New Surgery Student Club Puts the Focus on Writing

August 12, 2019

You may have noticed a new logo walking the halls.

Does Stanford have its own team of highly-trained marksmen? Are we anticipating a hostage situation?

Thankfully, the answer is “no.” SWAT stands for Surgeons Writing About Trauma.

“SWAT is a formal group of students, who discuss ideas and work together on various projects,” said Dr. Charlotte Rajasingh, a General Surgery Resident and one of the club’s co-founders. “We’re also able to formally bring in faculty to guide us as we are building our academic careers.”

According to Rajasingh, SWAT was concepted from an idea in Paul Silvia’s book How to Write a Lot.

“It raised the idea of having accountability,” said Rajasingh. “It’s easy to have your research initiatives put on the back burner during your clinical time; we’re all really busy. But when you have a group of people counting on you, you don’t want to let the team down.”

After only a few months in existence, the group has had one paper published and submitted several others to peer-reviewed journals.

“The key is to have a melting pot of unique strengths: efficient lit review, great writing, data analytic abilities,” said SWAT member Dr. Jeff Choi, a general surgery resident in his first year of professional development. “Collectively there’s this wealth of knowledge and that propels academic productivity.”

Choi estimates that 14 SWAT members have been initiated into the American Association for the Surgery of Trauma. The group also includes several medical students and even one undergrad.

“When I came to Stanford, I had never done research, but I had volunteered at hospitals in high school and knew I had a passion for trauma,” said rising sophomore and SWAT member Nicholas Hakes. “I made a point to sit down with Dr. Spain, and he invited me to one of the first SWAT meetings.”

Dr. David Spain, Chief of Stanford’s Trauma and Critical Care Section, is the unofficial faculty advisor of the student-run organization.

“Dr. Spain and the trauma attendings have been immensely supportive of helping students and trainees push this group forward and providing the funding and mentorship needed to thrive,” said Choi.

“I want the students in SWAT to get interested in clinical research and figure out what type of questions they want to ask and try to answer,” said Spain. “If you can figure how to be a busy, overworked PGY 1 or 2, study for the ABSITE and get 1 to 2 projects completed, then I promise that you can figure out how to be productive for the rest of your career.”

Despite SWAT’s emphasis on trauma and critical care, Spain says the set of tools the members are acquiring will translate into any specialty.

“I’m not sure at this point whether I’ll go into in trauma, but I know that the skills I’m learning here will help my research no matter which path I choose,” said Rajasingh.

Hakes says the salient point of the club is to make an impact on health care.

“Our work is meaningful,” said Hakes. “We are changing policies, procedures, and patient care for the better. Improving trauma care is important to me, and SWAT is at the forefront of doing just that.”

If you’d like to join SWAT or learn more, contact Dr. Choi at