Honoring a trailblazer for women in surgery

About Olga Jonasson, MD


In 1987, Olga Jonasson, MD, FACS, renowned transplant surgeon and immunology researcher, was named chair of the department of surgery at The Ohio State University College of Medicine, becoming the first woman in the United States to head an academic surgery department at a co-educational school of medicine.

Now, Timothy Pawlik, MD, MPH, PhD, today’s chair of the department of surgery, and Amalia Cochran, MD, FACS, FCCM, vice chair of education and professionalism, are leading an initiative to honor the excellence and tenacity of Dr. Jonasson by creating the Olga Jonasson, MD, Surgical Professorship on what would have been Dr. Jonasson’s 85th birthday in August 2019. The new professorship was announced to colleagues and supporters at Dr. Pawlik's 3rd Annual Summer Gathering.

The Olga Jonasson, MD, Surgical Professorship will be awarded to surgeons who are dedicated to encouraging and enabling female surgeons to realize their professional and research goals. It will forever establish the importance of this initiative for generations of leaders within The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and other academic medical centers around the globe.

Click here to support The Olga Jonasson, MD, Surgical Professorship and help open doors to women in surgery.

Reflections from Dr. Pawlik on the Summer Gathering honoring Olga Jonasson

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It was wonderful to celebrate the legacy of Dr. Olga Jonasson at the Summer Gathering. The buzz in the tent after the program was palpable. I heard and had wonderful discussions throughout the evening regarding the guts and grace that Olga must have had to blaze a trail for women in surgery the way she did and when she did. I’ve already had outreach from a number of guests and leadership saying that “something must be done.”

As I reflect back on the evening, I am in awe. Dr. Amalia Cochran provided the context for our need to celebrate Olga by creating a professorship that allows us to recruit and retain someone who will embody her legacy. She shared with us statistics, including the fact that only 20% of surgeons today are women, and spoke about promotion equity issues and the lack of female leadership in the field. Her words evoked an audible response from guests. Dr. Gail Besner traced back her success in writing successful grant applications to Dr. Jonasson, who took her “OK” proposal and appointed a senior researcher to help her refine it into something great. That action and endorsement was instrumental for Dr. Besner and paved the way for her future successes. She now pays that forward with her own residents.

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Dr. Margaret Real, a cardiologist who completed her residency with Olga in Illinois, surprised us all by speaking up at the end of the program as the lone voice who knew her well and best, saying, “Olga would have been proud of this event and this movement, but if she were here she would have said that she and other women surgeons earned their positions and their accolades because they were excellent surgeons, not just because they were women.” Thank you, Dr. Real. Your words truly resonated.
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We heard from a host of other speakers, each lending their insights and experiences in the advancement of women in all fields, and I trust you all took away the urgency and need to “do something.”

We have so much to thank Olga for. I ask you to join me in supporting The Olga Jonasson, MD, Surgical Professorship, an endowed position awarded to surgeons who are dedicated to encouraging and enabling female surgeons to realize their professional and research goals. With your help, we will pave the way and future for women surgeons at Ohio State and beyond.

If you are interested in contributing to The Olga Jonasson, MD, Surgical Professorship, please contact Carmen Boy (Carmen.Boy@osumc.edu) in the Ohio State Development office or give online today.

I continue to be impressed by the enthusiasm that our donor community has for the mission of The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Our institution and department goals are attainable because of the tremendous kindness and support you have shown and continue to offer.

-Timothy Pawlik, MD, PhD, MPH
The Urban F. Meyer III and Shelley M. Meyer Chair for Cancer Research
Chair, Department of Surgery

How you can help

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Donate by Mail

The James/Wexner Medical Center Development Office
c/o The OSU Foundation
PO Box 710811
Columbus, OH 43271-0811