Dr. Frances Selsnick has proven herself indomitably dedicated to the wellbeing of her patients through her work as surgeon and supervisor of the Female Health Program for the Veterans Administration. Her commitment to the caring treatment of her patients began over half a century ago, and continues to this day.
Selsnick’s diligence was dramatically displayed during the Second World War. The young student found herself stranded in Scotland at the outbreak of the war and, not willing to let her skills to languish until war’s end, she joined a British military hospital while continuing her studies.
This experience proved to be a seminal event for Selsnick and inspired her to pursue a surgical career. This she did with élan, becoming the first American woman to be accepted as a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. Over 360 people took the exam and she was one of only 30 to pass. Upon returning to the United States she pursued advanced studies in surgery, gynecology, and oncology.
In 1962, Selsnick focused her talents on a career that hearkened back to her experiences in wartime England: serving the nation’s veterans. Nearly 40 years later she is still actively pursuing this work at the VA Medical Center in Reno, Nevada, running three clinics per week, performing surgery, and serving as the working supervisor of the Female Veteran Health Program.
Selsnick stresses the importance of clinical evaluation and compassionate personal attention. She is known to come in on weekends to check on post surgical patients and do post-op dressings herself.
Selsnick’s outstanding work has not gone unnoticed. In January 2002, she was awarded the VA Mark Wolcott Award for Excellence in Clinical Care by the Undersecretary for Health, Thomas Garthwaite. An honor she received from the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States recognized her as someone who “excelled not only as a role model but spearheaded the leadership for excellence,” and she received the John D. Chase Award in 1993 in recognition of a distinguished career as a surgeon.
Capping her work as an extraordinary individual is Selsnick’s effort to ensure that the standards of service she has embodied are continued by future generations of medical professionals. As one hospital director has stated admiringly, “She supports and empowers those she works with…and is loved by all she touches.”