By Milena Taskovska, MD
Being a surgeons’ daughter, I thought I was prepared for every possible gender discrimination when pursuing a career in urology, but I was wrong. Soon after starting my residency, I realized that it can always be worse. I was entering the field with knowledge of how most male surgeons perceive their female colleagues; about how much female surgeons were undesired and underrated, on other hand how much more effort, time and patience they invested in the process to prove that they can do the job equally successful as their male colleagues.
During those six years, I often wondered why we are silently classified into residents and female residents. We did the same job, shared the same responsibilities, and were expected to obtain the same skills and knowledge; on the other hand, we were treated differently during the process.
I will never forget the words of one excellent surgeon during my abdominal surgery rotation: “you would make an ideal surgical resident if you were male. But you are female, so some consider you too aggressive.” He was/is probably right, and that is the way the majority of our urological/surgical society looks at female surgeon/resident. Some “traditional, conservative” roles are still dominant in our profession. It is considered OK, to have an alpha male surgeon, but it is extremely wrong to have an alpha female surgeon. We all expect professional relations and respect in the OR and outside. We all need 100% dedication of all team members when performing a surgery (no matter if we are male or female). It is about skills and knowledge, not about gender, race, nationality, etc.
Through all ups and downs, I did it. Today, I am proud to say that I am a certified urologist (the first female in our department after more than a decade). I love my job. After reaching the top of the resident “circle of life,” here I am again at the bottom of the “urologist circle of life”. And here it starts again the same looks, again the same doubts, is she capable of doing it? Yes, I am!
I am against stereotypes. All people do not fit in one mold. Our differences are those that make the world beautiful, diverse, who broaden our views on different topics. Surgery is not about gender. Surgery is about the skills, determination to do your job as best as possible, and be there for your patients. It is passion and lifestyle.
My father is a wise man. I always keep in mind his words “your gender is just a category; never let your gender be an obstacle”. My mantra since starting my journey in urology is a quote of another wise man “ first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, and then, YOU WIN!”
To everyone considering a career in urology, do not let anyone stop you based on some differences. Be determined, fight for your dream job!
Dr. Milena Taskovska, MD is a urologist at the Department of Urology, University Medical Centre Ljubljana, Ljubljana, Slovenia. She is also a teaching assistant at the Department of Surgery, Faculty of Medicine, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. You can follow her on Twitter @militasko
Our blog is a forum for our members to speak, and as such, statements made here represent the opinions of the author and are not necessarily the opinion of the Association of Women Surgeons.