Never give up, say women who became doctors against advice

International Women's Day 'embrace equity' theme aims to show why equal opportunities are not enough

Dr Maike Schumacher says women should pursue a career they are passionate about. Photo: Sheikh Khalifa Medical City
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To mark International Women's Day, two healthcare professionals who have carved out successful careers in their chosen paths have urged others to follow their dreams.

This year's theme is “embrace equity”, which aims to get people talking about why equal opportunities are not enough.

Equity is about giving everyone what they need to be successful, as opposed to equality, which is giving everyone the same thing.

Dr Maike Schumacher, chairwoman of critical care, and Dr Gina Zambrano, consultant urologist, both at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, were told at different stages in their lives to either not pursue medicine or to go into gynaecology or paediatrics — fields suggested as being more suitable for women.

Dr Zambrano, 43, from Colombia, told The National she was often told that she was not clever enough to pursue medicine when she was younger, and advises other women to ignore such comments.

“Never listen to anyone who tells you that you can’t do something. Ignore the barriers and believe in yourself”, she said.

“If you have a dream then go for it,” she said. “You have to be strong and it will be hard but know that you can achieve your dreams.”

Dr Zambrano also said it was only after she moved to the UAE that she felt her voice was being heard.

“We never get the same credit that men get and our voices are never heard as much as a man’s voice”, she said.

“Only in the UAE have I witnessed equality — where my voice is heard as much as any other man and my opinions are taken into consideration. We need society’s support.

“If you have the passion then don’t listen to others. Keep moving forward and never give up”, Dr Schumacher, from Germany, told The National.

She said she was not encouraged to go into medicine when she was growing up.

“I actually worked in a bank because my mother couldn’t believe I wanted do medicine but then she gave up and told me to do what I really wanted to do. She thought medicine was not for ladies, and the work-life balance is hard.”

Dr Schumacher, 50, has two children, aged 15 and 13, and said a happy home and thriving work life was an achievable challenge with support from family and the community.

“I think women and mothers, in particular of young kids, always have the feeling that they are falling short — if not at work then with their kids”, said Dr Schumacher.

“I know we make a lot of compromises to try to achieve this work-life balance — often combining work with family is our biggest challenge — but it is also important for us to forgive ourselves and have mercy on ourselves. On International Women’s Day, I would like women to know that each one of us is doing their best.”

Working in critical care means being called in for emergencies and offers limited free time at weekends.

“Being in the UAE means that there is excellent childcare and help at home that I can lean on to help with the household chores, which makes it a lot easier to achieve this balance”, she said.

“Women shouldn’t be ashamed of asking for help. It doesn’t mean that we are failing.”

Updated: March 08, 2023, 1:22 PM