The studies are published in ‘JAMA Network’, an indexed journal brought out by American Medical Association. “It is heartening to see such evidence,” said transplant surgeon Dr Vatsala Trivedi, who kickstarted the city’s cadaveric kidney transplant programme after the transplant law was passed in 1994.
The Swedish study looked at outcomes of gallbladder removal surgery over a 13-year period and found that while women surgeons took longer, male surgeons had more punctures and complications.
Similar comparative studies are not possible in India because of poor data collection, but medical teachers report a change in the gender-skewed world of surgery.
Dr Ajay Chandanwale, director of the Maharashtra department of medical education and research, said, “In the last few years, more female students are opting for surgery’’. Female students have traditionally chosen specialties that allow better life-work balance. Ophthalmology and dermatology that don’t have emergencies were preferred over, say, neurosurgery which has long operations, said a male surgeon. However, Dr Chandanwale said female students are now opting for fields such as orthopaedics and forensic. “Orthopaedics was associated with fixing fractures… that need more strength. This has changed with new instrumentation,” he said.
Dr Satish Dharap, who heads the general surgery department of civic-run Nair Hospital, has a different view. “In two out of BMC’s four medical colleges, the department of general surgery is headed by a female,’’ he said. Concurring, Dr Smruti Ghetla, head of general surgery at BMC-run Cooper Hospital, said she was one of three females in a class of six 25 years ago. “If there is now an increase in female surgeons, it is possibly because of more medical colleges.”
However, it will take a long time before the skewed gender ratio in surgery is fixed. As the Bhopal-based president of the Association of Surgeons of India said, less than 10% of ASI’s 33,000-plus members are women. Dr Trivedi recalled jibes about wasting a seat at KEM Hospital as she would “give up” surgery after marriage. “Later the talk changed to how long can she carry on with three children,’’ said Dr Trivedi, who retired as head of urology, Sion Hospital.
Her ex-colleague, Dr Madhuri Gore, has the final answer to why women make good surgeons. “…because they have innate dexterity, excellent management skills, capacity to build and bind a team, natural ability to face challenges… combine these with sincerity and empathy,’’ she wrote.
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