To mark International Women’s Day on 8 March 2013, which celebrates the economic, political and social achievements of women, Spire Leeds talked to one woman who has risen to the top of a traditionally male-dominated field – plastic and cosmetic surgery.
Consultant plastic and reconstructive surgeon, Grainne Bourke says she feels lucky to have chosen a career that she loves.
She began by explaining what had attracted her to her chosen field: “As a medical student I had the opportunity to spend some time with a plastic and reconstructive surgeon and I found it inspirational. It’s very different to other types of surgery. It involves lots of innovation and design and every case is different. I love the challenges, the decision making and the variety of the work.”
Grainne, 42, trained at University College, Dublin. She qualified in 1993 and has been based at Spire Leeds Hospital since 2004 working with a multi-specialist team. Her busy practice includes cosmetic, plastic and reconstructive surgery – including breast surgery, surgical and non-surgical rejuvenation techniques and lipo-remodelling. Her research interests include nerve injuries and children’s hand surgery. She specialises in breast surgery – augmentation, reduction and uplift, and facial surgery.
“I particularly like doing breast cases because I enjoy seeing the patient benefit from the results. They have typically thought about it for a long time before coming to the first consultation. It’s important for me to spend a lot of time in preparation, talking to the patient and making sure they have all the information they need to make informed decisions. It’s great to make someone happy with the outcome and see the effect it has on their confidence!”
“Most patients are looking, first and foremost, for a surgeon who has all the necessary qualifications, experience and expertise. This usually goes hand in hand with a surgeon who has a caring approach. It’s important when choosing a surgeon to check they are accredited and get as much information before deciding to go ahead.”
Grainne, who lives in Leeds, has managed to sustain a high flying career whilst having a family. She says her husband is also a doctor so understands the pressures she works under and is very supportive. “It’s intense and demanding and certainly not a nine-to-five job. On a day when I’m in theatre it can be a long day away from home and when I’m on call I do not know what time I will get home so that’s more difficult to plan for. We have to organise our private lives to a high degree, in order to spend as much time with our children as possible. Luckily I have excellent childcare and support in my home.”
In spite of cosmetic and plastic surgery still being largely a male-dominated field, Grainne sees her gender as an asset. She says: I have had a very positive experience training in plastic surgery in Yorkshire. It is a great surgical speciality and the number of female plastic surgery trainees is increasing all the time.
She says she has also seen an increase in women choosing medical careers and training in all types of surgery. “That’s a good thing but I don’t think the numbers are going to change overnight. I think the main reason for the small numbers of women in the field is to do with the length of training that might deter some young women.”
Outside of work, Grainne spends as much time as possible with her family, loves to play tennis and attends Pilate classes.
For any young women aspiring to a career in medicine, Grainne offers the following insight: “If you want to be successful and pursue a career in medicine and it’s something you feel passionate about then there are no limits to what you can achieve. It’s a really fulfilling job and very enjoyable. For me it’s very important to feel I’m doing the right thing for myself as well as helping other people. I think it’s a great career choice!”