To celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day, we spoke to some inspirational women in the field of ophthalmology. A/Prof Deb Colville is an ophthalmologist from Victoria who is trained in paediatric ophthalmology, public health, women's health, gender and medical education, health policy making and leadership. Through her international travels, A/Prof Colville has investigated the evidence that links women doctors' (including women ophthalmologists’) occupational health in relation to women's health globally. A/Prof Colville has received an Australian Medical Association Women in Medicine Award and is currently on the RANZCO Women in Ophthalmology Advisory Group.
Dr Deb Colville with her son James
1. Why did you choose ophthalmology as a career?
Patients value their eyes so much. I wanted to do surgery, and the ophthalmic surgeons I worked with early did such neat, beautiful craft work! I was inspired.
2. What has your experience been like working as a woman in ophthalmology?
I have enjoyed my life as a female ophthalmologist. I count myself as highly privileged to have such training and belong to the community of ophthalmologists.
3. What are some of the changes you want to see in the field?
I would like to see ophthalmology drawing on the strengths of its women in this field. The culture of ophthalmic practice and training is impoverished by ignoring these strengths.
4. As the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is Be Bold for Change, what do you think has been the ‘bold’ moment in your career?
My ‘bold’ moments are proudly speaking out publicly when I see intense and flagrant sexism, and supporting other women (and men) to do the same. I think it takes a particular kind of courage for us to speak loudly about gender matters within the affairs of surgical-related colleges. It is difficult - one feels churlish to call out something that isn't right within that same culture that has nurtured my career and learning. I am still learning how to do this,
and to support others to shout this call out loud. The experience of the punishment that is meted out is sometimes extraordinary, yet the outcomes later are worth it to me. The social movement about being bold in acting on the connections between women doctors' health, workplace dignity and good patient care is what I want to be a part of.
5. What advice would you give to new female graduates starting out in ophthalmology?
Women are not the problem. It's the male-oriented origins of the medical culture that will need to change to improve ophthalmic care. I believe that both men and women in ophthalmology need to work for change, not just men alone, nor women alone.
6. Can you tell us a bit about the work you’re doing with RANZCO’s Women in Ophthalmology Advisory Group to address gender imbalances in ophthalmology?
The RANZCO Women in Ophthalmology Advisory Group are working to promote women in leadership in the College, and women's full participation in all College affairs, (not just the obvious ones).
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