Friday, March 20, 2009


I recently attended some lectures where the speaker told us about an exam question she'd set about adherence to HIV drugs. Some guy had answered: 1. Rural people cannot be trusted to be adherent 2. Especially women.

Needless to say, he failed.

It got me thinking about sexism in medicine. It's is one of the disciplines where sexism is not really an issue anymore. Females doctors are equally respected and are paid the same for doing the same job. But sexism definately still rears its ugly head on occasion. Especially in surgery. I recently experienced it myself. At least I think it was. Maybe I'm wrong.

There's this surgeon who I assisted every Friday. I then went on maternity leave but there was an understanding that when I came back, I would once again be his regular Friday assistant. However, when my maternity leave was over, he told me that he had gotten a new regular assistant, an older man, and that he couldn't just let this guy down. He suggested I could assist him every alternate Friday. I pointed out that he had essentially given my job away. I told him that the clinic where I work the rest of the time had also gotten a replacement while I was away, but had told that locum that when I came back, they would have to leave. Let me just mention here that I was on unpaid leave, so my employers didn't even lose any money while I was away. Anyway, the surgeon eventually agreed that I should be his regular Friday assistant again.

This past Friday, I assisted, but the first case was a Nissen so the new guy was also there. He took of aside and said I could decide what I wanted to do. Of I course I said that I would prefer to do the camera work if he didn't mind. He said it's fine, but when we told the surgeon our decision, he said he wanted the new guy to do the camera work since his eye was now in (and I had just come back) and that I could do it next time. Fair enough, I thought.

Okay, here comes the incident in question. I noticed that the surgeon allowed the new guy to do all the prep work for the op. He had never allowed me to do this. He was always a control freak when I assisted him. He always did all the prep work because he said he was the only one who could do it properly. I thought he was just being a typical surgeon. Yet, now, he was letting the new guy do everything. After the op, I spoke to him in private and asked why he never allowed me to do the prep work but allowed the new guy to do it. He said that he trusted new guy because he had corrected him on all his flaws and had perfected his technique. He tried to make light of it and told me I might find it funny to know that the first time the new guy did it, he didn't dry the lenses properly and it was a complete mess up. He laughed. I didn't find it funny. What I got out of this little exchange was that the first time new guy took the equipment and started to prepare it, the surgeon did not stop him as he had always done me. And even though he messed up, the surgeon allowed him to do it again a few times, because that's what it takes to "perfect your technique" in my mind. I didn't say anything more on the topic.

Maybe I just misinterpreted what happened, but I doubt it.

Leave of absence

I haven't posted for a long time. Having two small children and then going back to work as well has kept me busier than I could ever have imagined, so I haven't had much time to do anything else, let alone blog. This has also been aggravated by the fact that my phone's been giving me problems so I couldn't blog with it, and I can't usually use the computer at home because a certain surgeon tends to hog it :) Hopefully I can get back into things now.