WOW | Coffee Break

the power of female surgeons & the challenges of having it all

Surgery is predominantly considered a male career choice. However this trend, as with every other field, is changing gradually. In this edition of coffee break, we bring you four women surgeons who not only are breaking career barriers but are also accomplishing great heights of success in both professional and personal life with sheer hard work and determination. They are smart, efficient, accomplished, enjoy life to the fullest and are great role models as parents, doctors, and women of substance.

Dr. Maya Bhattachan
42, Capricorn, Single Mother
Education/ Area of specialisation: Neurosurgeon

Maya Bhattachan is one of the few neurosurgeons of Nepal. She is affiliated with Nepal Medical College Teaching Hospital, and the first female in Neurosurgery from Nepal.  She loves her work, is a deeply devoted parent, and she believes that the best feeling is to work for the nation and serve people.

What inspired you to become a doctor and choose your area of specialisation?

After my SLC, I was involved in an old age home run by Missionaries of Charity. My family said what could be better work than medicine to be of service for the betterment of people. They encouraged me to join medical studies.

What is it like to work in Nepal?

Nepal is my country and I am comfortable to work here and serve my people. There is satisfaction in working in your own country. People give you respect and always ask for your advice. All my family and friends are here. But the negative aspect is sometimes it is very difficult to counsel about the disease to patients who have no idea about it. Another difficulty is the financial situation which is better for doctors abroad compared with Nepalese doctors. Plus many patients have difficulty in choosing the best treatment for them due to financial constraints. Nonetheless, to be able to work for our people in Nepal, to do what I love, and to be surrounded by family and friends is better than living abroad.

Do you feel women doctors have to work extra hard to establish their credibility?

Yes, firstly you have to convince your teachers that you are capable and as good as the male colleagues. Then you have to compete with all to get cases and also be able to convince patients that you are able, fully qualified and experienced in your respective field. You have to work hard, put extra hours and more effort to get recognition and acceptance because female surgeons are still few in numbers and are still trying to make a mark in their respective medical fields.

What do you do to establish better patient-doctor relationship?

Give more time to counseling, listening to what the patient or their family is trying to convey, be more empathetic and polite to patients and their family when they are distraught.

How do you define success?

It’s gaining a patient’s trust that you will do your best in surgery and in their further treatment. For me successful treatment of my patients and sending them home healthy takes precedence.

How do you maintain a work-life balance?

It is difficult to manage work-life balance because I am a neurosurgeon and time is of an essence in neurosurgeries. In emergencies you cannot delay, you have to operate or visit the patient regardless of the time or occasion so most of the time my personal or family life is on hold because of my work. There are times when I am in the middle of family events and I have to leave to attend a case.

Something you would like to see changed in the medical field in Nepal?

Actually, there are many things but one of them is the easy availability of advanced medical technology and instruments which would make better outcomes for patients. Health insurance and easy claimant of insurance for patients is also necessary. Development of subspecialty and decentralisation of medical services and skilled human resource are other aspects.

What do you do for fun?

As I am a big foodie, whenever I get the time I go out and try different cuisines and visit different places with my daughter, meet friends, and relax at home.