To celebrate International Women’s day UKMLAforums are delighted to present our first ever opinion piece. Meet our guest blogger Lily Copping, she currently a medical student and the Women’s representative for Barts and the London Medical School
Inspirational women in medicine
As the world geared up for International Women’s Day, I’d been thinking a lot about women in medicine. We’ve made so many steps towards equality, yet there is still a mile to go. Here are a few of the women I look to for inspiration:
Dr Jane C Wright
Dr Wright is responsible for modern chemotherapy treatment, the use of tissue culture for testing the effects of drugs on tumour cells and the establishment of methotrexate in the treatment of breast and skin cancer. She has been awarded multiple times with awards such as the Spirit of Achievement Award from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, the American Association for Cancer Research Award and the Otelia Cromwell Award. She is also recognised as a notable African-American woman in medicine.
Dr Wendy Savage
One woman who has stood in the face of discrimination within medicine, and healthcare, is Dr Wendy Savage, an obstetrician and gynaecologist who worked at The London Hospital in the 1980s. In 1985, she was suspended from her post at the London Hospital Medical College for ‘incompetence’ and her strong opinions for “women’s rights to a say in their method of delivery and in their rights to abortion’ (British Medical Journal, 1986).
Dr Savage clearly faced frustrating opinions and resistant environments, yet endured, fought her case, and was cleared and reinstated less than 12 months after in 1986. She is now an inspiration for generations of medical students fighting for what they believe in.
Dame Parveen Kumar
As a Barts and The London student, Dame Parveen Kumar is a household name. Dr Kumar graduated from Barts in 1966 and subsequently worked in several East London hospitals for 44 years as a gastroenterologist. But these are only the beginning!
Aside from several other clinical achievements, Kumar has also held the posts of Chairman of the UK Medicines Commission, President of the British Medical Association, President of the Royal Society of Medicine and a founding non-executive director of the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE), among others. Dr Kumar has been awarded numerous awards for the work she’s done, including a CBE for Services to Medicine, a BMA gold medal for services to medical education, a BAPIO (British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin) Lifetime Achievement award and was the first Asian Woman of the Year (Professional) in 1999.
If you too are slightly intimidated by the seemingly endless list of Dr Kumar’s achievements, I’m right there with you. Dr Kumar has paved the way for women medical students (particularly women of colour) to achieve their wildest dreams, as doctors and dreamers.
Dr Swee Chai Ang
Dr Ang was born in Penang, Malaysia and studied in Singapore. She completed her medical degree in 1973 and in 1976, her master’s in occupational medicine. In 1977, she arrived in London as a refugee. She went on to become the first female orthopaedic consultant appointed to the St Bartholomew and the Royal London Hospitals.
In the late 1980s, she volunteered as a trauma and orthopaedics consultant in the refugee camps of Lebanon, and later for the United Nations in Gaza and World Health Organisation in the West Bank. She is the Co-Founder and Patron of the British Charity Medical Aid for Palestinians. She has responded and treated the victims of the Pakistan (Kashmir) earthquake and the 2005 suicide bombings in London.
Dr Ang is the co-author of the books ‘War Surgery’ and ‘Acute Care of the War Wounded’. In addition to other orthopaedic publications, she also wrote ‘From Beirut to Jerusalem’, documenting her experience in the Palestinian Refugee Camps in Lebanon and Gaza.
Dr Ang is an amazing example of a woman who has worked in extremely difficult situations, and has turned her experiences into opportunities.
Dr Averil Mansfield
Dr Mansfield was a vascular surgeon and pioneered a stroke-preventing arterial surgery. She went on to become the UK’s first female professor of surgery and the president of the British Medical Association (BMA). She was awarded a CBE in 1999 for services to surgery.
As I’m sure you’re aware, we also have Mothering Sunday coming up. It’s so easy to forget the sacrifice our mothers make, and have made, to ensure our happiness and success, especially as busy medical students. My mum is currently battling cancer (forgive the cliché of ‘battle’) and for me, it has put her strength in a completely new light. I guess I can include her in this ode to inspirational women in medicine, as she is a doctor too.
Take the time in the next couple of weeks to appreciate the women who have helped you get to where you are today, and where you’ll go.
About the Author:
Lily is currently a second year medical student in London. She writes on the BMA Future Doctors blog, her own website (diaryofanoverthinker.com) and other outlets!