In the run up to our 2016 awards, we sat down with our finalists to gain an insight into their career journeys. Discover more as Miss Samantha Tross shares her journey to becoming the first female Afro-Caribbean Orthopedic Consultant surgeon:
- Can you tell us how your medical entrepreneurial journey started?
My journey began with my childhood dream to become a surgeon one day. I was fortunate to have supportive parents and to grow up in a country (Guyana), where it was commonplace to see people in positions of authority. Throughout my schooling, I worked towards this goal, remaining focused on its achievement. Quite why I decided to go into Medicine I am not sure. As a child I saw my grandmother and great Aunt die at my home and maybe that impacted on me. I decided to pursue Orthopedic surgery because the first female surgeon I saw was an Orthopedic surgeon, the specialty interested me, suited my personality and of all the surgical specialties, the Orthopedic surgeons were the most supportive and fun.
- You’ve been in the medical field for over 11 years, what would you say is the key to your longevity in the industry?
Medicine is a vocation in which historically most people who entered, stayed. Sadly, this may not be the case for future generations. The ever evolving specialty and the opportunity to have a profound positive impact on people’s lives keeps me interested and stimulated.
- STEM is often an industry that is quite male dominated, how did you manage to break barriers/stereotype?
Orthopedics, particularly my sub specialty of hip and knee surgery is very physical and hence male dominated. The advent of power tools made it easier but fortunately I have always been physically strong. My supportive parents and past experience of leaving Guyana to enter boarding school at a young age helped me to become mentally strong. I kept focused on my goal and worked hard to meet the necessary requirements. Boarding school also taught me the importance of self-reliance, forming relationships and having effective communication.
- Congratulations on being the first female Afro‐Caribbean Orthopedic Consultant surgeon, what does this mean to you?
I heard of at least one Afro‐Caribbean female surgeon before me but sadly she did not make it to Consultant grade. This achievement means I am a role model and as such need to set an example in my conduct and performance. In this way those coming after me can be inspired and trainers may view their presence not as abnormal but something to be encouraged.
- Why do you think it took so long for there to be a Black Caribbean Orthopedic Consultant?
Women in general are few within the Orthopedic Consultant body, of which we only make 5%. Being a specialty which is very physical, the long training hours with its toll on family life and the negative bias of those employing women, all had an impact. Flexible training programmes, the advent of sub specialties which are less physical, power tools and transparency in the selection process means hopefully more women and especially those of Afro Caribbean origin will enter the specialty in the future. There are already a few Afro Caribbean women in the training scheme who will become Consultants in the near future.
- Do you feel that there is added pressure with that title attached to your name?
Undoubtedly there is pressure associated with being a role model in always wanting to portray myself positively. Fortunately, pressure is more internal in wanting to be the best I can be, than external.
- How can we get more Afro Caribbean Orthopedic consultants into the industry?
Through awareness, education and mentorship. Awareness of surgery as a career choice, education of parents and teachers to encourage children to consider medicine as a career and choose the right subjects, through education of those involved in the selection process and mentorship of those considering or pursuing a career in Surgery/Orthopedics.
- As a medical mentor, what would be your words of wisdom for those looking to follow in your footsteps?
My advice is don’t be afraid to pursue your dreams but be prepared to work hard. Don’t be daunted by a few obstacles, if it is truly what you want to do. Develop people skills and learn to communicate effectively. Know when to be part of the herd and when to stand out. Make sure you stand out for the right reason. Find ways of positively differentiating yourself from the crowd. Surround yourself with the right support. Be open to criticism. Know your strengths and weaknesses so you choose the appropriate specialty. Enjoy the journey. If you aren’t enjoying it, maybe it isn’t right for you.
- You have travelled to countries such as Nigeria and Guyana, what has been the highlight of your medical journey thus far?
My highlights in my medical journey are many and focused around the positive feedback for my efforts. Whether it is the feedback I receive from my patients, being asked by my colleagues to operate on their family members or performing an outreach clinic in the remote interior region of Guyana to treat the Native American Indians. They were some of the most beautiful and grateful people I have ever met. I shall never forget my visit to Nigeria to teach basic surgical skills where I was made most welcome. I was often greeted with ‘Welcome home sister!’
- Do you have any industry predictions or predictions on how Afro Caribbean’s will grow in your industry?
Orthopedics is a growing specialty with constant development in the materials used, whether it is human tissue or foreign implanted material. As we better understand the degenerative process, technology improves to counteract this process. In the future we may get a cure for arthritis. Failing that the prosthetic replacements will be stronger, have better fixation, be more resistant to infection and be more compatible with human tissue. Hopefully more Afro Caribbean people will be involved in these processes.
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