International Women's Day
3 March 2021
For International Women's Day The Faculty of Remote, Rural and Humanitarian Healthcare (FRRHH) have spoken to women who work in all disciplines across remote, rural and humanitarian healthcare and asked them about their experiences and how they influence women in healthcare. FRRHH are delighted to celebrate the inspiring achievements which each of these women have contributed to the sector.
Professor Sandra MacRury, Consultant Physician, NHS Highland, Chair of Clinical Diabetes, Chair and Academic Lead of the Scottish Rural Health Partnership, and Head of Rural Health & Wellbeing, University of the Highlands and Islands, FRRHH Exec Committee Member
Sandra shared her experiences being involved with the aid to reduce the diabetes problems in the Highlands. She also leads by example and encourages women to put themselves forward when opportunities arise:
As an NHS Consultant I have led the development of our diabetes specialist service across Scotland’s largest rural health board. My appointment as a clinical chair in the University of the Highlands and Islands has involved the development of an academic unit for research in rural health and wellbeing. I believe strongly in equity of care for people living in rural areas and as academic lead for the Scottish Rural Health Partnership hosted by the university have been supporting calls for more action nationally on rural health and social care research and service provision. An example of a project successfully led by our diabetes team within the rural population in these recent times has been rolling out our RAPID technology-enabled community foot project across rural areas in Highland to reduce diabetes foot problems, improve connectivity and reduce travel.
It is important for women in medicine to put themselves forward when opportunities are presented around the challenges faced in health care and service delivery. I try to encourage my female colleagues across the multidisciplinary health team to embrace these openings and ensure women are represented as much as possible and I hope that I lead by example in this area.
Dr Freda Newlands, MBChB. BSc PGCE, Associate Specialist in Emergency Medicine, shared her experience working with Medecins Du Monde in Gaza, Palestine. She recognised a large inequality in the health and medical services for women and children and also the restricted access to resources in the event of a mass casualty:
This time last year, before the world changed due to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, I was working with Medecins Du Monde in Gaza, Palestine.
The stark inequalities in healthcare are very clear in Gaza with the local population being restricted in access to health across the region. In ‘peace-time’ there are 2 million people living in social deprivation on the Gaza Strip, at its widest 7km x 35km. Unemployment is widespread, the birth rate is higher than the death rate with a consequent skew in demographic and needs. Over 70% of this population are refugees.
This in turn alters the demands on healthcare. Provision of medical services for women and children are disproportionately low.
My role in Gaza was to help to develop an Emergency Contingency Plan for mass casualty management in the event of a surge of injured people from the regular Friday demonstrations in support of the Great March of Return, during which the Palestinians protest against the ongoing Israeli blockade.
Since March 2018, 266 people were killed and an estimated 30,000 injured. The medical services are ill equipped to cope with these numbers with no planning and few resources.
I am passionate about bearing witness to the injustice of the enforced blockade and the continued atrocities not only in Gaza but worldwide. If my role cannot be on the ground alongside the deprived and displaced populations, then my role at home is to inform others and try to ensure that their plight is kept at the forefront of the news.
This is not an easy task when there is a health emergency and pandemic affecting our own population.
Those living worldwide in poverty, at war and in low resource settings are also enduring the atrocities of SARS-CoV-2 and its consequences. The provision of vaccines to these countries is now a controversial item on the agenda for WHO and so called western democratic governments.
Dr. Sara Saeed Khurram, CEO/Co-founder at Sehat Kahani shared how she helps break barriers for women in the medical profession and show them they can still pursue their dreams as well as family life:
I choose to challenge a norm in my country called Doctor Brides that limits female doctors to pursue their dreams along with having a family by giving them a choice to work from their homes in far off communities unknown to them to provide qualified care to patients who have never seen a doctor in their life.
Ms Beatrix Weber FRCS(Ed), Remote and Rural Consultant General Surgeon, shares her love of surgery and her experiences in the field. She is a member of the Viking Surgeons Association and was a panellist in one of the recent rural surgery webinars in partnership with FRRHH.
Surgery is just such a great field to work in that I just could not give up. It is so wonderful when you can make a difference with your technical skills. Performing an operation well and successful and seeing a human recover is just the most satisfying experience. So, giving up because someone holds sexist views is just not an option. You try to find the members of the team near and far who will help and teach you. Fortunately, I can use my skills all over the world and could travel to find jobs in hospitals willing to train me. I am ever so grateful to some wonderful trainers in Germany, England, Australia and South Africa.
And now, even though I work in a small place, I still travel with the charity "Operation Hernia" to take my skills into the wider world.
I hope that talking with our students, junior doctors and advertising via any platform like Medical Women's Federation or the Viking Surgical Club one can show that surgeons can look different.