“Did you realize that I like challenges?” It was in a relaxed tone that the 53 years-old neurosurgeon Denise Marques de Assis, told us her 30-year career story.
Denise graduated in 1988 at the Minas Gerais Federal University and completed her neurosurgery residency at the University of São Paulo – in Ribeirão Preto [São Paulo state]. Currently, she has two public jobs. “In one of them, in the Military Police, I go every day and follow a rigid schedule. I am head of the Neurological Clinic, with a workload of 25 hours a week in person distributed among medical clinic, ward and elective surgery”, she says. In addition, she also works 24 hours of weekly shifts divided into two 12-hour shifts at the Hospital Joao XXIII, in Belo Horizonte, MG, and also attends patients in her own office once a week. “In the weekends, I take turns with my colleagues!”, says the neurosurgeon. Even with an exhausting routine, Dr. Denise seems to be relentless and when asked about her personal life, she says, “I can travel on vacation, eat dinner, and do things that normal people do (laughs)”. The neurosurgeon is married, has a child and also takes care of her parents, who are already elderly people. “Over time, life teaches us to dose and donate our time”, she says.
“Hospital lice”, that’s what Dr. Denise calls herself when she was an academic. “I have made all the possible internships that were available to students. I was very curious. I will never forget my first neurosurgery. We operated a depressed cranial fracture of a six-month-old infant. From that moment on, I was even more fascinated by the specialty”, she confesses. Another story that the doctor remembers is when a neurosurgeon needed an academic assistant and she readily offered to help. “He asked me in what surgery I had already helped and more than quickly answered: Depressed cranial fracture! Great, it’s exactly the case now. But… he did not tell me that it was an open front-base of a shocked patient”, she recalls. When she finished her residency, the neurosurgeon had in mind to pursue academic career. However, she eventually became involved in a military career. “In a certain way, I developed my teaching there, creating disciplines and training routines for victim assistance in military activities. Emergency and trauma medicine combined with military life is also exciting”, she says.
“I have made all the possible internships that were available to students. I was very curious. I will never forget my first neurosurgery. We operated a depressed cranial fracture of a six-month-old infant. From that moment on, I was even more fascinated by the specialty”.
There are many obstacles that women must face to fulfill their dreams. “The society expects women to be frequently present at home. Not necessarily as a housewife, but ahead of bigger family demands, especially, children. And medicine requires a dedication in which it is necessary to dose time between studies, patients, and family”, explains Dr. Denise. When she started at Neurosurgery 30 years ago, the specialist recalls that there were few women and all of them were seen as bold. “The environment was very masculine, and the colleagues were a little annoyed by our resourcefulness. We had to multiply our efforts to show that we could do as much or better than them, always working more, because there was no camaraderie”, she points out. As an advice to the younger women, she advises: “Go after it. Try it. Do not give up without experiencing it. In general, outside people only see the difficulties. See them as opportunities!”.