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Dr. Sharona Ross, CAS/BS ’95, Hopes to Inspire Women Surgeons

Dr. Sharona Ross, CAS/BS '95, in the operating room.

Photo courtesy of Dr. Sharona Ross

The Republican Party tapped American University alumna Dr. Sharona Ross, CAS/BS ’95, as its designated surgeon for the party’s convention in Tampa this past August. Given her long list of academic and medical accomplishments, it’s no surprise that, in an emergency, Ross was trusted to save the lives of some of our country’s most prominent politicians.

Ross is director of minimally invasive surgery and surgical endoscopy at the Florida Hospital Tampa, Southeastern Center for Digestive Disorders Pancreatic Cancer – a clinic she recently founded with her longtime mentor.

As designated surgeon to the 2012 Republican National Convention, Ross was charged with assembling teams of doctors in Tampa and surrounding cities who would be on call and ready to treat any VIPs attending the convention, including GOP leaders, members of congress, and delegates. If anyone needed surgery, Ross would be their surgeon.

Thankfully, she says, her surgical skills were not needed during the convention.

Ross discovered her love of surgery when she was only five years old, growing up in Israel. She recalls, “I was walking behind my mother coming home from school, and there was roadkill. She stopped to talk with a friend and didn’t notice that I was literally taking all the organs out and lining them up. It was really interesting to me.”

Her mother was understandably disturbed, but Ross knew she found her calling. At age 12, she met a German pathologist who agreed to let her assist in breast cancer research every day after school.

Upon entering the Israeli military, Ross joined the medical corps and became the head of a military medical clinic. In Israel, she met her future husband, Jack Ross, SOC/BA ’87, SIS/MA ’93, WCL/JD ’99, who had just graduated with his bachelor’s degree from AU, and he convinced her to move to the United States.

Ross did not know English, but she enrolled in two courses – math and biology – at AU while her husband began his master’s program. Math was easy, since it was mostly numbers, but biology was a challenge.

“I went to the first class, and I couldn’t understand one word. So I recorded every class, then I sat in the library until it closed every night. With my dictionary and recorder, I transcribed everything the professor said. I had the best notes in the class,” Ross says, adding that she earned an A in the course.

Her perseverance paid off, and Ross graduated Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude, with honors. “I had a great experience at AU. I loved every minute of it,” she says.

After graduating from AU, Ross attended George Washington University and earned her MD, again with honors.

While in school, Ross gave birth to three children. Based on her experience, she believes that women can accomplish anything they want. She hopes more women will become surgeons, which is why she founded the Women in Surgery Initiative to educate and encourage more women to join the field.

Ross says, “I tell women who are considering becoming surgeons: Despite all the obstacles that I had with language and a new culture… it’s possible to succeed. When I started medical school, I had a 17-month-old son and a 2-month-old daughter, and my husband was in law school. Everyone said, ‘It can’t be done,’ but if you want it enough, you’ll make it happen. Believe in yourself.”