Shabnam Parkar, 1992 to 1999
What do you do now?
I am a Paediatric Surgeon in London. I qualified 5 years ago in medicine, and after completing my basic surgical training, I am currently in my 1st year of higher specialist training as a registrar in paediatric surgery. This is a 6 year scheme and I am one of the youngest to get to this stage at present.
How did you get into this line of work?
I actually hated the sight of blood as a child! After spending time at hospital for asthma, I got to see what the doctors were like and how they worked, and this made me more determined to pursue this field.
I qualified in Medicine from Imperial College, London in 2005. I completed my foundation years 1&2 as a junior doctor first in Colchester than in West London. During my last few years in medical school I decided that I wanted to work in a field that incorporated surgery and working with children. I obtained a run through surgical training post in London which is an 8 year programme and leads to consultantship. 1500 people applied for 30 jobs in London, I fought through with sheer determination and gained a post! The first two years are for basic surgical training, and then one begins to specialise during their higher specialist training from years 3-8. I did my basic surgical training at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, Hammersmith and Charing Cross, and did general surgery, cardiothoracics and plastics. I also did 6 months of paediatric surgery at Great Ormond Street Hospital;a place I aspire to work in again.
After completing basic surgical training, we apply competitively to the specialist field we want to pursue within surgery. I chose paediatric surgery and the fact that they were only four jobs in London and Kent didnt put me off!
I began my 1st year of higher specialist training as a paediatric surgical registrarlast October and was told I was one of the youngest in the UK to achieve this level at my age. I am currently working at St Georges Hospital in London. I am also developing a virtual simulator for training in laparoscopic surgery and will be presenting it at a conference in Hawaii this year! I am still developing it and applying for funding.
Has it been difficult in a traditionally mans world?
Even though times have changed and there is more equality, women still have it that little bit harder in surgery. My perceptions changed since medical school. Initially I perceived surgery as being a mans world and that to go far as a woman, one would have to be like a man, and choose between family and career. I wanted both. I put surgery to one side and thought Id choose paediatrics (medical). However I began to see more and more successful female surgeons in their chosen field. These were young bright successful females who had a family and a personality! They were not the bolshy types with a chip on their shoulder! Of course you still see these types of women, but there is now scope and support for more females in surgery. Women can go part time or do flexible training so they can have a family as well. Of course, there are times where I feel you have to try that little bit harder as a woman to be fully accepted and show your commitment, but if you work harder, persevere and show assertiveness, you can go far. There are also associations to get involved in including WIST, women in surgery, and the Royal College of Surgeons had many successful women as councillors. In fact, if you visit the Royal College in London, go to the 2nd lecture hall, there is a large mural there with paintings of all the successful female surgeons in the history of the College, including Avril Mansfield, the first female president of the Royal College. It is very inspirational.
What does it take to be successful?
Sheer determination, self belief and hard work! You must have a passion for what you want to pursue, this will drive you forward through the good times but especially through the hardships. Have complete belief in yourself, do not let anyone put you off in what you want to pursue. Use that to make you work harder. In saying this, go in with an open mind and listen to those who give you advice, use that to help you. Preparation is the key and good knowledge of the field and where it is going in the future is extremely helpful. Expect the ride ahead to be difficult because only then you will keep your feet on the ground and not be complacent. Be prepared to work hardthen your goal will be more achievable. Use every moment you have as a learning lesson, have your goals in mind and dont look back.
Any advice for Westholme girls today?
Education is the key, without this you have nothing to fall back on. Learning is not just about the academic side, when you look back you realise you learn more than just that at school, you learn about life, but you do more of this at University too. Work hard now to make the journey easier later. If you have a career in mind, never let anyone put you off or give it up. Only you can let yourself down by giving up. It is your dream and your dream for a reason. You must firstly believe that you have it in you to do it, you must be prepared to work hard to get it, but once you get it, no one can take it from you. This is the comfort you should aim to get once you achieve your goal. Listen to those around you for advice, be humble yet determined. Look at the field you want to pursue and see where it is heading in the future. Preparation, time management and hard work is the key. And most importantly, enjoy the journey to get there.