Celebrating Women in Surgery: Dr Patricia Shinondo
Dr Patricia Shinondo is the Head of Surgery at Levy Mwanawasa Hospital, in Zambia. Dr Patricia was instrumental to us when KidsOR decided to install six Operating Rooms in Zambia. She advocates daily to show the public that the face of surgery is changing and women are here to stay. T
o celebrate International Women's Day 2022, we profiled remarkable women in surgery who are an inspiration, who break barriers, and who are at the top of their field.
Women are extremely underrepresented in surgery and anaesthesia departments across the globe. How many women do you usually work with in your unit/department?
In my unit, the paediatric surgical unit, I usually work with 2 female paediatric surgical trainees versus 1 male paediatric surgical trainee. Female anaesthesia providers at my hospital are few, approximately 3 out of 9.Indeed, women are underrepresented, however I see that changing slightly. More women are beginning to take interest in surgery, as seen from the numbers of female trainees.
What are some of the challenges, if any, you’ve experienced as a female surgeon?
As a female surgeon, challenges largely revolve around having to match surgical hours/ prolonged hospital presence with those of male counter parts, whilst having to manage personal family responsibilities that women carry. Another challenge sometimes experienced is an inherent sense of ‘mistrust’, ‘unacceptance’ or ‘lack of recognition’ of a female surgeon from the public. Countless times have I walked into a patient review room with my male paediatric surgical trainee in tow…and immediately the patients/their family referred to him as the doctor, and to me as the nurse. There is need to show the public the changing face of surgery and that women too have a place and role to fill in surgery.
What advice would you give to your younger self when you started your medical career/ studies?
I would tell myself the road ahead will not be easy, but despite the challenges ahead, it is worth it. Also, I would advise my younger self to not let the naysayers take up too much room in my mind.
What motivates you to keep on working in your field?
My motivation stems from a desire to serve and the fact that the job isn’t monotonous, each patient is a type of a challenge. And seeing a baby or child recover truly brings joy to the entire family and you can’t help but feel proud to have possibly helped a leader of tomorrow.
Do you have a female role model in your field?
I do have female role models in paediatric surgery - mentors if you will. Despite them being internationally based/ non-Zambian, we still make time to e-meet as often as possible.