#ChooseToChallenge is the theme of this year’s International Women's Day (IWD). IWD is an annual event that dates back to 1911. It’s a day when everyone is invited to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. It is also an opportunity to highlight the need for more action to accelerate gender parity.
Within pathology, women’s ability to work and develop and compete with their male peers, has not always led to equal opportunities around the world, professional and academic progress for women often remain entrenched. Until the mid-20th century women were outnumbered at medical schools – a female physician would have been an exception. Since then, this gender balance has been better addressed globally and the number of women in medical schools and later in the various medical, clinical and academic fields, has increased. It is vital however that we remain on this trajectory.
In keeping with the theme of this year’s IWD, the College’s International team asked Professor Maysa Al-Hussaini who lives and works in Jordan and Dr Estefania Ochoa located in Ecuador what #ChooseToChallenge means to them. We also took the opportunity to find out what enthuses them about what they do and the contribution they make to pathology and healthcare. We hear from them about what their message is to anyone who aspires to work in the field of pathology, or someone in the very early stages of their training or career. Here is what they said.
Professor Maysa Al-Hussaini FRCPath
The Royal College of Pathologists, International Regional Advisor for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), Consultant Histopathologist/Neuropathologist, King Hussein Cancer Centre, Jordan.
As a woman working in pathology, to be able to succeed and sustain the progress in my career has meant I have had to overcome successive challenges, such as performing post-mortem investigations as part of the training and examinations, which meant conquering my fears of surgically facing a dead body. Working long hours and weekends has also required sacrificing time with my family, much of which was, and still is, scarce.
It has taken immense effort, dedication and commitment to be recognised as a peer among my colleagues and to achieve what I thankfully consider success. This has led to me holding roles as President of the Arab Division of the International Academy of Pathology and as the Scientific Chair of the Jordanian Society of Pathologists.
Pathology never stops amazing me. I love sitting behind my microscope (which I pamper and adore!). I am mesmerised by the beauty in the colours, e.g pink, blue and gold that I see when I surf through slides. The full complement of colours and shapes that appear as you work to cross threads and tie together loose ends that guide you to a final diagnosis is fascinating. Being able to reach a diagnosis which determines the best treatment for the patient to make their journey less exhausting and moving in the right direction is a contribution that I am grateful to be able to make to the world. I also find joy in radiating my passion and enthusiasm to medical students, those early in their career and to the public. I am proud to have done this throughout my work. It is these things that most enthuse me about what I do.
A genuine word of advice to all those who just stepped into pathology or are considering it as a career. This is a move in the right direction. It is worth all the hours of studying, specimen dissection and reporting microscopy, which will determine how each and every patient should be treated. It is a discipline that will always challenge you, sometimes beyond what you think possible. But it will always keep you ahead of all other disciplines. Pathology will guarantee that you have answers when others do not, or when they are unsure.
Dr Estefania Ochoa
As a medical doctor with a specialty in clinical pathology and a master’s degree in medical microbiology, Estefania is a coordinator at a private laboratory in Ecuador, where she supervises science technicians who implement tests and verify them before they are used in the community. Additionally, she monitors quality control in different areas of the lab and validates results according to clinical information and provides advice about the optimal conditions under which to carry out different tests.
For me #ChooseToChallenge means overcoming many obstacles in life when there is no other option, but to rise and shine to the challenge and contribute to a team. Also, developing and securing results that provide information to improve peoples’ lives despite the many opposing factors. It means standing up for your dreams and hopefully helping to open up opportunities for women in areas which are mainly dominated by men, helping to create a more balanced working environment and society.
I am enthused by what I do, firstly because I find the world of laboratory medicine fascinating since it affects every pathway in medicine. As a supporting branch of medicine, it helps to confirm diagnosis, surveillance, and detection of diseases in all specialities. I passionately believe that laboratory medicine used well makes a significant contribution to the medical field. It has always had a major part to play and during this pandemic its role has been even more elevated.
My message to those starting out training for a career in pathology would be to place more focus on understanding that in this field of medicine we have the potential to touch the lives of millions. Therefore, it is important to understand the responsibility and the science behind every procedure and the importance of making a clinical correlation to safely validate and report valuable data, to make the fullest contribution to the health and wellbeing of patients.