Dr. Nita Ahuja

Dr. Nita Ahuja

“Anatomy,” said Dr. Nita Ahuja, Yale’s first female chair of surgery, “is beautiful.” Dr. Ahuja, who was born in India and raised in Maryland, “can still remember seeing a G.I. organ, a colon or a small bowel” pulsing. She loves the tactile, problem-solving nature of surgery. “I like fixing things. I tell my patients I am a plumber. I am a GI plumber,” she said, referring to the abbreviation for “gastrointestinal.” In a profession where it’s not uncommon for male surgeons to hurl implements – and insults – in the operating room, Dr. Ahuja has both weathered and pushed against that culture. In the U.S. she said just 22 women are chairs of surgery. Dr. Ahuja recalled when she was a surgical fellow the impact of seeing a visiting female chair bring along her 7-year-old son. It was a revelation that motherhood and surgery could coexist. As chair, Dr. Ahuja presses to make pathways to success clearer for the next generation of women scholars and physicians.  She seeks “to clarify the rules of academic success” for those coming up and measures her own in theirs: “My returns will be in a decade when the generation of trainees come, and I see how many associate and full professors and leaders I groom.”

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New Haven, CT 06511


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