Conference Review: Diversity & Medical Careers

19 May 2014
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Does the Medical School selection process encourage diversity in the profession?

What should the over 65s be doing 3 times a week to stay looking young?

What factors affect a woman's choice of medical specialty?

What would lead a man to steal from his children's piggy banks whilst they sleep?


These are some of the questions considered by delegates at the MWF Spring Conference 2014 which took place on Friday 9th May at St. John's Hotel, Solihull and was on the theme of 'Diversity and Medical Careers'.

The key note speakers at this meeting are inspirational women who have all had career paths shaped by circumstances, chance meetings or determination to follow their passion and make a difference.

Dr Sarah Wollaston, a former GP, spoke about her decision to stand for parliament and the reasons she feels women are under-represented in the House of Commons. We were surprised to learn that there is no training or mentoring for new MPs and that places on committees are not necessarily filled with MPs who have appropriate knowledge and experience of the issues but often by a 'tap on the shoulder', and so policies may not be evidence based.


Professor Sarah Stewart-Brown spoke about her career and how she has coped with set backs and used them in a positive fashion. Her advice was to know yourself first and to understand your strengths and weaknesses so that you can trust your intuition when opportunities arise. She feels women are under represented at Professorial level because they tend not to have personal success as a goal.

Dr Alison Walker stepped out of clinical practice to gain training in medical journalism and editorship as a Registrar before going on to be a consultant in Public Health. When her husband's career took the family to Greece she rekindled contacts at the BMJ and was able to work remotely doing peer review of journal submissions. She is now an Associate Editor at the BMJ.

Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones did a degree in Psychology and initially worked as a Psychotherapist. She was encouraged by the departmental professor to study medicine and then pursued a career in research of drug addiction and alcohol dependency. A chance meeting gained her sponsorship to set up the National Problem Gambling Clinic and the charity Gambling Concern. There are 500,000 problem gamblers in the UK, a significant proportion of these are women.

IMGP1319The Dame Hilda Rose Memorial Lecture was given by Professor Baroness Sheila Hollins. Her career as a Professor of the Psychiatry of Disability has been greatly influenced by having a son with learning disabilities and she now puts her personal and professional experience to good use in the House of Lords and as an advisor to WHO and the Catholic Church. She also reflected on the importance of work/life balance and the strength she has gained from her family.

There were two workshops on aspects of careers and feedback from these echoed some of the speakers' reflections on the need to know yourself well. Work/life balance and the importance of role models and mentors were also highlighted. The 'Keeping doctors and patients healthy through exercise' work shop had us all up on our feet practising good posture and rediscovering our pelvic floor muscles. Exercise can be fun, does not need to take up a lot of time or involve expensive gym membership and we were advised to put exercise time in our diary and reflect on how it makes us feel. Sharing goals helps you to achieve them.


Our oral abstract winner was student Fopefoluwa Olayisade who had evaluated data on the sexual health of older people. Other oral abstracts were on the topics of transferable skills from medicine to business, medicine as an art being more compassionate than medicine as a science, career choices of women doctors, and inequalities within the medical profession. The two winning essay writers, Sophie Fitzsimmons and Louisa Chenciner were presented with the Katherine Branson Medical Student Essay Prize after reading out their work and the poster prize winners were Dr Catherine Grace and Abbie Taylor.

A brief update on revalidation highlighted that 21% of women compared with 14% of men have had revalidation deferred. This is thought to be due mostly to the effect career breaks have on gathering evidence for appraisals. The GMC website has advice for doctors who are having difficulties with the revalidation process.

The MWF Report 'Role Models who sustain Medical Women's Career Engagement' was also launched at this meeting. Our new president Dr Sally Davies gave her inaugural address in which she included her own career path and her thoughts on the challenges that women still face in fulfilling their potential in a medical career.


Despite the full programme there was time for networking over lunch and coffee. The Conference Dinner was well attended and the after dinner speaker Priscilla Morris who is a voice coach gave us an entertaining talk on her work including tips on improving communication by being aware of the volume, clarity and musicality of our voices as the way we say things is so much more important than the words we use.

Several members attended an informal supper in Solihull on the Thursday evening and also enjoyed a trip to Baddesley Clinton, a local National Trust property on the Saturday afternoon following the Council meeting. 

Dr Judy booth
Speciality Doctor in Palliative Medicine at Wheatfields Hospice, Leeds




Medical Women's Federation
Tavistock House North,
Tavistock Square, London,
Tel: 020 7387 7765

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