Susan Miller Briggs
Susan Miller Briggs, MD, MPH, FACS

Susan Miller Briggs, MD, MPH, FACS is the senior surgeon and director of International Trauma and Disaster Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital. She is also the associate professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School and affiliate faculty in Harvard's Department of Global Health and Social Medicine (Program in Global Surgery).

Dr. Briggs has received numerous awards for her academic and humanitarian achievements, including:

  • The American Red Cross Clara Barton Humanitarian Award
  • The National Disaster Medical System Outstanding Achievement Award (US Government)
  • The National Library of Medicine (NIH) exhibition (“Changing the Face of Medicine)” honoring women physicians
  • The New England Surgical Society’s Nathan Smith Distinguished Service Award

In 2015, she received the American College of Surgeons International Surgical Volunteerism Award for her disaster and humanitarian work. In 2016, she was awarded the Mass General Global Health Humanitarian Service Award. In 2018, she was selected to be the inaugural incumbent of the Harvard Endowed Chair in Global Surgery at Mass General in recognition of her humanitarian contributions throughout the world. 

Learn more from a few of her publications:

How long have you worked at Mass General?

I have worked at Mass General for 39 years (six years as surgical resident and chief surgical resident, 33 years as a general and trauma surgeon).

What is special about Mass General?

Mass General, a center of excellence in multidisciplinary surgical care, is committed to sharing its expertise with individuals in need at home and throughout the world, especially in lower and middle income countries with no or little medical care.

What do you like most about your job?

Mentoring young surgeons to make global health and disaster relief part of their surgical careers.

How can we encourage more women and girls to enter the sciences?

Effective mentorship to women interested in medicine and science is the key to attracting women in these fields. It is important to emphasize the many ways they can make contributions to the field of medicine while pursuing other important aspects of their lives, like families, research, global surgery, education, etc.

Describe your journey into health care.|

I started my health care profession as a nurse at Massachusetts General Hospital after graduation from the University of Virginia Nursing School. After completing my premedical courses, I attended Loyola Chicago University Stritch School of Medicine. I became one of the first female surgical residents at Mass General in 1974 and was honored to be chosen as the first female surgical chief resident.

During my residency, I was selected as a senior registrar, Cardiothoracic Unit, Southampton, England. Following my residency as a fellow at the National Institutes of Health, University of California. I then spent time at the University of Louisville to obtain additional trauma experience. I returned to Mass General in 1985 and have been a general and trauma surgeon since that time. In 1988, I obtained a Master of Public Health (MPH) in International Health to further my interest in global surgery and disaster relief.

I have been:

  • President of the Panamerican Trauma Society
  • Vice-President of the American Association for the Surgery of Trauma (AAST)
  • President of Boston Surgical Society
  • Editor of the American Journal of Disaster Medicine
  • Serve on the editorial boards of the Journal of Trauma and other trauma and disaster journals
  • Editor of the Advanced Disaster Medical Response, Manual for Providers
  • Author of many publications in trauma and disaster medicine, including the Harvard online CME course in Disaster Medicine.

I have been active, both nationally and internationally, in trauma and disaster relief activities with the United States Government and non profit organizations such as Project HOPE and the American Refugee Committee.  Currently I am the Team Commander of one of the US Government’s Specialty Disaster Medical Assistance Teams, the Trauma and Critical Care Team (TCCT). The TCCT team sets up a field hospital which includes operative facilities. I have been on the front lines helping victims and participated in numerous national and international disasters, including the Armenia earthquake (Russia), the World Trade Center terrorist attack (New York), the Bam, Iran earthquake, Hurricane Katrina (Louisiana) and the Haiti earthquake.

What is one piece of advice you would give a woman entering the field of medicine?

Follow your passion and become an expert in your field.