We’re celebrating International Day of Women and Girls in Science

Dr Sophie Mitchinson

“I’ve been with KSS for three years and six months. I undertook a full time secondment from August 2019 to October 2020 and continued in an Emeritus role before returning as a line-share Doctor in December 2021.

Working for KSS was an aspiration of mine for many years and involved a lot of hard work, determination and perseverance (plus a few tears along the way!).

The best part of my job is getting to work with an amazing group of dynamic and varied individuals, all striving to ensure we offer high quality care to the most seriously unwell and injured people of Kent, Surrey and Sussex.

I feel very privileged working for KSS. Having been born and bred in Kent, with most of my family still residing in the region, it is fantastic to be able to be part of a team that is helping to keep them safe.

The people of Kent, Surrey and Sussex are incredibly proud of their Air Ambulance and the support we receive from the public is humbling. I am still astounded by the number of people who come out to look at the aircraft when we land in public places and wave us off when it’s time to leave.

Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) have traditionally been very male dominated, with a lot of alpha personalities, but this is something that has definitely changed over the last five to ten years. You look around now and see more and more women taking up roles within the pre-hospital environment, but the gender ratios are still far from equal. I still get asked time and time again, ‘how is it being a woman doing your job?’!

That’s because it’s still seen as a hard job for women to get into and sustain but I really don’t believe this is the case anymore and we need to get that message out there loud and clear.

Many females I speak to worry about how they would balance a job like this with a family, if that’s what they want, but there are plenty of women out there doing just that and being hugely successful. There’s still more we need to do to balance things out, but we are getting there.”

Dr Marwa El-Zanfaly

“I joined Team KSS in 2015 as a full time Doctor initially just for six months, but I enjoyed it so much I was able to extend the post and I’ve been working part time for the charity, alongside an NHS job as a Consultant in Emergency Medicine, since the end of 2016.

There are lots of things I really enjoy about my work, including the challenges of applying what I have learnt over years of specialist training in another environment. I love working in big teams with people from the other emergency services that you’ve never met before that day, with everyone working towards the same outcome- I think that bit is amazing.  I love working with the paramedics who are so much more than crewmates.

Probably one of the things I enjoy the most is meeting patients we have treated. We often first meet them when they’re experiencing one of their worst, most difficult days, so it’s great being able to see them on the other side of that when they feel able to. As well as the physical impact, there’s often a long process of psychological recovery too, so it’s important to be able to answer any lingering questions they might have to help them make sense of what happened and demystify anything to do with their medical care with us to help that journey. It’s incredibly rewarding and a real privilege and it’s one of things that keeps us going when we’re having a difficult day.

When I started in pre-hospital medicine there weren’t very many female HEMS doctors and certainly no women of colour. I’m glad to say the landscape has been changing since then, and more women are feeling they are able to apply as the stereotype of what a HEMS doctor “ought” to look like and be like isn’t the same. In UK medicine generally we know there are fewer female consultants and, even allowing for part time working, there is still a gender pay gap there is clearly still quite a bit of work to do.

Globally there’s still a shortage of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and part of that is obviously due to gender stereotyping that makes girls not consider these as career options. There is also the issue of the culture within these disciplines still being off-putting to those women and girls who do consider it an option. There are things we can all do to encourage women to apply – visibility is definitely one aspect of this, access is another, but it’s also about people working in those areas recognising the barriers women face and being aware of issues like unconscious bias and asking if they are really creating environments that are welcoming for women and particularly whether they promote and encourage female leaders. It’s something that needs to change as it’s preventing women from reaching their potential and from all of us accessing untapped talent in such important fields.   

I came to this country as an immigrant speaking no English, coming from a fairly modest background in a developing country. I was really lucky to be raised in an environment where I was pushed and encouraged to always do my best, and that this was the only limitation of what I could achieve.  I still didn’t imagine that this is where it would lead me and the opportunities, I’ve been lucky enough to have had. So, if any girls or young women are reading this, I hope my journey in some small way goes towards encouraging you to do whatever it is you want to do without being limited by anyone else’s ideas or expectations. Your presence is part of the change.”

Dr Sophie Mitchinson and Paramedic Jo Griggs
Dr Sophie Mitchinson with Paramedic Lara Hammond
Dr Marwa El-Zanfaly
Dr Marwa El-Zanfaly with Team KSS

Saving lives when every second counts

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