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Women in Surgery: Justina O. Seyi-Olajide

To celebrate International Women's Day 2023, we're featuring some of the amazing women we work alongside in the fight to increase global surgical capacity.

Was there a time in your career where you felt you weren’t being given the support or resources you were looking for due to being a woman?   

While I have had tremendous support in several teams I have worked in there are isolated instances where I felt I didn't receive the needed support.

What inspired you to follow your path?  

I have always been fascinated by the surgical world from the age of 8/9years. The idea of working practically with your hands on a live person, 'fixing" what went wrong and seeing them back to normality was simply amazing to me. I jokingly tell people if you needed to study another course not medicine to be a surgeon then that would have been my first degree. 

How many women are in your team currently?

I am currently the only female in my team and that is definitely not enough just as there aren't enough females in the entire surgical field. In my team however, there is no gender disparity in opportunities to succeed.

What motivates you to keep working in the field?  

The huge burden of unmet surgical need in this region with limited human resources especially for children. Making impact one child at a time and the smiles on the faces of children and their parents once they are recovered keeps one doing it. Dealing with complex and challenging cases successfully is also highly rewarding.

Has there been a female role model who has had an impact on your career? 

 Yes. Prof Afua Hesse. She is one of the leading female paediatric surgeons in West Africa and has contributed extensively to the training of pediatric surgeons in the region. She is always willing and ready to provide guidance and direction to younger colleagues and trainees. Prof Kokila Lakhoo. She has been very encouraging and supportive and mentors LMIC paediatric surgeons and trainees.

What advice would you give to a young woman or girl who is looking to enter the medical profession? 

Be yourself, work hard, do not listen to or focus on discouraging words and advice, actively seek out those who will encourage and guide you. You can be whatever you desire to be. As a younger person I wish I knew more about the opportunities that exist for me as a surgeon.

How has your work affected your relationship with family and friends?

I think my husband and children will be in the best position to answer this. I definitely have less time to spend with my family because of the demands of my work and it can be quite challenging sometimes. However my husband and children have been enormously supportive and we try to make whatever time we have together as qualitative as possible. I have few friends and as expected, most of them end up being colleagues at work!!!

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