Question: What intrigued you to choose a career in healthcare?
Answer: I believe each person creates their own destiny, but in this instance my destiny might have been, at least partially, predetermined. My father was a paramedic. As a toddler he would be called out at night to video motor vehicle accidents for training purposes. I would wait up until the early morning hours for him to come to let me watch the videos. I started with first aid courses in grade 7 and passed my Basic Ambulance assistant course during the December holidays of my grade 10 year. I always thought I would become a trauma surgeon, but medical school taught me I like physiology more than anatomy and internal medicine more than surgery. Emergency medicine was a bit of a fluke, all government posts were frozen, and I read about ER Consulting. I very quickly fell in love with emergency medicine and five years later I am still lurking in the corners.
Question: Are women still underrepresented in healthcare?
Answer: Less so than in the past. While certain specialities still have a “boys club” most specialities have embraced a more diverse work environment. In all honesty, nepotism is a greater thread to the advancement of medicine than gender bias. I have to add a disclaimer that my experience is my own, and I have always worked in large cities and centres. It is possible that some doctors may have different experiences, especially in rural, more conservative areas of the country.
Question: Are there unique challenges that come with being a woman in the healthcare space?
Answer: My experience relates more to dealing with patients and families, rather than colleagues and institutions. Many people still hold onto the perception that a doctor needs to be male. Patients and their families often consider you to be a nursing staff member, despite introducing oneself as the doctor and wearing name badges. In actual fact, many patients are more likely to believe a male nursing staff member, even if they are wrong, than a female doctor. In general patients are also reluctant to be referred to a specialist doctor of colour, irrespective of their gender, qualifications or experience, irrespective of gender.
Question: How about the benefits?
Answer: Doctors, especially in the private sector is paid reasonably well. Depending on the company you work for you may receive a larger salary, but with fewer benefits. Continuous medical education and courses is a big focus for most companies, and as such is usually a benefit for permanent employees. The hours can be long and gruelling, but as you grow in your career you can start controlling your working hours more than you can when just starting out.
Question: How did you advance to leadership?
Answer: Hardwork, dedication and loyalty. I started out as a young doctor immediately post-community service entering the field of emergency medicine with very little experience in the field. I had amazing colleagues who supported me and mentored me through the years, both to grow as a doctor and a leader. Ironically enough, most of these key players were male doctors as they often feel less threatened by seeing a female colleague advance her career, unlike females who often feel that they still need to prove their worth in a previously male-dominated field. This clearly speaks to the fact that as women we need to place a bigger emphasise on supporting each other both inside and outside the workplace.
Question: How do you see the future of healthcare?
Answer: COVID has changed health care for ever, some things for good and many things for worse. New, modern equipment and techniques are developed every day to reduce what is often seen as unpreventable harm during health care visits. Minimally invasive procedures and the utilisation of point-of-care ultrasound are examples. On the negative side of the spectrum the field of medicine has become extremely commercialised. Access to health care is neither standardised nor equitable. Due to the thread of medicolegal action many doctors are increasingly practising defensive medicine with patients incurring unnecessary loss of productive time and money to special investigations and specialist referrals in an attempt from the medical fraternity to protect themselves from bad faith litigation. This trend is only going to get worse in future if something drastic does not change.
Question: What changes do you think are still needed in the industry?
Answer: We need to support and nurture our junior doctors more. Many to most of us come from an era where working 36-hours for two or three days in a row was the expected norm. Learning through humiliation was simply the way things were done. It is my sincere hope that in future the medical fraternity will take a more humane approach to dealing with junior doctors and specialist trainees, especially in the government sector, and that they will be afforded more protection by labour laws. There is no bigger tragedy than losing a young doctor in a car accident after a 36-hours shift caused by lack of sleep and severe fatigue.
Question: What’s next for your career?
Answer: I just started my new position as a Clinical Manager in the company. I hope to inspire and bring about major changes both in the clinical practice and clinical culture across all the ER Consulting units in the country. We need to live up to our vision statement to be the best, most innovative emergency medicine corporation in Africa, Europe and the Middle East.