Rarely in life do you meet a person whose hard work, determination, ambition and willingness to help others profoundly affects your life — a person who is humble and gracious yet successful and refined. I have been privileged to meet such a person and her name is Ann Marie Flannery, MD.
I met Dr. Flannery in 1997 when she was the President of Women in Neurosurgery, and recently had the opportunity to interview her about her journey to success. Dr. Flannery is a successful neurosurgeon with career highpoints that speak volumes. She is the Professor of Surgery and Pediatrics at the Medical College of Georgia (Augusta), as well as the Associate Dean and President of the Academic Senate. An avid lecturer and active researcher, Dr. Flannery has published more than 50 books and scientific articles in peer reviewed journals. She clearly is an accomplished professional.
Road to Success
When asked to define the element(s) that most significantly impacted her life and her career, Dr. Flannery highlighted three life-altering choices. The first choice came in medical school, when she met and married fellow classmate, Peter Kobe. Her fine selection in a spouse was evidenced soon after the birth of their first child, Carolyn, who was born during Dr. Flannery’s fellowship in pediatric neurological surgery at Children’s Memorial Hospital. Her husband demonstrated his support for his wife’s career, when he took a step back from his own career to assume the role of primary caretaker for their daughter.
The second key decision that positioned Dr. Flannery on the road to success was her choice to join the staff at the Medical College of Georgia (Augusta). Having interviewed at major programs across the nation, the Medical College offered Dr. Flannery a position where she knew that she could grow professionally, with research, teaching and leadership opportunities. In this community, her skills were needed and her talents were recognized and appreciated. Living in Augusta also allowed her to live close to her work and spend more time with her husband and four children.
The third factor that she cites as key to her career success is the selection of a mentor. Throughout her career, she has sought different mentors for different aspects of her life, but notes that each one was a “father of daughters” and believed in the intrinsic ability of women. She strongly believes in the power of a mentor, but cautions about putting too many eggs in one mentor basket and the disservice of toxic mentors.
Making a Positive Difference
Dr. Flannery recently touched my life when, during the 1998 Congress of Neurological Surgeons Annual Meeting, she stepped into action and took over my role as the Registration Committee Co-Chairperson. I had contacted Dr. Flannery several months before the meeting to tell her that I was not going to be able to serve as Co-Chairperson and to ask for her advice. Without hesitation, Dr. Flannery volunteered to take my place at the meeting. She graciously put her busy practice and demanding family life on hold, recognizing how important opportunities to participate in organized neurosurgery are for women.
As you can see, Dr. Flannery is more to me than a colleague, successful neurosurgeon and a fellow WINS member. She is one of the outstanding female neurosurgeons who embodies the spirit of WINS and a woman who continues to positively touch the lives of those she encounters. I am proud to call Ann Marie Flannery my mentor, more important, I am honored to call her my friend.
This additional comment was added by Sherry Apple, MD when she posted this article to the WINS Web site:
Ann Marie is exemplary of our founding mothers of WINS. She and the other former WINS presidents, such as Lucy Love, MD, Gail Rousseau, MD, and Debra Benzil, MD, have inspired, nutured and encouraged women struggling through less than “female friendly” environments in the neurosurgery training process. All are to be commended. Although no longer presidents, they remain as do all previous presidents of WINS, active supporters of Women in Neurosurgery. Without her personal support, the WINS web site would not exist. Thank you, Ann Marie, most wholeheartedly.