Celebrating Women's History Month - A Profile on Edith Tzeng, MD

Mar 27, 2024

Edith Tzeng, MD, FACS, DFSVS, is a professor of surgery in the Division of Vascular Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh and the chief of vascular surgery at the Veterans Affairs Pittsburgh Healthcare System. She has been a vascular surgeon-scientist for nearly 25 years, and her research has focused on translational studies and clinical trials.

Edith Tzeng, MD, shares a journey from her immigrant roots to becoming a prominent figure in vascular surgery. Her story is an inspiring narrative of resilience and commitment, embodying the transformative power of determination and hard work in pursuing excellence. Her medical trek began at the University of Chicago, where she earned her medical degree, followed by comprehensive general and vascular surgery training at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. 

Tzeng No Background

While she trained during the advent of endovascular approaches, she believes her strengths are in open vascular surgery. She thrives on passing on those skills to the new generations of vascular trainees.

"I immigrated from Taiwan when I was about five years old, a very long time ago, but I really can’t rid myself of the immigrant mentality, which is to work extra hard to be the best that I can be and to make a better life for my family," said Tzeng.

Tzeng reflects on the challenging period when her family first arrived in the United States with limited financial resources. During those initial years, her parents dedicated themselves to mastering English and living up to their engineering background. The enduring impact of those lean times is evident in Dr. Tzeng's commitment to honoring her roots through a disciplined and frugal approach to surgery.

"The operating room team knows not to open any suture until I ask for it and to be aware of the cost of everything we use," said Tzeng. Her colleagues jest about the impact of saving a few dollars per case. Tzeng believes collective efforts can significantly contribute to a more sustainable and cost-effective healthcare system.

“I guess this is how I honor my roots,” she said.

Beyond her professional accomplishments, Tzeng emphasizes the significance of Women's History Month, shedding light on the historical challenges women have triumphed over. As she reflects on her journey, she contemplates the influence of her Asian background on shaping her identity and position. This introspection fuels her determination to defy and exceed the expectations that have been placed upon her. While acknowledging that societal hurdles and internal struggles, such as "imposter syndrome," are inherent, she recognizes that overcoming these obstacles often propels individuals towards even greater achievements. As an advocate for diversity and inclusion in vascular surgery, Dr. Tzeng applauds the efforts of the Society for Vascular Surgery (SVS) and its Foundation in addressing disparities.

"During Women’s History Month (and always), it is essential to highlight the extraordinary women who impacted medicine, science, the arts, politics, you name it, to educate everyone on what they were able to accomplish despite limited access to education and lacking societal support,” said Tzeng. They have paved the way for our ongoing journey toward equality, and it is essential that we follow suit for future generations of women.”

Tzeng emphasizes the importance of representation, particularly in traditionally male-dominated fields like surgery. She notes the underrepresentation of women and minority groups in the SVS and highlights the initiatives taken by the organization to bridge these gaps.

“Surgery and vascular surgery have been traditionally male-dominated fields. The membership of the SVS has about 15-20% representation of women and less than 5% inclusion of Black and Hispanic members,” Tzeng said.

In her call to action, Tzeng urges SVS members to contribute to the SVS Foundation, emphasizing the Foundation's role in funding programs that address healthcare disparities as a way “to honor the women leaders in vascular surgery, medicine and history.”

When you donate to the SVS Foundation, you support Voices of Vascular's important work in promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion. Learn more and make your gift today. 

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