The first black female Orthopedic Surgeon in Britain
The ‘Answers to Thriving' is an ongoing interview series that takes a look at the women who have created a life of success. We uncover key moments, lessons and habits that have influenced the life they lead today.
YOU can’t start the day without:
Earl Grey Tea – decaffeinated; I have more natural energy without
A favourite quote:
' Seize the day!'
One wellness ritual you do regularly:
10 mins of high intensity interval training every morning through an app called 8fit. Also, I don't eat any sugar, to avoid any lows.
A recommended read for personal growth:
These are three books on my bookshelf that I have come back to over the years. I tend to take bits of what I need at the time. The Secret by Rhonda Byrne, The road less travelled by M. Scott Peck & In the meantime by Iyanla Vanzant
Someone you find particularly inspiring at the moment:
Well, for me, it’s very easy to be inspired. I’m surrounded by people I find very inspirational. Either it’s someone who overcame a particular obstacle or someone who is at the forefront of their field. I gain inspiration just seeing people giving the best of themselves. Wherever I look around me, there’s always inspiration to be found.
IN regards to your career, was Orthopedics an obvious path for you to take?
When I was seven years old I told my father I was going to be a surgeon when I grew up, but I have no idea where the idea came from! I did have elderly relatives – grandparents and great aunts – who died in the home when I was a younger, so that may have had an impact on me. Funnily enough, I didn’t say doctor, I said surgeon - I don’t think I even knew what it meant at the time!
Throughout my whole childhood, I was determined that was what I was going to do, so I worked towards getting into medical school. Once I got there I then became interested in different aspects of medicine and considered becoming a psychiatrist or even a cardiologist, but ultimately came back to surgery. I think it aligned very well with my personality, I was always fixing things and using my hands. I loved studying anatomy, so it was a natural progression. The reason I chose to specialize in orthopedic surgery was because the first female surgeon I ever met was an orthopedic surgeon and that made a tremendous impact upon me. I also love that I get to see people enjoying the benefits of their surgery within very short spaces of time.
Looking back, can you recall the defining moments, which enabled you to have the career and life you do today?
There were times when it was tough because studying medicine is a long haul. There are exams upon exams and there was a point where I thought I was going to give up. My friends studying other subjects would be out partying and I would be having to do yet another exam and then during the holidays, I would have to work in a hospital doing clinical attachments - it really felt like I was always working. One day, a consultant sat me down and asked me what else I would rather do instead of surgery – there was nothing, it was what I had always wanted. He talked to me about his experience of a career in surgery and it really helped me regain my motivation to keep going. That was definitely a defining moment for me and I’m so glad I put in the hard work early on because I absolutely love my job.
Has there been a particular person or people, who really helped you progress your career?
Yes, I’ve had a few mentors, I’ve been very fortunate. Three very inspirational men, one general surgeon and two orthopedic surgeons. The first I met when I was a junior surgeon. He gave me advice at a time when I was making choices about specialisms and guided me through the exam process. Once I had decided on a Orthopaedics as a career I met my next mentor who made sure that I met lots of influential Orthopaedic surgeons and attended important meetings. Once I had been accepted onto training program, my Professor of orthopedics recognised that there weren’t many women in the field and this was something he wanted to change. He noticed that I wasn’t very good at selling myself and I was lacking in confidence compared to my male counterparts. I didn’t realise at the time, but whenever I was due to rotate to another hospital, he would write ahead to tell them about my qualities and areas in which I needed support. He did that for all his trainees, wherever they had deficiencies, he really took an interest and I found that to be really wonderful.
I think it’s important, when looking for a mentor, to realise it doesn’t necessarily have to be someone like you, just someone who is forward thinking and who really cares.
He noticed that I wasn’t very good at selling myself and I was lacking in confidence compared to my male counterparts. Whenever I was due to rotate to another hospital, he would write ahead to tell them about my qualities and areas in which I needed support.
Did you approach your mentors, or did they just naturally take you on?
They just naturally took me on. I think that they saw something in me. I was very enthusiastic. I think when you have passion for something, you can’t help but inspire others to want to help you. People will see that in you and want to encourage it. I see that with my students as well – if I see that they’re really keen to learn and are motivated, then I’m going to show more interest.
Has there been a particular fear that you’ve had to overcome in order to pursue your ambitions?
Definitely! I don’t think I’ve overcome it yet. I have a big fear of failing, a fear of failure or of not being good enough. But at the same time, that’s what drives me. I’m always trying to be a better person, to do better, to do more. I also have a tremendous fear of public speaking. However, I still push myself. When people invite me to do talks, I do them despite my fear! It’s easier if I’m talking on a medical subject because then I know I’m the expert in the room. I suppose it all comes back to the ability to sell and promote yourself, which I still have difficulty with.
I also have a tremendous fear of public speaking. However, I still push myself. When people invite me to do talks, I do them despite my fear!
Is there a challenge that you had to face and conquer that you’re particularly proud of?
Well, this fear of public speaking is a real issue for me. In fact, I remember, when I was five or six I had to do a cultural show in Guyana, where I was born. I had been practicing and was fine in rehearsals, but when the time came and I went on stage and saw all the people, I just froze and ran off. I was mortified and I guess that feeling has remained with me. When I began to progress in my career, I realised I was going to have to come to terms with public speaking, so I joined an organisation called Toastmasters, to try to conquer my fear. I still have that fear but now I don’t let it get the better of me!
Is there any career or life advice you now know, that you wish you’d been given in your early 20s?
Yes. I would definitely say that it’s so important that you have a balance in your life. I wish that someone had told me that when I was younger. It was very difficult for me as there weren’t many women doing orthopedics and I felt that I had to stay at the same pace as the guys. But what that meant was that I neglected my personal life and as a consequence, I never managed to have children, which is something I would have loved. I wish someone had told me that was equally important as my career and it’s something I discuss today with young female surgeons.
Everyone’s path is different and we all have to find our own way. It’s so important to keep that life balance in mind.
For women who want to make a positive change in their life but don’t know where to start, what advice would you give them?
My advice is to write down the things that are really important to you and all the things you want to achieve and then just make a start. If you start with the bigger things, you can start to feel overwhelmed, so begin with the easy things. Break it down and just take one step at a time, but get started!
Write down the things that are really important to you and all the things you want to achieve and then just make a start.
What does thriving mean to you?
To thrive is to be in a position of peace and to be peaceful on all levels - emotionally spiritually and financially. That’s what thriving means to me.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with women who are aspiring to develop themselves further?
I would like to say that we all have the tools to be the person that we want to be. We don’t need to be better than we are, we just need to tap into what’s already there. I really do believe that and I think it’s so important to talk and to share.
We all have the tools to be the person that we want to be. We don’t need to be better than we are, we just need to tap into what’s already there.
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