Dr Sally Ayesa
A love letter to women in radiology
As I write, I am wrapping up a life changing couple of days in Auckland after attending the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiology Annual Meeting. It is my fourth such event, and while I have definitely come away from each of them feeling energised and inspired, this time is a little different.
This year has been a turning point for my career and my life. Emerging from a rigid radiology training structure to return to the place where I first held a reporting microphone and read a scan, has metaphorically (and almost literally) brought me back full circle. With this, I have been provided a unique opportunity for reflection. As I see it, this year has allowed me to finally start to follow my passions in earnest. To grow into myself. This week, I have simultaneously felt inspired, humbled, scared, honoured and overwhelmed.
Conferences will always decree their theme, however my theme this week has been about inspiration. My mentors and heroes have been a mixture of strong men and women, both in radiology and outside of radiology, however this week brought home the importance of having strong female role models as a growing radiologist. And with that - how important it is to be as good a role model as you can be for the next generation of young women who are your current and future colleagues.
Women in radiology, as with other facets of work and life, are faced with many challenges. Some are overarching and reflect the challenges of radiology and working in health as a whole, and some are more unique.
This week I was outraged to hear of a friend (who has worked her guts out to carve out her career in interventional radiology), was asked by a potential employer how she was going to manage her young child since both her and her husband were working. It reminded me of the sting I felt not two weeks ago when I was discussing covering an out of hours meeting with my head of department, only to have another (well meaning) consultant pipe up and say it was inappropriate to ask me because I was a mother.
I sat in the audience and listened to a panel of seven inspiring female doctors in turn describe the times they felt like an imposter, feeling like their achievements were a series of good luck. I often feel the same (if you are interested I have written about it here). Listening to these women speak, however, the absurdity of this hit me. I knew some of them - and their success was definitely no accident. They were successful because they were kind, hard working, generous of spirit and keen thinkers. To see them on stage showing vulnerability alongside strength was truely inspiring, and it made me want to be stronger.
Overwhelmingly so, this week has allowed me to connect with women who I always dreamed I could grow to be like. I have spoken candidly with leaders in my field, who I have looked up to for years. I have shared hugs and laughs and clinked glasses with women who have shaped my career from a far. I have been able to share the experience with some dear friends who build me up and support me regardless of whether I am at my best or worst. I have spoken with the next generation, sharing the excitement that comes with starting out on the journey that is a career in radiology. Reflecting, feeling lucky doesn't even cover it.
The beauty of these women is that regardless of their experience or their stature in the radiology community, they are not just willing but excited to connect, befriend and mentor those around them. There is no pushing anyone down, rather you are met with welcoming smiles and enthusiasm.
As radiologists, we are a strong community, made of strong women and men. We all deserve to be included, to be valued and to be heard. Thank you to the strong women (and men) who make me feel all of those things.