Report by: Maha Khan, ST5, Salford Royal Hospitals NHS Trust
On the first rainy morning of autumn I made my way to the Royal College of General Practitioners, for the Royal College of Surgeons’ Women in Surgery section’s Lift As You Climb Conference. The programme promised delegates the opportunity to hear from inspiring and influential speakers, to seek advice on a range of practical challenges faced by contemporary female surgeons, and to meet both peers and pioneers in Surgery. I was honoured to be representing ENT UK and its Women in ENT (WENTs) section.
The programme was divided into lectures, panel and breakout sessions targeted at different career stages. The programme was opened by Professor Michael Escudier, Dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery and RCS Emerging Leaders Champion, and Dr Laura Gartshore, 2018-2019 fellow of the RCS Lady Estelle Wolfson Emerging Leaders Fellowship.
Ms Sanja Besarovic, Consultant Paediatric Surgeon of Hull University Teaching Hospitals, described her journey from wartime surgical trainee to refugee and eventually to consultant. Her summarising message was one of inspiration; appreciate that a longer training journey may provide you with additional skills which should be valued, and if you aspire to a goal, go for it!
Tharsika Myuran, Mona Mozaffari and Maha Khan representing ENT UK.
The first, of the two keynote lectures was delivered by Nabila Tejpar, Champion of the 2017 and 2018 British Rally Ladies’ Championship. Nabila charismatically spoke of her journey to success in a hugely male dominated field, choosing never to view gender as a limiting factor. She spoke candidly about success and also failure, and the power of reflection and perseverance. Her powerful messages could not have been more relevant to a career in surgery. The second Keynote lecture by Professor Richard Canter, Visiting Professor of Surgical Education at The University of Oxford, was incredibly entertaining but also invaluable in illustrating how to approach failure, using a number of colourful anecdotes from the speaker’s own life. Messages of leadership, resilience, managing expectations and setback, and taking opportunity resounded from the academic programme of the day.
During the panel sessions it was encouraging to hear of the challenges faced and overcome by these leaders, and reassuring to learn that their experiences are not dissimilar from those of the current surgical trainee.
The academic programme was closed by Ms Stella Vig, an inspiring speaker who described her own journey to her achievements of Consultant Vascular Surgeon, Foundation Programme Director and RCS Council Member, but also of mother, wife and trainer. This felt like an apt ending to an inspiring day, putting achievement and ambition into a very real context of resilience, mutual support and life outside surgery.
The conference was informal and baby friendly. A number of colleagues attended with their infants who were welcomed into all the academic session and provided with a quiet room if required. Overall it was a motivating and enjoyable day which I look forward to being part of again.