“I do not know any female character in the field who does not have at least one inequality story to share with us. I’ve heard several and I share the feeling of injustice, but also the strength to overcome it”, says the 22 years-old medical student Cibelle Melo. Aware of the obstacles, willingness to swim against the tide and to be part of the change. This is the thinking of future neurosurgeons. Cibelle believes that neurosurgery has a tremendous burden of “self-denial and priesthood”. “One of the introductory courses in the medical studies is neuroanatomy and its nuances. Since the first semester, I remember being absorbed by the uncovered complexity and the idea of infinity things waiting to be discovered. I remember wishing, even as a distant dream, that I wanted to be one of the responsible for it. Today, in the final sprint of the course, I allow myself to look back and contemplate the strengthening of this longing over the years”, she says. Cibelle currently lives in João Pessoa and is doing the last year of the medical program at Paraíba Federal University.
“I intend to apply for the medical residency in neurosurgery later this year”, she says. In addition to the curricular activities, she divides her time between studies for the tests, resting time and leisure with family and friends. “I want to cultivate my friendships, have a healthy family and put in practice everything that motivates me to go further and improve”, she explains. The student’s expectations with neurosurgery are high, but she knows there are still many challenges ahead. And she thinks that one of the ways to move forward is to have someone to mirror. “To have inspiring people who have already pioneered in the path I intend to follow feeds the conviction that I can also do it. And for this I am thankful. Having companions to share the burden and share the same insecurities, challenges and dreams makes everything lighter”, she says.
Iracema Araújo Estevão, 26 years-old, shares the same idea of Cibelle regarding gender equality in neurosurgery and she is fully committed to build a specialty with a greater feminine presence. Recently graduated from Medical School at University of São Francisco (USF) she is one of the organizers of the Women in Medicine Meeting. She was a lecturer at the BSN Congress where her speech was on “What can be done to encourage female academics to enter neurosurgery” and “Why you should still dream of doing neurosurgery today?”. The physician chose neurosurgery while in college and intends to apply for medical residency later this year. “The specialty was something very distant for me at the beginning of my undergraduate program, even because I did not have much contact with the field. I approached it because of neuroanatomy that fascinated me and since then I have been looking for academic leagues to get to know more deeply”, she says. When asked about the challenges, Iracema replies: “I do not see them as challenges, but as constant over comings. During my journey in pursuit of neurosurgery I had some points that motivated me to be better every day”. The future neurosurgeon affirms that there have been positive changes in relation to gender equality but does not believe that the prejudice is totally extinct. “There are still some situations that we experience and that go almost unnoticed, for example, few women are invited to evaluate academic works. These are subtle situations. But, over the years, a breakthrough has been observed and the creation of the Neurosurgery Women Committee has shown that, like other international organizations, BSN also seeks to discuss the issue, which demonstrates that we are on the right track”, she says. For her, gender does not interfere in the field activities, and specialty is a matter of skills”. It is necessary to have the profile for neurosurgery”, she says.
The participation of women in medicine has been increasing progressively and the same tendency is observed in surgical specialties, among them neurosurgery. In the last five years, as a resident of this specialty, I received multiple questions from students interested in knowing not only about the path to the long-awaited position in medical residency, but mainly about life as a woman in a specialty composed of more than 90% by men. I decided to do neurosurgery in the third year of undergraduate program and certainly this was the greatest period of doubt. If on the one hand there were countless people to point out difficulties and uncertainties (workload, prejudice, family issues), on the other hand I had the opportunity to meet neurosurgeons who encouraged me and helped me to consolidate my decision. Facing this, I continued. During the medical residency tests, I heard disappointing stories about the interviews. Fortunately, in mine I have succeeded without setbacks. I was approved in some services and chose to continue in IAMSPE. At IAMSPE, the doubts dissipated. I started to live together with a team that encouraged me in my professional and personal growth and for which I have great admiration. The early years required patience and greater physical effort, no insurmountable barrier. In the following years I learned about surgery, I completed my master’s degree and I knew different services in other countries. The paradigm and culture have changed, difficulties exist, but what is expected of a neurosurgical resident is dedication and disposition independent of the genre. In this final phase of the medical residency, I still feel comfortable with having chosen the correct specialty and with the certainty that nothing, absolutely nothing, resists a well-done job.