Guest Blog: Edinburgh’s New MWF Student Committee

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It has taken 100 years for the Medical Women’s Federation to return home to Edinburgh, the city where Jex-Blake and the Edinburgh Seven first bravely battled for women to have the right to attend university and study medicine. Fortunately, the trend caught on - over 600 women are currently on the MBChB programme at Edinburgh Medical School and this year saw the founding of our first student-led MWF committee.

Eager and enthusiastic, the committee spans all six year groups and has brought together likeminded women who are keen to represent the views and ideals of Edinburgh’s medics and promote equality and inclusivity on campus.

We already have a full timetable of events planned for the coming year and are excited to partner with and work alongside other prominent student groups such as Edinburgh University Feminist Society, Edinburgh University Obstetrics and Gynaecology Society and another innovative new team, Edinburgh University Medical Ethics and Humanities Society. Through these interdisciplinary collaborations, we hope to raise the profile of the MWF and reach out to the greatest number of students possible, whilst hosting a larger number of events on campus than each group would be able to individually.

edinburgh student committee

Our first event of the year was an overriding success – a lecture on the benefits and challenges of vaccination and screening for cervical cancer, delivered by Edinburgh-based research fellow, Dr Ramya Bhatia and hosted by MWF, EUOGS and MedAid. Her narrative about her time spent in Malawi was thought-provoking and emotive and demonstrated to her captive audience the demanding and rewarding career female medics can experience abroad. Coming up later this year, we hope to present equally engaging topics for discussion such as FGM, image positivity and work-life balance in clinical practice.

We want our society to be a forum for celebration as well as discussion and we aim to recognise the achievements and progress of women in medicine through an evening of poster presentations on notable female medics throughout history near the end of the academic year. We wish to use this as an opportunity to reflect on the contributions they, and also, we, have made to the medical community at Edinburgh and further afield. To accompany this event, each week a committee member will share through Facebook and our new Instagram account, a short profile entitled ‘Woman of the Week’, about someone who has inspired them during their medical career. We hope this will help introduce more role models to our followers whilst familiarising students with our committee and maintaining an active presence on social media.

As on-going projects, we responded to the wish for current medical students to have more contact with current medical professionals for inspiration, advice and encouragement. As such, we are in the process of formalising MWF’s student-doctor buddying scheme, whereby on request students are paired with female physicians who have graciously volunteered to support these promising future doctors. In February, we plan to bring together students and doctors from a range of specialities in a Speed Dating event, to provide an insight into a plethora of careers where women can thrive and hopefully encourage current students to pursue a speciality they had not previously considered.

We hope MWF at Edinburgh will be for everyone, by pioneering progression and forward-thinking. As we gain publicity and following, we hope to go forward to create a legacy for women at Edinburgh Medical School and to challenge every assumption and stereotype we encounter along the way.

Rebecca Murphy Lonergan

Rebecca Murphy Lonergan is a medical student at the Edinburgh University Medical School and a founding member of the MWF student committee.

If you would like to find out how you can get involved with the Medical Women’s Federation, please email us at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Guest Blog: Mentorship, Seeds and Paying It Forward

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Although I'm someone who is still relatively early on in their medical career, I can already vouch for the importance of mentorship and words of encouragement at the right time.

I've just started in my dream speciality of radiology and I certainly didn't get here on my own. The week of application I had a wobble about my abilities, what it would mean for my personal life and questioned if I even had a chance in hell of getting in. A wise colleague who was also applying for radiology encouraged me to just go for it. I took the jump, got out of my own way, and thankfully landed on my feet.

My story could have ended very differently. Fear, listening to some of the discouraging “oh that's really competitive” talk around me and a lack of confidence would have seen me stop chasing the thing I really wanted; and then where would I have been?

In my first week of radiology training we had a session introducing us to the interventional radiology and a fancy bit of kit we would have the opportunity to play with. We also got to meet Dr Nelofer Gafoor, one of the interventional radiologists.

After our introduction Dr Gafoor spoke about entering interventional radiology and then came this off the cuff statement: “Oh and by the way, don't let anyone tell you that you can't do something. You can get married and have children and work and be an interventional radiologist if you want to. Look at me.”

And look we did. These words struck a chord. I remember discussing it with one of my colleagues. She had never met a female interventional radiologist before, let alone one who wore heels and lipstick, smiled at us and was so encouraging.

I'm not saying we should all be interventional radiologists, but I am a firm believer in doing whatever you want to do regardless of your gender. As a strong convert of the Sheryl Sandberg effect, I'm talking about sitting at the table. For those of you who are unfamiliar; Sandberg, chief operating officer at Facebook, talks in her book Lean In about women not sitting at the table and essentially taking themselves out of the competition too soon due to lack of self-belief, amongst other reasons.

I know this very well because I've done it to myself at times when I experienced a crisis of confidence and I saw it yesterday in someone else. Walking a 10 minute journey with a bright intelligent final year female medical student I was floored when she said she didn't think she would be good enough to enter a speciality such as radiology. At the very start of her medical career I could see no reason as to why this could be true. When I dug a little deeper it was a confidence issue. I tried my best to encourage her, gave her my e-mail address so I could answer more of her questions in the future and wished her the best.

She may take heed of my words and maybe she won't but the point is, you never know the potential impact your words could really have. When I approached Dr Gafoor to get permission for this post, she barely remembered what she had said but I remember them as if they were yesterday. And so do my female colleagues. Sometimes a few words of encouragement are enough to plant the seed of possibility in someone’s mind. They won't all grow, but I'm going to keep planting them because I'm only here since someone took the time to throw the seed of possibility along with some sun my way. I will always be grateful for that and try to pay it forward.

Dr Salma Aslamsalma aslam

Dr Salma Aslam is an ST1 Radiology Registrar who since graduating from Bristol University has continued her love of writing and has written for the BMA and the Guardian.


'Women in Medicine – a Celebration' Exhibition at the RCP

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 parveen exhibition

2017-18 is Women in Medicine Year, marking the 100th anniversary of the Medical Women’s Federation and the first time in history that the majority of the world-renowned medical royal colleges have been led by women.

'Women in medicine: a celebration’ is a free exhibition of specially commissioned photographic portraits honouring the contribution of women, past and present, to medicine. Twenty-six medical organisations, including all the medical royal colleges, have collaborated to put together the exhibition, which can be visited at the Royal College of Physicians (London) until 19th January 2018.

Modern day women in medicine were asked to nominate women from the history of medicine who inspired them. MWF president Professor Dame Parveen Kumar nominated Dr Jane Walker, who dedicated her life to helping Tuberculosis patients with open air sanatoriums and founded the MWF in 1917.

Further information can be located on the RCP website here.

Guest Blog: Hamlin Fistula Hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

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MWIA´s president elect, Dr. Clarissa Fabre visited the Hamlin Fistula Hospital in Addis Ababa.

I recently visited the Hamlin Fistula Hospital in Addis Ababa. It was an inspiring experience. Founded in 1974 by Drs Catherine and Reginald Hamlin, it now has 5 satellite sites in Ethiopia as well as the main hospital in Addis Ababa. Young girls in rural Ethiopia often marry in their teens, are poorly nourished, have poorly supervised pregnancies, develop obstructed labour, form fistulae between vagina and bladder or between vagina and rectum. They leak urine or faeces, they smell, are consequently rejected by their husbands, and become social outcasts. They walk miles to get to medical care. At the Fistula Hospital, they are strengthened and nourished, their fistulas are repaired, and they are rehabilitated. Some of them become nursing assistants when they are well again, and help with the care of future patients.

It is astonishing that around 4000 patients with fistulae are still treated each year (the phenomenon is virtually unknown in high income countries). The problem is poor access to medical care in labour, and especially access to caesarian sections if indicated (in rural communities 90% of births are outside a healthcare facility). The Hamlin Fistula Hospital now trains 20 midwives each year on a four year degree course. The midwives come from these poor rural communities and will return there once their course is completed.

How could MWF become involved with the Fistula Hospital? All treatment for these girls is free of charge. They arrive at the hospital as social outcasts after days of walking. Once their treatment is complete, each girl is discharged with a clean new dress and a bus ticket home. What a transformation! Charities in the U.K (, Australia, Canada and the US are very successful in raising funds. Our members, who are trained uro-gynaecologists might consider a placement as volunteers.fitsula hospital clarissa

The Hamlin Fistula Hospital is a wonderful oasis of medical care. It is set among trees and flowers, the staff are dedicated to holistic care. Dr Catherine Hamlin is now 93 years old (her husband died over 20 years ago) and she lives on site. She is known as 'the mother of all mothers' and has created a unique centre of excellent medical care, combined with a loving and caring environment. I would highly recommend that MWF supports the whole concept in any way that we can.


Dr Clarissa Fabre

Past president MWF
MWIA president-elect
MWIA representative to WHO

BBC Woman's Hour Celebrates 100 Years of the MWF

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2017 marks the centenary of the Medical Women's Federation. To celebrate, BBC Woman's Hour spoke to leading female clinicians about the women from medical history who inspired them.

MWF president Professor Dame Parveen Kumar discussed the work of Dr Jane Walker, who dedicated her life to helping Tuberculosis patients with open air sanatoriums and founded the MWF in 2017. The important question of why women doctors still need support to fully achieve equality is discussed, along with the lasting relevance of the Medical Women's Federation in 2017 and beyond.

You can listen to the inspiring interview here.


rcp parveen

Photo credit: Royal College of Physicians



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