Inspiring women in the field of cardiothoracic surgery

8 March 2020

We’re delighted to announce that Dr Jolanda Kluin has been appointed Chair of the EACTS Women in Cardiothoracic Surgery Committee. In this blog, Dr Kluin outlines her plans for the Committee and how it will help inspire and encourage women to fulfil their surgical career ambitions.

Dr Jolanda Kluin, Chair, EACTS Women in Cardiothoracic Surgery Committee

I was very pleased last year when seven women students from Edinburgh Medical School in Scotland, UK, received awards on behalf of the Edinburgh Seven, a group of women who enrolled to study medicine in 1869150 years ago those women faced substantial resistance and were ultimately prevented from graduating and qualifying as doctors. 

Today things are of course very different. It’s great news that in some countries the proportion of women medical students is now over 50% and in the cardiothoracic surgery field the number of women surgeons is increasing. But, the numbers don’t lie: there remains a gender imbalance among cardiothoracic surgeons. 

A new women’s committee 

That’s why I am delighted to have been appointed as Chair of the newly formed Women in Cardiothoracic Surgery Committee at EACTS. EACTS promotes diversity and equality, and has recognised that our Association can play a leading role to inspire more women to fulfil their surgical ambitions. am approaching this role with sense of pride, purpose and, above all, optimism. Our committee will be focused on what we can do, rather than talk about what we can’t 

Like so many women, I’ve faced gender bias: suggestions that my pregnancy might hinder my ability to head up a department and negative attitudes towards my personal career ambitions. But I’ve also seized fantastic opportunities, for example participating in the Steyn Parvé programme, a renowned leadership course for women with potential. 

Today, I am equally proud to call myself a cardiothoracic surgeon, a wife, a professor, a mother, a mentor, a researcher, an author…and there are many other hats that I wear. I’m as passionate about finding the best new technology and treatments for patients, as I am about paving the way for future surgeons through training or mentoring. 

Visible women leaders in surgery 

I’m a firm believer that you cannot be what you cannot seeSo, as Chair of this important new committee, my plan is to be a positive role model and work alongside my esteemed colleagues to ensure that more women surgeons become leaders in the field of cardiothoracic surgery. Our committee will be a source of leadership, help create valuable connections and provide visibility for women surgeons. 

I’m under no illusions – this is no easy task and there are no quick fixes. It will take time. We will actively encourage women in cardiothoracic surgery by enhancing the educational development opportunities through the EACTS Annual Meeting, Academy, research opportunities and fellowships. We will also identify professional opportunities for women in both training and leadership roles. We are planning the first meeting of the new committee for March 2020. If you’d like to know more about the committee or are interested in joining us or sharing new ideasplease contact stephanie.halksworth@eacts.co.uk 

For me, awarding the Edinburgh Seven posthumous medical degrees served a dual purpose. It was certainly right to recognise those incredible women and their struggle 150 years ago, but it also serves as a reminder that we must inspire the brightest and the best women to choose a career in cardiothoracic surgery. Our new EACTS committee will help inspire and encourage women to fulfil their surgical career ambitions. By addressing the gender gap for female surgeons today, just imagine what the women surgeons of tomorrow can achieve. 

#ILookLikeASurgeon #WomeninSurgery