Note: This is the second part of the series names Surgical Diaries. To read its first part, click here. (Editor)
The Insufflator beeped periodically in the background, its prongs lodged firmly within the abdomen of Mrs. S. The surgical team, very analogous to an armed battalion besieging a national border, convened around the surgical table where a Laparoscopic Hysterectomy, more commonly known as the removal of the Uterus, was underway, and in the corner, from the edge of the eye, one could catch a glimpse of the Thermoflator that loitered in close proximity to the Laparoscopic monitor.
As the operation went underway, I observed the female obstetric surgeon manipulate the Laparoscopic graspers very deftly, excessively vigilant not to sever any nerve or major artery. On the far side of the surgical table, the chief surgical scrub stood immobile, his gaze fixated on the Laparoscopic monitor. With his right hand, the scrub maneuvered the Bipolar, docilely following the surgeon’s instruction not to move it an inch. The surgeon, now in a safe territory anterior to the Uterus, began to intimate me regarding the ongoing procedure, simultaneously ensuring that I could appreciate any and all the imperative anatomical relationships of the Uterus. As medical students, I have come to realise, we spend hours perusing a concoction of Anatomical and Surgical textbooks, lab-books, and atlases, but this reality ironically changes when one falls upon the riveting conclusion that the subject in question, with his/her pulse beating exuberantly and heart pounding ferociously, is a living and breathing being that has merely been afflicted with a (hopefully) temporary ailment. Once you have embraced this conclusion, the subsequent actions immediately start to entail unprecedented deliberation and manual dexterity.
The surgeon, a female obstetrician, looked confident in her demeanor. She was a middle-aged woman, short and stout, conveniently enough at level-height with the operating table. As I stood to her side, quietly observing the monitor to make sense of the anatomical structures on display, she began:
“I had a very consuming OPD schedule today, but the patient, being a female as she was, particularly requested she be operated on by a female surgeon.”
“Right. That makes sense.” I replied politely, and make sense it did.
Excavating my mind in search of what to say next in order to continue the conversation, I stood affixed, my concentration now on my shallow breaths.
But she continued: “Even though she requested that she be operated on by a female surgeon, the surgical teams in Pakistan categorically consist of both males and females; there are no exceptions and no teams that consist of exclusively females.”
“And why is that the case?” I questioned, taken aback by what she had just said and unsure of how to respond.
” Surgery has, since a time long gone, been a primarily male-dominated profession, and Pakistan is no exception. In fact, in some parts of the world, residency program directors are overt in their stance to an extent that is politically incorrect for this time and definitely inexcusable,” she remarked, her voice becoming increasingly stern.
And there I was, befuddled in the aftermath of this newly learned fact, and disenchanted by the apparent discrimination that females must have to face to enter surgery.
Drawing upon my experiences pertaining to international travel, and my vast study of literature, I have realized that females, particularly in some regions of the world, face inveterate and acrimonious discrimination, but they only learn to remain more steadfast.
Living vicariously through the eyes of various characters has given me a glimpse of who such aforesaid females can be. From Roald Dahl’s Matilda to Khalid Hosseni’s Laila, I have noticed that females struggle everywhere, but they always emerge stronger. Thus, in our twenty-first century world of optic-fibers and Apple MacBooks, it strikes me as astounding that such forbidding and unsparing discrimination still exists, circumscribing the talents of the many females who can very effectively contribute towards the advancement of the surgical sciences.
In the end, Michelle Obama says it best: “There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish.”
The field of surgery, then, should be no exception and should only accentuate meritocracy above any other indicator.