Dr Clarissa Fabre Elected President-Elect of MWIA

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11 August 2016

Clarissa 1We are delighted to announce that Dr Clarissa Fabre has been elected  President-Elect of the Medical Women's International Association (MWIA)

Clarissa has a long history with MWF, joining as a member shortly after the birth of her first child. She then went on to be Honorary Secretary from 2004-2007, Vice-President from 2008-2009, President-Elect in 2010 and served as President of MWF from 2010-2012. 

You can read the speech that led her to victory below


Good afternoon to you all.

It is a great honour to be here today as a candidate for president-elect.

As we approach our centenary, we must celebrate the tremendous achievements we have made. We should be grateful to the women who came before us for the benefits we enjoy. As a woman, as a practising family physician, as a mother of two daughters both of whom are doctors, I am constantly reminded of it.

Yet there is still much to do.

I have been in touch with all our national presidents and national co-ordinators to find out their particular concerns and priorities. I received many replies and they have helped me to plan the way ahead.

There are three broad areas for our work together.

Firstly, Violence against women and girls, and the related issues of elder abuse and child sexual abuse.

In spite of many studies and many high sounding and optimistic resolutions, the incidence in all countries has not decreased, and remains at one in three women globally.

I shall focus my presidency on what we as doctors can do, and I shall focus also on the critical issue of prevention.
Up to now doctors have played a peripheral role. And yet we are often the first point of contact for these women. We must ensure that doctors and medical students are trained in detection of violence, and on appropriate referral pathways.

We must be involved in discussions at the highest level of Government.

And with regard to prevention, we need to begin with boys and girls in schools, to change cultural attitudes.

My second area concerns international Partnerships

Partnerships can greatly strengthen the influence and impact of MWIA. As your representative to the World Health Organisation for the last 4 years, I have formed relationships with key people.

In the last year, WHO has produced excellent handbooks in the area of Violence, including a clinical handbook, medico-legal frameworks, a curriculum for medical students, handbooks for in-service training for medical professionals, and guidance for managers.

With our large network in over 70 countries, we are in an excellent position to spread the use of these handbooks around the world.

WHO has greatly welcomed our support.

We can also work with the WHO on their Safe Childbirth Checklist.

This checklist is a simple and practical tool to reduce maternal and perinatal mortality. Through my connections at the WHO, one of our members, Dr Rosemary Ogu, led a pilot scheme on the Checklist in several centres in Nigeria, and plans to spread its use throughout the country.
We can all be proud that MWIA were acknowledged in the official Implementation Guide.
As your President I shall lead us to spread its use worldwide, in both low and high income countries.

I would like also to mention partnerships in the area of education.

We know that education is one of the best ways to lift women out of poverty and to fight against violence and abuse. MWIA need to promote it at every opportunity.

One remarkably simple and practical way we can help young girls is to support the organizations which distribute sanitary pads to low income countries. This will ensure that young girls do not miss school on a monthly basis during menstruation, which is what is happening at present.

The third broad area of my presidency will focus on women doctors’ career development and return to work after having children.

In many countries women make up more than 50% of medical students, but far fewer reach the top positions. What is the problem?

As president of the U.K Medical Women's Federation I became well aware of these important issues by working on leadership, mentoring, empowering, and flexible training to support childcare and work-life balance.

Women are here to stay in medicine
Most women want to have babies
Society wants women to have babies

We must put in place structures which facilitate both career development and good motherhood.

At the same time we must be strong, and never shrink from doing our share.

On a personal note, I would like to offer a tribute to Dr Dorothy Ward who sadly passed away 2 years ago. I am sure many of you remember her well. She was a former president of MWIA, and she was a wonderful role model for me throughout my career. She would have loved the fact that I am standing here today.

Madame Chair, fellow members

If elected, I look forward to working with our new President, Professor Bettina Pfleiderer, in particular to complete the projects which we have started together.

I look forward to our wonderful Centenary celebrations in 2019. As Chair of the Finance Committee, I shall do all I can to raise funds so that we shall have a celebration to remember.

As President, I am confident that I can provide leadership so that together we can make a difference.

I would be thrilled if you gave me that opportunity.

Thank you.

29th July 2016

Dorothy Ward Travel Fund Winner - Travel Journal 2016

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08 August 2016

In March 2016 Dr Heidi Doughty was awarded the MWF Dorothy Ward International Travel Fund. Based in Birmingham, Heidi works as a Consultant in Transfusion Medicine and is travelling to Bergen, Norway to research the use of whole blood in massive haemorrhage.  As she embarks on her trip, we follow her travel journal. 


Heidi26th July 2016 - Taking Transfusion Forward

On Friday 29th July, I leave Heathrow early in the morning to fly to Bergen on the Western Coast of Norway. Today though – I'm trying to do my packing supervised by my kitten Sophie and I'm really excited.

I'm traveling to Bergen to investigate the role of whole blood in massive haemorrhage. Massive haemorrhage or bleeding is a medical emergency and an immediate threat to life. Common causes of bleeding include childbirth, major surgery and gastrointestinal bleeding. My particular interest is the use of blood in trauma. During the last decade the management of massive bleeding has radically changed. The emphasis is to stop the bleeding as soon as possible and to resuscitate using blood instead of saline.

Military and civilian clinical guidelines now recommend the use plasma and platelets as well as red cells, to help the patient’s blood to clot better. An alternative way of doing this would be to give whole blood however, this is rarely offered by modern blood services. They take a pint of whole blood and then divide it up into the separate elements. This approach means more patients can be treated and it is much better for most patients. So it will really take a big change to reintroduce the use of whole blood.

Bergen is one of the few centres in Europe working on the modern evaluation of the use of whole blood. There is a unique partnership between the military, civilian and academic communities working on both the clinical and the laboratory aspects of whole blood collection, storage and use. The aim of my visit is to review the recent clinical and laboratory work with a view to informing a program for the UK.

So what to pack? I am only going for 18 days but Bergen is meant to be the wettest place in Norway…

30th July 2016 - A Good Night's Sleep


A good night's sleep makes an enormous difference now that I'm pretty well settled into my room. I’m staying in a student hostel near the Haukeland Hospital sitting on a hill above Bergen. It's very international with students and staff from all over the world and I have a small room with shared facilities. It is basic but I am really lucky that I have a fantastic view that looks out over the city.


Bergen was founded by King Olav Kyrre in 1070 AD, and became Norway’s first capital in the 13th century. Until the 1830s Bergen was the biggest town in Norway and was for a while in the Middle Ages, the largest town in Scandinavia.
I didn’t know much about the Hanseatic League until I briefly visited Bergen last year, but I was reminded again when I visited Kings Lynn last month. Kings Lynn is also a Hansa port and shows how our international links have been so important to the UK. The links are not just limited to commercial trade but also the exchange of culture and knowledge.

I visited Kings Lynn to exchange some of the current thoughts around the management of massive haemorrhage and it was really interesting not just to meet the clinical teams, but to seee how the laboratory services are underpinning the developments. I will be doing something quite similar here in Norway.

The plan today is confirm the walking route to the hospital and meet up with friends.

Saturday 30 July: Coffee and Cakes

Travel is a wonderful thing and you can meet incredible people. Many have fascinating stories to tell and I think the best way to hear these stories is over coffee and cakes.

Today I met Danny in the hostel. He arrived from Spain 3 weeks ago and is working on fatty acids. We worked together in the kitchen making breakfast and chatted about working as doctors and researchers. We may complain about the NHS, but you should hear some of the international stories!

A South African friend is working in Bergen for a short period of time and both of us are interested in training colleagues to collect whole blood. It is the sort of thing you may have to do if you're working in places without lab support. He showed me his new favourite coffee shop, BKB in Thormøhlens Gate. It is a small place, slightly hidden away and has a really good feel. Most things in Norway are expensive by international standards so it is important to take advantage of the refill system for coffee! Although one refill is usually enough because Norwegian coffee is turbo charged! Don’t forget to enjoy your coffee with a bun too, the baking tradition is great in Bergen.

Funnily enough, I spent the evening baking homemade pizzas and Norwegian specialities, Skillingsboller (penny buns) and Kanelknuter (cinnamon knots). What a great end to the day.

Baking lightened

1st August - Networking

Today was my first day in the office, Or to be technically correct, my first day in the ‘Avdeling ved immunologi og transfusjonmedisin’ (Bergen Blood Bank or BBB for short).
I said ‘Hei!’ to all and then settled down in Tor’s office to look at the various projects they are working on. Tor is my sponsor here and sadly injured himself shortly before I arrived but he bravely made his way on crutches into the hospital to see me - what an incredible personal commitment!

One of the first things I did was ask to test the ‘network’. It helps to have a young person (Joar) to do this. My first question; could I connect my work laptop from Birmingham to the Bergen WiFi? Secondly, could I then remotely dial-up and access my accounts in the UK? And the answer was yes to both! (Not only that, but I could was able to connect my smart phone to the WiFi which gave me access to my beloved digital radio).

I am just astonished at such things (this probably reflects my age). The digital era has revolutionised the way we can do business. Professionally, it allows us to collaborate in ways we could not have imagined. Last year I was using Dropbox with colleagues in Sierra Leone. I use broadband telephones not only talk face to face with colleagues, but also to contact my family and friends.
It reminds me of how much we value being connected. However, I believe that in the digital age that the best form of networking should be about real human connections. (like being a blood donor). I really value my networks but exchanging emails is not the same as sharing bread in the hospital canteen. 

3rd August - A sense of perspective

I got up at 6am this morning. It was already bright in the sky but the street lights were still on in Bergen. I started to work and think about the discussions from the last two days. The local team have invited me to review their data for massive transfusion for the last 13 years. They are keen to have an international perspective on the impact of introducing an Acute Transfusion Pack. It is quite a privilege.

Massive haemorrhage is a medical emergency and it affects many clinical specialities. The management includes haemorrhage control and resuscitation, often with blood if available. Since 2006 there has been a paradigm shift in transfusion support with the introduction of Transfusion Packs containing a balance of blood components. The aim is to try and provide the equivalent of whole blood. Bergen introduced their pack in 2007.

One of my problems is how best to sort the data to tell their story. I needed perspective and time to think. So at 10.30, as the sun was shining, I decided to go up Mount Ulriken. Ulriken is the largest of the mountains around Bergen and the cable car station is close to the hospital. I always believe you should grab opportunities when you can. From the top you can see Bergen and the surrounding area. In short you get a different perspective.

I went for a walk on the top of the mountain. The Norwegian definition of an ‘easy round route’ needs to be considered with care. The route was tough and perhaps a little ambitious as my balance is not too good these days. There was a risk of getting fixed on the details of the path as it was very uneven and still slippery from the recent rain. However, I took my time. Looking up and around me I could begin to see the bigger picture.

It was fantastic.

Looking down at bergen


Tuesday 9th August - Time for a change

I am now in my second week and need to pull together everything I've learnt in Norway. We are still crunching data, but I think we now have a story to tell about their change in transfusion support for massive bleeding. As part of my review, I have started read more of the Scandinavian literature including the multi-disciplinary Nordic guidelines. It is fascinating to see how teams in different countries have addressed the same problem during the last 10 – 15 years.

Today was my turn to present to the Bergen department as part of their professional development program. I chose ‘Transfusion support for Massive Haemorrhage: a UK perspective’. I started with the lessons learnt from both civilian and military experience and focussed on some of the practical and organisational issues. I related it to what I have read recently and the implications for their local emergency planning.

One of my favourite Scandinavian titles is ‘Time for a Change’. Change in this area is happening in the UK and elsewhere, but it has taken a decade. Recently, there have been a number of revised guidelines which cover the management of haemorrhage. However, we now need to translate these into effective patient care in a timely manner using resources wisely. It will take locally sensitive organisation, teamwork and clinical leadership.


What I learnt from Medical School - Making Decisions

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18 July 2016

As students, when we decide to apply to Medical School we have to make an important decision with lasting consequences. It is a long but rewarding course and with it comes the opportunity to make even more career-influencing and life-altering choices. During my time at Medical School myself, and many of my colleagues, often found it challenging to know how to make the best decisions and how to choose between many good options. When all of the options could be successful but each is unique in what it offers, how does one make the right choice for themselves?

Whether it was which BSc degree to complete, which deaneries to rank highest for Foundation jobs, or indeed which type of Foundation job to apply for, it seemed as though we were always on the footstep of another important choice. I think the nature of most medical students is to research different options, maybe come up with an analytical system to rank choices, and to pre-empt the consequences of each route. I would like to share some of the principles I have learnt to help decision making become easier.

One of the most influential people for a student making an important decision is a mentor. A mentor acts as a sounding board, a person whom has the interest of their student at heart but also the technical knowledge and hands-on experience afforded by their working years. Most Medical Schools assign students well-established Consultants, and I have also found mentors in people I have met through my time at hospitals and the Medical School. Perhaps it is in the specific environments which we are drawn to that that we find the most influential people for us. For instance, I found a mentor in another medical student whom had a doctorate when I became interested in academic work; a foundation doctor on the ward whom was a national of the same foreign country as I; a female surgeon negotiating the stereotypes of a largely male speciality.

The old saying goes “Life is a journey, not a destination”. I did not fully understand what this meant until my final few years at Medical School when I worked alongside the university’s Head of Undergraduate Surgery, an Orthopaedic Surgeon. It happens all too often one can conjure an image of who they want to become, what they want to attain or where they want to be in the future. This method of thinking has doubtless been successful, but it risks turning every decision from a molehill into a mountain and putting one under the false pretence that there is only one road to success. Instead, this Surgeon often suggested that each option should be weighed-up against the other available options and the best route taken. When the next decision comes along, again it too should be weighed-up against the alternatives and the best chosen. By doing this, one finds themselves in the most conducive environment for their needs at that time, that the people they meet are those most likely to become stead-fast colleagues and life-time friends, and that the destination will be most suited for their specific interests.

I think one of the most common fears is the fear of making the “wrong choice”; of not choosing the “best” option. I want to suggest that there is no “perfect” option. Every choice is unique and offers different opportunities. Through taking a step back one can objectively evaluate their experiences and will realise that no choice is fully binding and decisions can be some-what undone, particularly for students and younger trainees. Instead, if each experience is taken as a learning opportunity, the soft skills developed can be invaluable when transferred to a different environment.

As people working in the medical profession we are constantly surrounded by choices. Choices which have a short-term impact, and those with longer-term consequences; decisions which will affect patients and their families, and those which will be more personal to us and our lives. However, through a strong support network, focusing on the options at hand and remembering that not many things are fully binding, we can be more confident in making these decisions. Choosing to go to Medical School might only be the beginning, but it is the beginning of having the privilege of endless opportunities- maybe too many opportunities!

Karishma Shah, UCL Graduate 2016

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