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Associate Member Profiles

Being an associate member of the RCS enables you to join a growing professional community of more than 27,000 members across the UK and internationally. Read about our associate members and their journey in surgery. Find out how you can become an associate member and help to advance surgical care.

Alistair Beaven
Alastair Beaven, ST5
‘We took the opportunity to share our parental leave by halves. I felt like I was fully experiencing all the joys of parenthood and I developed a closeness to my son I couldn't have previously imagined. After my six months, I felt I had earned the right to be called a father as well as a surgeon.’
Alastair Beaven, ST5

Read Alastair's Journey

Specialty: Orthopaedic surgery

Career stage: ST5

Please describe your journey in regards to surgery, pregnancy and parenthood.

My son was born during my third year of specialist orthopaedic training and the year before my wife started her specialist neurosurgical training. It has always been incredibly important for both of us to maintain a commitment to surgery and a commitment to family life. We believe ourselves equals and therefore took the opportunity to share our parental leave by halves. I felt like I was fully experiencing all the joys of parenthood and I developed a closeness to my son I couldn’t have previously imagined. After my six months, I felt I had earned the right to be called a father as well as a surgeon.

What is one key piece of advice that you feel all surgeons considering or experiencing parenthood should know? 

Don’t feel under pressure to prioritise your career; there will always be opportunities for more operating, but children don’t stay young forever.

Top tips on returning to work after maternity/paternity leave.

Have a dry-run at alternative childcare, as you don’t want your first day away from your child to also be your first day back at work.

Arti Garg, Consultant Surgeon
‘It was a bit surreal when I first entered the ward, as if I had forgotten all my skills. I soon came back to life as a surgeon, after I interacted with patients and entered the operating theatre.’
Arti Garg, Consultant Surgeon

Read Arti's Journey

Specialty: General Surgery, Laparoscopic, Colorectal

Career Stage: Consultant Surgeon

Please describe your journey in regards to surgery, pregnancy and parenthood.

I was a senior surgical trainee and pregnant at the same time. I was fortunate to have a smooth pregnancy and was working till the last week. I returned to full time clinical activities after six months maternity leave. It was a bit surreal when I first entered the ward, as if I had forgotten all my skills. I soon came back to life as a surgeon, after I interacted with patients and entered the operating theatre. Every woman has a rebirthing experience when she becomes a mother and the same applies for a career woman. My eight year old is great company to me and is my stress buster after a long tiring day at work. Just as a patient's feedback and satisfaction keeps you going, the same way seeing a child growing is soul satisfying.

What is one key piece of advice that you feel all surgeons considering or experiencing parenthood should know?

I was pregnant when I took my FRCS part 1 and my daughter was two years old when I passed the final part. Surgery for me is a life time of commitment and passion. Similarly, caring for a child and being a mother is a lifelong pact. Mothers are inherently good at intuition, multitasking and finding alternate solutions and so are surgeons. My advice is to have a balance between family and work. One should not hesitate to share child care with other family members be it husbands, grandparents or siblings.

Top tips on returning to work after maternity/paternity leave.

I was suppose it will depend on what stage of career one is. If possible, explore part time return to achieve more balance. Be disruptive and reinvent! Guilt monster will surface out intermittently but ladies, don't let anything put you down as  we are doing great as mums and surgeons. My proudest moment was when I picked up my eight year old from afterschool club and her teacher told me how my daughter feels so proud of me. She has been telling everyone she loves her mother being a doctor who helps so many people, get gifts and is on TV. I have been blessed to balance my career progression along with being a single parent. 

My journey as a mother and as a surgeon so far has been enlightening - full of love, laughter, tears and challenges: what one calls, 'a life worth living'!

Anonymous, General Dentist
‘I don't know how we would have coped if we both worked. Whilst starting workdays at 7.30am and often leaving not until after 6pm, I have no idea how one can care for a young child. If both parents are surgical trainees, they might need to consider both working part time to have an acceptable work-life balance.’
Anonymous, General Dentist

Read Anonymous' Journey

Specialty: Oral and maxillofacial surgery 

Career Stage: General Dentist 

Please describe your journey in regards to surgery, pregnancy and parenthood.

I was on the career pathway for oral and maxillofacial surgery, having both a medical and dental degree. The day before my son was born, I passed the MRCS part B. The first year of his life I worked as a Senior House Officer (SHO) in a busy maxfacs department doing on calls and routinely working 12 hour days. I was planning to apply for run through training. However, less than full time (LTFT) training seems to be highly unusual in the deanery I wanted to apply to. Furthermore, this deanery is large which makes long commutes or living away from home inevitable during my training. I have decided not to pursue further specialty training and have switched careers to do general dentistry with the plan to gain further skills in dental implant surgery. I now work part time and can spend more time with my family. 

What is one key piece of advice that you feel all surgeons considering or experiencing parenthood should know?

I was lucky that my wife who is a senior registrar in general surgery was on maternity leave during the first year of my son’s life. I don’t know how we would have coped if we both worked. Whilst starting workdays at 7:30am and often leaving not until after 6pm, I have no idea how one can care for a young child. If both partners are surgical trainees, they might need to consider both working part time to have an acceptable work-life balance.

Emma Toman, ST4 (Academic Clinical Fellow)
‘Try not to let other people's opinions on how you should be raising your child and returning to work bother you. Some will think you are a terrible parent for coming back full time and some will think you are a slacker because you don't do the same amount of unpaid overtime as you used to – damned if you, damned if you don't.’
Emma Toman, ST4 (Academic Clinical Fellow)

Read Emma's Journey

Specialty: Neurosurgery 

Career Stage: ST4 (Academic Clinical Fellow)

Please describe your journey in regards to surgery, pregnancy and parenthood.

I was late to realise neurosurgery was for me. After not applying for any training posts following foundation years, I took up an FY3 job and got the neurosurgery bug. I spent the next couple of years in non-training jobs, academia and teaching posts building my CV, eventually securing my Academic Clinical Fellow (ACF) ST3 post two years ago. I was heavily pregnant (about 34 weeks) during my national ST3 interviews but do not think this changed my performance or scoring in any way.

I was employed by a university when Albie was born and my partner was employed by the NHS as an orthopaedic trainee. We took shared parental leave, splitting the year 50:50 and was such a fantastic experience. We both felt fully immersed in our son’s upbringing and understood entirely, the feelings that each other had either during work or parental leave time. Neither of us felt like we were missing out on our career or family and this equality and sharing is the basis of our strong family unit.

What is one key piece of advice that you feel all surgeons considering or experiencing parenthood should know?

Get good employment/financial advice so you know where you stand. I changed employer from NHS to university early in my pregnancy and so I was only eligible for maternity allowance, which is a far cry from SMP. There was a lot of confusion over my partner’s pay - which Trust pays a rotating trainee taking shared leave etc and there was a six month delay in getting any payment at all.

Top tips on returning to work after maternity/paternity leave.

Try not to let other people’s opinions on how you should be raising your child and returning to work bother you. Some will think you are a terrible parent for coming back full time and some will think that you are a slacker because you don’t do the same amount of unpaid overtime as you used to - damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Just make a plan that works for you and your family, and stick to your guns because ultimately these are the people who matter the most.

Ginny Bowbrick, Consultant 
‘Be kind to yourself. It's okay to be upset and a bit tearful when you leave your child for the first time to go back to work. I felt like I'd lost a part of me the first time. It was easier the second time.’
Ginny Bowbrick, Consultant 

Read Ginny's Journey

Specialty: Vascular Surgery 

Career Stage: Consultant

Please describe your journey in regards to surgery, pregnancy and parenthood.

I have three children soon to be four as my wife is shortly due to give birth. My sons are 16, 13 and 13 and the twins are autistic with severe learning disabilities. I was a final year registrar when I was pregnant with my eldest and stopped undertaking nights and weekends (48 hours) on call when I was six months pregnant as I just couldn’t work the long hours by that stage.

When I was pregnant with the twins as a consultant I was able to carry on with my on calls until 32 weeks. The biggest issue apart from tiredness is being kicked while operating – especially two sets of feet under your liver! I was a single mother for several years and managed to survive by building up a support network around me of babysitters, friends and eventually a nanny. The twins diagnosis when they were three made life more challenging and they are now at a residential school. It was an extremely hard decision to make when they were nine years old but they are flourishing in their specialist school. I’m not sure I will ever come to terms with it though.

All through this time I have taken on additional roles. I once had to take my eldest when he was seven or eight to sit in the corner reading whilst I was undertaking my Annual Review of Competence Progression (ARCP) when I was a Training Programme Director (TPD) and had no childcare! He was perfectly behaved and nobody complained. However when he was in Year 3 and needed to take along an example of numbered instructions such as a recipe or furniture assembly for homework, I sent him with a one-to-ten on how to perform an above knee amputation photocopied from a book. His friends and teacher thought it was great. He was not amused. He is not planning to be a doctor.

What is one key piece of advice that you feel all surgeons considering or experiencing parenthood should know?

I didn’t realise that having a big bump would make it so difficult to reach the table. I thought it would squash but it doesn’t. You have to adapt how you stand instead.

Top tips on returning to work after maternity/paternity leave.

Be kind to yourself. It’s okay to be upset and a bit tearful when you leave your child for the first time to go back to work. I felt like I’d lost a part of me the first time. It was easier the second time. Using the hospital nursery helped especially when my eldest pushed a bead up his nose and I had to take him to the ENT department to have it removed before returning him to the nursery. You can also continue to breastfeed when you return to work but you need to discuss this with your managers. I successfully did for several more months for all three children following my return.

Kate Hancorn, Consultant
‘It is necessary to recognise what is really important at that time and that each situation is dynamic. One must not feel guilt for one or the other - children flourish with strong role models.’
Kate Hancorn, Consultant

Read Kate's Journey

Specialty: Colorectal and Trauma

Career Stage: Recently appointed Consultant, effective June 2020

Please describe your journey in regards to surgery, pregnancy and parenthood.

I have recently been appointed as a consultant after gaining a Certificate of Completion of Training (CCT) in General Surgery with Colorectal. After completing a 12 month fellowship in Trauma Surgery and spending time in Chicago, USA, I am going to work in one of the biggest and busiest major trauma centres in Europe. I have two young daughters age four and three years; I was pregnant during the latter years of training. As a mother, I balance work and the needs of my children and this can be a challenging juggling act. It is necessary to recognise what is really important at that time and that each situation is dynamic. One must not feel guilty for one or the other - children flourish with strong role models.

What is one key piece of advice that you feel all surgeons considering or experiencing parenthood should know?

Don’t be limited by other peoples’ sentiment; take advice and guidance, but find your own way that works for you and your family.

Top tips on returning to work after maternity/paternity leave.

Recognise you might need help and who to ask. Accept your limitations. On return, confidence is an issue, self-doubt levels are at their peak, but feel aware it will return. I believe being a mother complements my surgical career.

Nicola Stobbs, ST7
‘Be organised and proactive - time flies when you are off and before you know it, your start date is looming, so make sure if you are going back less than full time, you have applied for this with plenty of time, you have booked in all your return to work meetings and sorted your working days and rota.’
Nicola Stobbs, ST7

Read Nicola's Journey

Specialty: ENT

Career Stage: ST7

Please describe your journey in regards to surgery, pregnancy and parenthood.

I’m a 34 year old ST7 in ENT in South Yorkshire about to return to work after my first child, a little boy called Eddie who was born in May 2019. I didn’t enjoy being pregnant. Although we were delighted and very excited about having a baby, the actual physical aspects were pretty taxing. I had really bad morning sickness until about 20 weeks; highlights included regularly vomiting in the sink in clinic between patients! Once this settled, I then developed pelvic girdle problems which worsened over time to the extent I was wearing support belts, needing hydrotherapy and eventually crutches.

Surgery and on-calls were physically difficult when I got into my third trimester. I was doing a rhinology and facial plastics job, in which most operating is done standing up and I struggled. The bump was in the way of the table and I would often lose instruments under it and if I stood too close the baby would be kicking the patient - a bit awkward when doing a facial skin cancer under local anaesthetic! Work were supportive but I knew I would struggle working right up to the end so I had saved some leave to take before my maternity leave started but I ended up needing a couple of weeks sick leave as once I was using crutches I really wasn’t safe to be seeing patients.

It’s very strange being on the other side and being a patient and although my delivery was pretty straightforward, true to form as a medic I had some complications and a major PPH requiring emergency surgery, high dependency unit (HDU) stay and several transfusions. I would happily go through this all again though and it was all completely worth it as Eddie is absolutely amazing and I have completely loved my time off with him. Ironically, Eddie failed his new-born hearing screen and is profoundly deaf in his left ear due to a cochlear abnormality which brought its own issues when your baby has a problem in the area you work in, but we have had great treatment from the Sheffield Children’s Hospital and he is thriving using a bone anchored hearing aid on a soft band.

My time spent on maternity leave has been worlds apart from my usual daily routine and I didn’t feel I could go back to work full time after being off for nearly a year so with the support of my training programme director (TPD), I am going back at 80% which I feel gives me enough time at work to not significantly prolong my training but also allows me to have some quality time with my son.

What is one key piece of advice that you feel all surgeons considering or experiencing parenthood should know?

The logistics of childcare and regional placements are difficult! A lot of nurseries don’t open until 7.30am which is pretty unhelpful if your commute is over an hour and the ward round or team brief starts at 8am. I’m fortunate that my husband’s job can be a bit more flexible and we also live close to both sets of parents and siblings who can help out with drop off and pick-ups if needs be. However, a lot of people aren’t as lucky and if you are on your own or are both medical and still doing rotations then you need to look into childcare options early. Despite viewing our nursery before our baby was born and signing all the paperwork when he was six weeks old, they didn’t have availability every day and I have had to plan my return to work around this.

Top tips on returning to work after maternity/paternity leave.

Be organised and proactive - time flies when you are off and before you know it, your start date is looming, so make sure if you are going back less than full time, you have applied for this with plenty of time, you have booked in all of your return to work meetings and sorted your working days and rota.

Get involved in your local SuppoRTT department which supports trainees returning to work. They provide lots of information about returning after time out, can fund relevant specialty specific training courses and also run free workshops on topics like resilience and mindfulness.

Use your KIT days. Going back after a long time out can be daunting, but if you have been in even a couple of days, things like remembering where the secretaries offices are and familiarising yourself with the computer systems will make things much easier when you start back.

Ease yourself and your little one into things, if possible by starting their childcare (nursery/childminder/nanny/family members) before you start back. If your first day back after a year is also the first full day your child spends without you, then it’s going to be stressful! My little one started nursery just one day a week for a couple of months before I started back, to get him used to it and also so I could get some revision done.

 

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