Dr Susan Bell was the first-ever female general surgeon to gain permanent employment at Ipswich Hospital in 2017.
Dr Susan Bell was the first-ever female general surgeon to gain permanent employment at Ipswich Hospital in 2017.

Surgeon vows to mentor growing rate of female doctors

TRAINEE doctors at Ipswich Hospital can rest assured their careers will be in good hands when under the guidance of its many female leaders.

Dr Susan Bell is among the growing contingent of professional women caring for our community’s most vulnerable under West Moreton Health.

A trailblazer in her own right, Dr Bell was the first-ever female general surgeon to gain permanent employment at Ipswich Hospital in 2017.

The mother-of-two is also one of millions set to celebrate International Women’s Day on Monday.

More than 40 per cent of doctors are women at West Moreton Health.
More than 40 per cent of doctors are women at West Moreton Health.

Dr Bell has since dedicated both her time and skills to helping newcomers, many of whom are women, navigate their early careers.

According to West Moreton Health, more than 40 per cent of their doctors are women, though Dr Bell remains the only female general surgeon.

Meanwhile, 2018 figures from Royal Australasian College of Surgeons reflected an increase in newly qualified female surgeons – about one in four – across Australia and New Zealand.

“I think having more female surgeons is important for two reasons,” Dr Bell said.

“It gives female trainees some assurance that they are striving for something that is possible, and it also helps shift some assumptions about what a surgeon looks like.

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Dr Bell’s esteemed career, however, has not come without its own set of challenges.

“People don’t seem to anticipate that their GP will look a certain way, and diversity is both expected and accepted,” she said.

“There are still some prevailing assumptions among people that their surgeon will be a man.”

Other female surgical specialists at Ipswich Hospital include gynaecologists and obstetricians.

“Gender does not decide whether someone has the skill and ability to be a surgeon,” she said.

“I think that the key difference is that, if a woman is to start a family, it often coincides with the need to pursue training and career opportunities.

“It is important, however, for people to see that it is possible, and for them to see that changes are underway to better support that choice.”

Read more stories by Kaitlyn Smith here.



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