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'Women Like Me'

05 May 2015

Ms Sabreena Mahroof

Becoming a consultant hand surgeon has proven to be a very fulfilling career.  As a medical student, it was inspirational to watch a leprosy surgeon in Nepal perform complex hand surgery, in a small hospital in the foothills of the Himalayas, with the most basic of surgical instruments.  The challenges of balancing career goals with a normal family life is no different whatever your gender.

I joined Women in Surgery (WinS) in 1997 after being perfunctorily tossed a pamphlet by a gruff, nonchalant consultant; ‘Women in Surgical Trousers’ he mumbled, retreating rapidly after giving me the piece of paper he had torn out of a magazine about WIST - as it was called then.  It was empowering knowing there were women not just achieving but excelling in surgical careers across the UK in all specialities.  Joining the WinS committee to continue to enthuse more young women like my daughters to join the ranks - and normalise the role of women in surgery - was just a no brainer.

On Friday (8th May), the seventh WinS Conference will take place in my home city of Birmingham, to celebrate the many talented female surgeons who work in this country.

The title of this year’s conference is ‘Women Like Me’ and it will demonstrate how a range of women have carved out unique and successful surgical careers across a range different specialities; from operating, to leading pioneering surgical research projects.  The conference will hear how different female surgeons used personal interests and activities to fulfil both their personal and professional goals.

Those of us who work as surgeons have a responsibility to encourage both male and female doctors to enter the profession; and support those who are able to, to rise up the ranks. The number of women entering surgery has risen to around 30%, however, we know that at the consultant level, only around 10 per cent of surgeons are women.

The majority of medical students are now women. There is a risk of potential shortfalls in the surgical workforce in the future if we do not do more to attract women.  If we want the best doctors to become surgeons, so patients receive the highest standards of care, we need to attract men and women from the full talent pool at medical schools.

The RCS’s WinS Group is showing, through this conference, the diverse range of women who are specialising as surgeons and the huge contribution they make to patients.  I hope that female medical students, junior doctors and school pupils will identify with these positive female role models and realise the extraordinary opportunities and experiences that a surgical career could offer them; as I did 18 years ago.

  • The WinS conference will take place at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre on Friday 8th May, 2015. If you are a medical student, doctor, or surgeon and would like to attend, please come along on the day, or email jroberts@rcseng.ac.uk.
  • The Women in Surgery Group (WinS) at the Royal College of Surgeons provides advice, guidance and pastoral support for female surgeons or women who are considering a career in surgery.

Ms Sabreena Mahroof is a Consultant Hand Surgeon and a member of the Women in Surgery (WinS) Group at the Royal College of Surgeons. This supports female surgeons and women who are considering a career in surgery.

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