literally, Changing the World

The 2023 Pioneering Women in Reconstructive Surgery Cohort

Dr. Armaan Khosa - India

Dr. Armaan Khosa

India

Dr. Swosti Thapa - Nepal

Dr. Swosti Thapa

Nepal

Dr. Tran N Nhat Khanh - Vietnam

Dr. Tran N Nhat Khanh

Vietnam

Dr. Adelaida Mghase - Tanzania

Dr. Adelaida Mghase

Tanzania

Dr. Karen Gaibor - Ecuador

Dr. Karen Gaibor

Ecuador

Dr. Mildred Nakazwe - Zambia

Dr. Mildred Nakazwe

Zambia

Frequently Asked Questions

What is The Pioneering Women in Reconstructive Surgery (PWRS) program

The Pioneering Women in Reconstructive Surgery (PWRS) program is a partnership between ReSurge International, a global health nonprofit, and SkinCeuticals to advance first-generation women reconstructive surgeons in low-income countries across the world. This program aims to tackle the gender gap in global surgery by providing surgical training, leadership development, and mentorship for women surgeons in low-income countries. SkinCeuticals and ReSurge International started the PWRS program to change the landscape for women surgeons worldwide, enabling them to advance their careers and transform the lives of those in need of life-changing surgical care. We can never ensure equitable access to surgical care if we are only relying on half of the population to fulfill that need. Fundamentally, gender equity is a matter of justice. But also, it is an indispensable means to achieve universal access to surgical care. We believe in disrupting the long-standing structure of patriarchy in surgical fields by providing training, leadership development, mentorship and community to early-career women surgeons.

Who is ReSurge International?

Five billion people do not have access to safe, timely, and affordable surgical care worldwide, and 18 million die every year from surgically preventable diseases. ReSurge International is a global nonprofit organization that gives people with surgically-treatable conditions in low-income countries a chance to lead fuller, healthier lives by training and funding local surgical teams to provide life-changing care. ReSurge pairs 50+ years of experience with an innovative capacity building model that is creating a ripple-effect of impact across economies, communities, and human lives. ReSurge works in 19 countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America and partners with some of the world’s leading experts in reconstructive surgery. Learn more at www.resurge.org.

What is reconstructive surgery?

Plastic and reconstructive surgery restores normal function from an accident or trauma, a congenital condition, or cancer. Traffic accidents, burns, missing digits, cleft palates, and cancer reconstruction are all common conditions reconstructive surgeons treat.

Why do we need more women reconstructive surgeons around the world?

There is a massive global shortage of reconstructive surgeons. Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, only has 1 reconstructive surgeon per 10 million people. And of those surgeons, only 7% are women. To increase access to surgical care around the world, we must address the gender cap in medicine and global surgery.

 
What are the barriers of being a woman surgeon in a low-income country?

We find that many of the barriers the women in our PWRS program face are universal to women in the workforce around the world. Research shows that women surgeons still face persistent discrimination throughout their career, disadvantages in career promotions, and substantial pay gaps. Globally, the picture is even worse. As of 2015, there were only three female surgeons for every 1 million people in low-income countries, meaning that often our PWRS women are the only women surgeons within their entire hospital systems.

 
How can I support this program?

If you would like to support this program you can help us by making a donation to ReSurge International and spreading the word about this important work. Make a donation at resurge.org/donate. If you would like to be a ReSurge International PWRS ambassador or mentor, reach out to info@resurge.org.

Where does my money go?

Donate at resurge.org/donate. Your tax-deductible donation goes directly to ReSurge International, a 501c3 organization. ReSurge International is a leading global surgery non-profit with 50+ years of history providing life-transforming reconstructive surgical care and training in low-income countries around the world. ReSurge is a Charity Navigator “Give with Confidence” Charity, has a Platinum transparency seal from GuideStar, and is a 20/20 BBB Wise Giving Alliance-rated charity.

How can I become a PWRS brand ambassador or mentor?

If you would like to be a ReSurge International PWRS ambassador, reach out to info@resurge.org.

 
How Do I apply to the PWRS program as a participant?

Reach out to info@resurge.org for information on how to apply.

What countries are represented in the PWRS Program?

PWRS trainees come from low-income countries from all over the world. Past trainees have come from Bangladesh, Bhutan, Ecuador, India, Malawi, Nepal, Tanzania, Vietnam, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

What do PWRS trainees get from the program?

The program offers each cohort two years of leadership development, didactic and hands-on clinical skills training opportunities, and mentorship.Through a dedicated leadership course, the PWRS women spend intensive time examining their leadership and personality styles, setting ambitious goals for their own career growth. These women face unique and steep obstacles as often the only woman surgeon sometimes within their hospital, and some even from within their entire country. This course gives them the tools to navigate complex challenges in the workplace to change perceptions and the landscape, paving the way for future generations of women surgeons.

What happens after the PWRS surgeons graduate?

When the women graduate from the two year program, we have seen a marked increase in their confidence, surgical skills, and leadership capabilities. Allowing them to continue working in their home communities to provide empathetic and world-class care to their patients and to advocate for change and lead within their hospital systems. Each powerful woman surgeon is a role model for her patients and her community, normalizing women in surgery and advancing the field. With more women surgeons in the field, the gap in access to surgical care reduces, allowing more patients to get the quality care they so desperately need. Beyond patient care, these PWRS women  go on to mentor other young surgeons to encourage them to advance their careers as well. They join a growing community of a prestigious alumnae network of women surgeons around the globe. Continuing to stay in touch offering each other advice on cases and career growth.

Who is eligible to participate in the PWRS program?

To be eligible for the PWRS program, applicants must be from a low- or middle-income country as defined by the World Bank(https://data.worldbank.org/country/XO). Applicants must identify as a woman. Gender identity can refer to one’s self-identified gender, rather than birth-assigned sex; typically includes male, female, and transgender categories. This scholarship is intended for females, non-binary people identifying primarily as women, or transgender women. Applicants must be currently enrolled in a reconstructive surgical training program, and at a minimum must have completed medical school and surgical residency. They must be starting to or already focusing on reconstructive surgery. PWRS trainees must be committed to working in or serving in a low- or middle-income country to serve the patients with the greatest need for surgical care. If you would like to apply to the program, please reach out to info@resurge.org.

Honoring the Legacy of Dr. Matolase Mtonga, 1987 - 2021

The late Dr. Matolase Mtonga of the PWRS program was on track to become Zambia’s first woman reconstructive surgeon. In honor of her perseverance, leadership, and aspirations for a world where no one suffered needlessly due to a lack of access to reconstructive surgical care, ReSurge and SkinCeuticals have established an annual scholarship in her name. The Matolase Mtonga Scholarship for Women in Reconstructive Surgery will be awarded annually to one woman from a low- or middle-income country training in reconstructive surgery.

The Application for the 2024/25 Matolase Mtonga Scholarship will open in April, 2024.

Jacob Youssef Samuel - Burn Survivor

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