The Only Girl in the Room

At last night’s meeting of the League of Surgical Educators, we reviewed Hill & Vaughan’s paper on gendered medical student experiences in surgery, “The only girl in the room: how paradigmatic trajectories deter female students from surgical careers.” The paper was excellent and stimulated a wide-ranging discussion about career decisions for all medical students. Lessons I took away from the discussion were:

1. You only have one life, and you have to decide for yourself how to live it. All choices have consequences, and every path you take will contain regrets.

2. Don’t take anyone else’s word for it when you’re making important decisions about your life. Don’t let anyone tell you what you can’t be.

3. Becoming a physician is hard, regardless of which speciality you choose. There are plenty of other specialities which require hard work and dedication, and plenty of unhappy doctors in non-surgical specialities. The narrative about a surgical career requiring sacrifice is a powerful one (see also: Grey’s Anatomy), but it’s not necessarily true and it doesn’t have to be that way if you don’t want.

4. We need more good people in surgery, regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation or class.

Click on the image below for the abstract.


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  1. It’s great to hear that our paper has been reviewed by the League of Surgical Educators, thank you for blogging what you took away from the discussion. I’m really glad to see that it sparked a positive discussion about access to surgical careers. Elspeth and I were very keen to ensure we weren’t simply reinforcing the discourse around surgery – we wanted to understand more about why many women were choosing not to enter the domain in order to allow any assumptions to be challenged. Happy to read that’s exactly what happened when you reviewed the paper. All the best to everyone pursuing a career in surgery – pioneer your own trajectories of success!

  2. Agree on you! Fine point of view

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