Female Leadership in Emergency Medicine: Interview with Melanie Stander

Female leadership in Emergency Medicine - Melanie Stander MD

Currently, there are approximately 80 countries recognized emergency medicine as a specialty (click to see countries). As our specialty grows, an increasing number of students are interested in emergency medicine as a future career. For students, one of the important reasons to decide a career is the influential leaders and role models in specialties. Today, we are sharing an interview hosting one of the strong leaders of emergency medicine around the world, Dr. Melanie Stander.

Melanie Stander

As one of the first physicians to qualify in emergency medicine in South Africa, as the Immediate Past President of the Emergency Medicine Society of South Africa, and as one of the first women on the Board of the International Federation of Emergency Medicine, Dr. Stander has left an indelible mark on the development of emergency medicine in South Africa and has become an inspiration to other women who seek to follow her path of excellence, leadership and dedication.

Dr. Stander summarizes her inspiring talk in The Xth Mediterranean Emergency Medicine Congress; we hope you enjoy watching the interview. You can also listen to this interview as audio.

Cite this article as: iEM Education Project Team, "Female Leadership in Emergency Medicine: Interview with Melanie Stander," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, February 10, 2020, https://iem-student.org/2020/02/10/female-leadership-in-em/, date accessed: October 1, 2023

This interview was recorded and produced by Arif Alper Cevik, Ali Kaan Ataman, Elif Dilek Cakal.

44% Female Contributors in iEM

62 out of 142 contributors are female professionals.

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Being A Woman In Emergency Medicine

being a women in EM

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Watching the famous TV series “ER” in my 3rd year of medical school I decided to be an “ER doctor.” I started my Emergency Medicine residency in 2003. So this is my 15th year in Emergency Medicine. I have not regretted my choice yet, and I cannot imagine myself being anything else but an Emergency Physician.

Emergency medicine is indeed a fulfilling career choice for a variety of reasons: first of all, we are cool, we never panic over an emergency. Secondly, emergency medicine is never boring, every shift in the Emergency Department is filled with diverse cases waiting to be solved, like a puzzle. We treat patients in every age group with all kinds of chief complaints, and we hear all sorts of exciting stories. We are there for people who need us most, 24/7, on one of the worst days of their lives, regardless of their background and financial status. We bring patients who are near death back to life, and in every shift, we feel that we make a real difference.

Having said all this, I admit that the life of an Emergency Medicine physician is not a perfect fit for everyone. For example, although shift work is flexible by its nature and you have control over your schedule, shift work is not desirable to everyone. If you plan ahead shift work will allow you to take more vacations any time during the year but if something comes up last minute, there is a pretty good chance that you will miss it. Night shifts may easily disrupt your body cycle even if you follow the recommendations for sleep and it gets harder with age. Working weekends and holidays will mean missing some family gatherings or events at your children’s school and may make your social life difficult. On the bright side, you will always have free weekdays to run errands or catch up with friends on their lunch breaks. Although you do not bring work to your home, (when your shift is over you just pass your patients to another doctor, leave emergency department, and you are not on call) sometimes your shift is so physically exhausting and emotionally draining that you have little energy left for home.

If you are living in a culture where child raising, housework or care of the elderly is seen primarily as women’s duty, or you choose a partner that thinks so, you may have a harder time in life regardless of the specialty you choose as a woman. You may solve some of this issue by willing to accept all help you are offered from close ones and purchase help when necessary to share some of these duties. You may find fewer role models in Emergency Medicine compared to your male peers, but if you look carefully, you will recognize female or male leaders close to you, who understand the difficulties you face and offer you their mentorship.

When choosing any specialty, think about not just now but try to imagine what would make you happy in 10-20-30 years. Yes, being an Emergency Medicine specialist has its challenges and is harder in some aspects compared to other specialties, but I think most of the challenges are there regardless of being men or women. I also believe that with a little flexibility and creativity you can overcome the difficulties, so join us who find joy and feel content in the vibrant and exciting environment of emergency medicine.

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