Women in Medicine – an Israeli Perspective

On 11th March the Association organised a discussion meeting to hear Prof Paltiel talk about the theme of “Women in Medicine – an Israeli Perspective”.

This meeting followed on from Prof Parveen Kumar’s 2017 meeting with the leading women in Israeli medicine, held at the British Embassy in Ramat Gan, when she was Henry Cohen Visiting Professor. In her subsequent lecture to the Association’s Annual General Meeting Prof Kumar noted that Dr Lotte Newman had played a leading role in the Medical Women’s Federation (MWF), as she had done in the Association.

In her talk Prof Paltiel reviewed the status quo in Israel. As in the UK women are not represented proportionately  in surgical specialities and academic medicine. The Israeli Medical Association Taskforce had summarised the situation in 2015, and their report with recommendations was published recently.

In conclusion Prof Paltiel summarised her personal experience. She said that we should have no regrets – meaning doing more (training, volunteering, showing up) than is reasonable at any given time. Biology is fate not a handicap; a realistic professional mix of clinical, teaching and research) can lead to flexibility if you are well-trained; work-life balance requires decisions rather than defaults. You need to choose your partner (and nanny) carefully and to be a mentor to other women. But most of all “you must enjoy life and the greatest privilege of all – being a doctor!”

Two Association members, Dr Nicola Rosenfelder (Consultant Oncologist) and Dr Naomi Katz (General Practitioner and Care Commissioning Group Vice Chair) outlined their perception of the present situation in the UK. The areas where women were disadvantaged and / or “disappeared” were noted, but the progress that had been made in the 21st century was reflected in the changes that have occurred in College hierarchy and in senior NHS management respectively. Notably women that (manage to?) emerge from the stresses of postgraduate training period, medicine is an excellent career in which they had the potential to thrive.

Senior members of the UK MWF were at the event and took part in the discussion. The immediate past President, Prof Parveen Kumar, and the current President, Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones, reflected on their personal experiences. Prof Kumar recalled her situation as the only woman on a Gastroenterology Unit at Barts, and compared this with the present; and Dr Bowden-Jones noted that she had been able to pursue an academic and clinical career in the field of addiction psychiatry successfully.

A vote of thanks to all the participants was proposed by Prof Liz Lightstone.